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Posts Tagged ‘films’

The 2009 Human Rights Film Festival

Monday, June 8th, 2009

hrffposterThe Human Rights Film Festival is in its fifth year of supporting and raising awareness about various human rights causes around the world. The theme this year is freedom, which is demonstrated in each of the eleven feature films and five short films on show. The Festival gives people the opportunity to watch films that give insight into the lives and work of do-gooders, philanthropists and other exceptional human beings, and show how communities facing huge problems are able to pull together and work for a better future.

Festivals such as this one are really important because, in the increasingly global society that we live in, it is important to better understand what is happening in countries and communities around the world, that are now closer and more interconnected than ever before. The films shown provide a way for people in relatively liberated countries, like New Zealand, to learn about the lives of others and become motivated to support human rights movements. Watching films is something that can be enjoyed by all, so the Human Rights Film Festival offers a great opportunity to bring the attention of ALL New Zealanders to the real issues facing our world.

Flying on one engine, directed by Joshua Z. Weinstein

Review by Meredith Paterson

child_surgeryFlying on One Engine portrays a complex character, Dr Sharadkumar Dicksheet. At age 78, Dr Dicksheet’s main purpose in life is to perform free facial surgery on India’s poorest. Every year he holds massive plastic surgery ‘camps’ where up to 700 children are treated for cleft lip and other facial deformities. This work has earned him eight nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr Dicksheet has improved the lives of thousands, yet his own life hangs by a fragile thread. He has survived cancer of the larynx, two heart attacks and is partially paralyzed from a car accident. At any moment an aneurysm could burst resulting in instant death. Yet, he stubbornly continues operating, performing 76 operations in twelve hours with no breaks. It is little wonder that in India he is revered as a god.

Filmmaker Joshua Z. Weinstein spent two years filming the doctor in his New York apartment and at his Indian plastic surgery camps. The film successfully shows all aspects of Dr Dicksheet’s personality; his determination to keep operating and expand the camps, his bitterness of the Nobel committee’s ignorance of his charitable work, even his extreme stubbornness and crass remarks. Above all, we see the courage shown by a mortal man who knows his time is running out. On the film’s website Weinstein states, “I knew that on a certain level Flying on One Engine would have to be a film not only about one man, but gracefully accepting your own mortality.”

In Flying on One Engine, the director presents many conflicting issues. Money is the main problem. Here is a man with celebrity status, who is worshipped as a God, who has had streets named after him and yet lives off a social security benefit in Brooklyn. He prefers India, but must live in the USA to get crucial surgical materials on which he used to spend $50 000 every year. Charitable work is costly. Thankfully the camps now have sponsors.

Dr Dicksheet’s health is another paradox in the film. He can hardly walk three flyingononeenginesteps on his own, is without a larynx and breaths out of a tube in his neck. With every meal he must take a bowl full of pills. The title of the film is based on his own seriocomic description of his state, “I’m a four-engine plane running on one engine. If that goes, we crash.” Dr Dicksheet refuses to slow down to prolong his own life. If anything, the camps are more ambitious than ever.

The film also touches on the issue of religion. Dr Dicksheet’s nurse insists that he is a living God. He himself considers his yearly trips to India as pilgrimages. He says “the operating theatre is my temple and I see god in my patients.” It is not that he is a living God, but that his strength of mind overcomes his bodily limitations.

We must not assume Dr Dicksheet is a saint. The film presents a complex man who at times is not very likable. However, the film is a clear and honest statement of his determination. The message for us is to stop letting limitations stand in our way.

Next page - Review of Journalists and Kicking It, and some ideas for taking action.

Connected Media

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009



What do they do?

Connected Media is a New Zealand based charitable trust whose mission is to promote sustainability through media.

How can I get involved?

In partnership with Enviroschools and the Global Education Centre, Connected Media run an annual Sustainability Film Challenge called ‘The Outlook for Someday’. Anyone up to the age of 20 can make a film on sustainability of any length up to 5 minutes, of any genre they like – drama, documentary, animation, music video, advertisement, video blog, reality tv. The prizes are awesome – laptops, cameras, even a short course at a film school. Deadlines for films is usually late September. Check out the website here: www.theoutlookforsomeday.net


Movies with a message

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Eva Lawrence, Just Focus Coordinator
people in cinema
People say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, a movie must be worth a million then.

Films provide a way for us to get a view into someone else’s world — be it real or imagined. They can be creative, entertaining, tragic, action packed and informative.

Over the last few years there seem to have been a heap of brilliant documentaries as well as based on true life and fictional films that bring up some aspects of important issues like human rights corporations, war, fast food and all that jazz.

While we’re feeding our faces with popcorn, we can feed our minds with new ideas.
bowl of popcorn
TOP 5s
So I know what films I like, but I wanted to get an idea of what movies other young people love. So I put on my best investigative outfit and scoured the net and started a couple of threads on forums and got you possibly the best 5 docos and 5 films with a bit of social conscience.

Sometimes when I think of documentaries I think of those boring channel one wildlife shows my parents used to make me watch cos they’re educational’ — cringe - like I need to be educated on the mating rituals of tortoises! But there are some brilliant, heartbreaking and inspirin’ ones out there, with no tortoises in sight:

Top 5 docos

Darwin’s Nightmare— Set around Lake Victoria in central Africa, it shows the industry of fish for guns’ that exists. This doco is a clear and harsh illustration of globalisation. My mate ed has been raving about this for months! *

Bowling for Columbine - one of Michael Moores classics about the kids who shot up their school and how this violence is related to the culture of war in the USA

The Corporation “is excellent. Possibly slightly biased. All about the development of corporations, especially in America, and how they are designed to legally be a person” (Pippy) *

The Yes Men— This hilarious and scary insight into the World Trade Organisation and its followers shows what a bunch of activists can do with a lycra suit and a computer on a phallus. *

Supersize Me — look what happens when your average fit healthy American dude eats only McDonalds for a month. Watch his pounds pack on, his libido drop off and his doctors get more and more freaked out. It’s funny, it’s gross, it’s scary. *

Films about real issues, based on true stories or fictional, are often entertaining and also have a little bit more beef than your average romantic comedy

The Constant Gardener - This fictional film came to the screens last year. It’s about drug companies testing medicine on slum dwellers in Kenya. It’s a murder mystery that makes you think. “Constant Gardener is one of my favourite movies but I cried so much!” (suspense)

Lord of War— This movie starring Nicolas Cage, Jared Leto and Ethan Hawke is a thriller about arms dealing, and the personal and political results of cashing in on violence. *

Hotel Rwanda - Ten years ago some of the worst crimes in the history of humanity took place in the country of Rwanda in Africa. This film is the true story of a hotel manager who sheltered more than a thousand Tutsi refugees during the attempted genocide by the Hutu militia. “If that movie wasn’t made I probably wouldn’t have ever even heard of what happened in Rwanda.” (Nicole) *

City of God — This film is pretty hardcore but damn good. It’s about kids in a housing project in Rio de Janeiro who struggle to survive and thrive while involved in crime and gang warfare. It shows how one guy works his way out of the slums through his photography. The actors were mostly street kids and many of them were dead within a year of the film. “To those who like the Constant Gardener - they should see City of God - same director - better film.” (Luke)

Motorcycle Diaries — This recent film is based on the motorcycle trip of the Cuban revolution’s poster boy Ernesto Che’ Guevara’s travels around South America with his mate. Experiencing poverty and volunteering in a leper colony changes his view of the world and moves him to make a difference. Plus, added bonus, it stars super-hot Mexican actor Gael Garcà­a Bernal!
empty cinema
Film Festival
Film Festivals have heaps of great films. The Human Rights Festival took place in May 2006 in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. A couple of the picks were:

Drowned Out — When a dam in India threatens to destroy people’s homes, the locals decide to stay and drown in protest. Author Arundhati Roy asks us some hard questions on the rights and wrongs of human sacrifice for the sake of industrialisation.

Ngatahi: Know the Links - This rapumentary from Upper Hutt Posse legend Dean Hapeta shows the links between Hip Hop and indigenous and other minority cultures around the world.


  • Get out one of the films above from the local video store or from the Global Education Centre library (the films marked * are available at the Global Education Centre. Email eva@globaled.org.nz for info on how to borrow them - free anywhere in the country).
  • Make your own film. Got a burning desire to spread the word on something? Grab a camera and go to it!
  • Know a film that made you ponder? Share it with the rest of us at Just Focus! - Get in touch with kim@globaled.org.nz and write a review for your fave film - or add it to the forum.


  • Check out what other great films are out there: http://www.geocities.com/polfilms/

This article was originally published in Jet Magazine.