“Faces of Identity” Brings 16 Award-Winning Films to Pittsburgh, March 23 - April 9-CMU News - Carnegie Mellon University

Thursday, March 16, 2017

“Faces of Identity” Brings 16 Award-Winning Films to Pittsburgh, March 23 - April 9

International Film Festival features director appearances, short film competition and event with local artist Baron Batch

By Shilo Rea

Don't Call Me Son
"Don't Call Me Son" screens at 7 p.m., March 29, in CMU's McConomy Auditorium.

Identity is something people from every walk of life grapple with in some way.

Carnegie Mellon University’s 2017 International Film Festival will explore the complex subject through different languages and cultures by bringing 16 award-winning films to various locations in Pittsburgh. “Faces of Identity” runs March 23 through April 9.

Fifteen of the films will be making Pittsburgh premieres, and following the festival’s 11-year tradition, each screening will feature a special event, such as appearances by the director or someone else associated with the film, panel discussions, presentations and culinary displays relevant to the films’ themes.

On why identity was chosen as the festival’s focus, festival director and assistant director of the Humanities Center Jolanta Lion, echoed the opinions of the directors of the 2017 Oscar-Nominated Best Foreign Films. 

The directors’ statement said, “The fear generated by dividing us into genders, colours, religions and sexualities as a means to justify violence destroys the things that we depend on — not only as artists but as humans: the diversity of cultures, the chance to be enriched by something seemingly ‘foreign’ and the belief that human encounters can change us for the better. These divisive walls prevent people from experiencing something simple but fundamental: from discovering that we are all not so different.”

“Are we? Let’s meet each other at the festival and discuss this question,” Lion said.

The festival opens with “I, Daniel Blake” at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 23, in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival and Best British Film at the 2017 British Academy Film Awards, “I, Daniel Blake” has been making headlines in Britain and around the world for its honesty and subtle humor. From famed director Ken Loach, the film depicts the harsh and cumbersome bureaucracy standing between individuals in need of support from the government. It is told through the eyes of a middle-aged carpenter who requires state assistance for the first time in his life and his resulting friendship with a single mother trying to escape the burdens of the welfare system.

“‘I, Daniel Blake,’ from one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers, does exactly what our mission strives to accomplish,” Lion said. “We want to use film to discuss difficult and controversial conversations happening all over the world, through personal stories that force us to confront them. The film makes the struggles of the less fortunate real for audiences who would otherwise not think about it, care, or even notice. Politically and socially this film is very important and relevant today, and that's why we have selected it for opening night.”

After the screening, the University of Pittsburgh's Roger Rouse will moderate a discussion. A British-style reception will follow, featuring music by local pianist Antonio Cruise.

Other festival highlights include “Don’t Call Me Son,” a Brazilian film that will screen at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, in McConomy Auditorium. The film follows 17-year-old Pierre, a bisexual member of a band, who finds out that the woman he thought was his biological mother actually stole him from the hospital when he was born. The New York Times described the character as “a haughty, willful powder keg of conflicting drives in a film whose subject is teenage identity in an age of bewildering choices.”

“Between Fences,” an Israeli and French documentary, follows African asylum-seekers being held in a detention center in the Negev desert by Israel. The asylum-seekers and two Israelis who are appalled at the situation use “Theatre of the Oppressed” techniques to explore the personal stories behind the word “refugee.” The film screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 8, at the Regent Square Theater and will feature a Q&A with director Avi Mograbi.

For the first time in its history, the film festival has partnered with a local artist to help visualize the meaning behind “Faces of Identity.” Work by Baron Batch, an entrepreneur and former Pittsburgh Steelers running back, will be displayed around CMU’s Pittsburgh campus to give students, faculty and staff a closer look at themselves, the university and what art can mean to them in today’s world. At 7 p.m. Friday, March 31, in McConomy Auditorium, Batch will be on hand to answer questions and discuss his art.

The festival also will continue its tradition of holding a Short Film Competition. The competition will take place at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 1, in the Melwood Screening Room.

“El Futuro Perfecto,” an Argentinian film about a Chinese immigrant who shifts from present to future perfect in both language and outlook, will close the festival at 3 p.m. Sunday, April 9, in McConomy Auditorium. Variety said the film “disarmingly grants deeper life to the immigrant experience than what’s usually seen in much more dramatic affairs.”

Lauralei Kraski, assistant director of the film festival, said she loved “how the film shows how we learn about language and how we orient ourselves in our culture based on what we say.”

Closing night will include a Q&A with director Nele Wohlatz, a screening of CMU English Professor Jim Daniels’ short film, “The End of Blessings,” and a reception.

General admission tickets to the film and reception on opening night (March 23) are $15 ($10 for seniors and students). General admission tickets for all other screenings are $10 ($5 for seniors and students). A full-access festival pass can be purchased for $50 ($25 for seniors and students).

The CMU International Film Festival is organized by the Humanities Center at Carnegie Mellon and is dedicated to and inspired by the life and work of the late Paul Goodman, a world-renowned filmmaker, psychologist and Carnegie Mellon professor.

The 2017 International Film Festival is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and sponsored by Carnegie Mellon, The Fine Foundation, J Street Pittsburgh, Disney Research, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in New York, the Polish Cultural Institute New York, the Consulate General of the Czech Republic in New York, FOSNA, the University of Pittsburgh, Point Park University, Carlow University, Carnegie Nexus, Studio AM, 31st Street Studios, American Ark Films, WYEP & WESA and Pittsburgh Filmmakers.

View the festival schedule, watch the film’s trailers and reserve tickets.