PBS Online Film Festival

What does one do when stuck inside with a bad cold, while it’s glorious summer weather outside? Spend the whole day watching films online. I watched all 25 short films of the PBS Online Film Festival. I laughed, I cried, I learned a lot. Then I voted for one (which was hard to choose from my group of favorites):

Ars Magna is about a guy who works in a bakery who is possibly the best anagramist in the world. A look at his obsession with clever anagrams like Clint Eastwood = Old West Action, and his “rearrangement” of Hamlet and the Pledge of Allegiance.

Asylum – Bisi is about Bisi Alim, who was one of the first Nigerians to openly discuss his homosexuality on national television and as a result, has put his life of the line. This and Asylum – Skye are part of the Seeking Asylum series by None on Record: Stories of Queer Africa, a digital media project that collects the stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Africans from the African Continent and the Diaspora.

Breathe Life is about the Montelone family and their various hospital visits, treatments, and surf sessions as they face living with cystic fibrosis. With the help from the Mauli Ola Foundation, the Montelone family helps their children deal with cystic fibrosis, using the curative power of surfing. It was poignant for me to see how exceedingly mature and knowledgeable the children are about their affliction while still being so young. My surf teaching partner is a part of the wonderful work being done by Mauli Ola and I had an opportunity to meet members of the family at a recent event in Hawai’i.

Can’t Hold Me Back is an inspiring story about Fernando Parraz, the first in this family to graduate from high school, with the support of his father, a former gangster, amid the challenges and obstacles of growing up in poverty-stricken Detroit. It is made by Madeleine Bair and Betty Bastidas who founded Maracuya Productions to document stories of inspiration and injustice in the US, Latin America and the Caribbean. Brionna Williams is a another film about a teenager overcoming her challenge with asthma, and Live Art is about a groundbreaking 20-week inclusive performing arts educational experience for children with and without developmental disabilities and hearing impairment.

Honor the Treaties is about photographer Aaron Huey’s relationship with the Pine Ridge Reservation and how his involvement with Native American rights has changed the way he conveys his story. His TED Talk is also powerful viewing. There are 5 more films in this festival from the indigenous perspective:
Hoverboard is a humorous short about a young girl’s imaginary journey back in time.
Injunuity: Buried, one installment from the Injunuity project, a nine-episode series of short pieces that explores modern day America from a contemporary Native American perspective using animation, music and real audio.
Lina’la’ Lusong about the tenacity of the Chamorro people of Guam to endure and overcome generations of conquest.
The Longest Sun is a narrative short film inspired by the mythology of the Tewa peoples of Northern New Mexico, and is told entirely in the endangered language of Tewa, a tribe with less than 500 native speakers.
Worlds Apart is about Rose Vasquez, a Native American woman trapped between two worlds: the success and distance of college, and the challenges of life on her reservation.

Indian Summer follows Indian American kids aged 9 to 16 at the Hindu Heritage Summer Camp near Rochester, New York as they pursue a course that offers exposure to meditation, yoga, and the opportunity to learn how to practice Hinduism in a largely Christian country. Coming from places all over the country where they may be the only Indian person in school, it’s an opportunity for them to learn and bond together in their cultural and religious roots. If you want to learn more, you should come to one of the fun Holi Festivals happening around LA this month! And speaking of communities, in the film Noc na Tenecku I learned about the dance halls in Texas built by Czech immigrants who arrived in the late 1800s.

Sin Pais follows the heart-breaking, emotional struggle of a Guatemalan American family torn apart by deportation. I cried watching this one. Being an immigrant refugee myself, I find our immigration policies totally cruel when tearing apart families with young children and historically, very hypocritical, since refugees from Central America fled here from civil wars and genocide caused by right-wing dictatorships supported by the US government.

Still is a beautifully shot film about Carlos Eyles, a 72-year-old ocean photographer, author, and free diver, who serves as the voice of the ocean, which today faces many environmental and biological threats, most of which are due to human action. Eyles shares decades of history through his close relationship with the marine world and continually emphasizes self-awareness and the importance of understanding one’s place of existence in the greater scheme of life. If you share his dedication to preserving our precious oceans, please support Surfrider Foundation.

Story of an Egg exposes how factory farms have hijacked the terms “cage free” and “free range” and how small farmers are using the new term “pastured” or “pasture raised” so consumers can make informed decisions when they go to their local supermarket. If you love animals, you’ll also enjoy CatCam.

Verses in Exile: Why I Write is the first episode in a series of spoken word videos by Kosal Khiev, in collaboration with Studio Revolt. Khiev, a poet and tattoo artist resides in Phnom Penh after spending 14 years of his life in a U.S. prison. Khiev tells pieces of his story through the art of spoken word poetry.

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