Carnegie Mellon University

Scene from "Life and Nothing More"

February 27, 2018

International Film Festival to Focus on “Faces of (In)Equality,” March 22-April 8

By Stefanie Johndrow

“Faces of (In)Equality,” Carnegie Mellon University’s 2018 International Film Festival, features 14 award-winning films that explore the realities of societal imbalance. The festival, the only one of its kind in Pittsburgh, will run March 22 through April 8 at various locations. 

“Socially, racially and economically, ‘equality’ is a loaded word. It conjures up peace and harmony, while also reminding us of conflicts begun and lives lost in its name,” said Jolanta Lion, director of the festival and assistant director of the Humanities Center in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences.  “Today, it seems we live in a world in which the call for equality is stronger than ever. But what does an equal world look like? We know film may not offer all the answers, but we believe it is a platform with sufficient depth and global roots to help us better understand the topic and the issues that surround it.”

The festival will open with “Life and Nothing More” at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 22 in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium. Nominated for the Cassavetes Award at the Film Independent Spirit Awards, “Life and Nothing More” is the second feature film from director Antonio Méndez Esparza, who will lead a Q&A following the screening. The film follows Andrew, who yearns to find his purpose as a young African-American in today’s America.. Named one of the top 10 films at the Toronto International Film Festival, “Life and Nothing More” navigates strained relationships and the intersections of race, class and gender in a complex and honest way. 

“Often compared to the 2017 Oscar winner ‘Moonlight,’ the film tackles American racial dynamics in a modest, but powerful manner,” Lion said. “With Esparza’s use of non-professional actors and his dedication to the neorealist style, the film is able to take many themes depicted throughout our season and show their complex relationships. This makes it the perfect film to open the festival.”

Scene from Other festival highlights include the Pittsburgh premiere of Agnieszka Holland’s “Spoor,” which will screen at 3 p.m., Saturday, March 24 in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium. Based on Olga Tokarczuk’s bestselling novel, “Drive Your Plough Over the Bones of the Dead,” the Polish film follows Duszejko, an eccentric and aging animal rights activist, who notices a commonality among the multiple killings in her town — all of the victims are local hunters and each crime scene shows evidence of recent animal activity. The thriller will be followed by a discussion moderated by Dana Och, director of undergraduate studies in the Film Studies Program at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Scene from Directed by Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest’s, “For Ahkeem” follows Daje Shelton, an African-American 17-year-old girl living in North St. Louis. Daje fights for her future as she is placed in an alternative high school and navigates the marginalized neighborhoods, biased criminal justice policies and economic devastation. The film won Best Documentary at both the Independent Film Festival of Boston and the Stockholm Film Festival. The screening will take place at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 24 in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium. A Q&A with Van Soest will follow.

Scene from Beauty and the Dogs” will screen at 5 p.m., Sunday, March 25 in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium. A Tunisian and French film from director Kaouther Ben Hania, “Beauty and the Dogs” follows the story of Mariam, a young Tunisian woman who meets a mysterious man, Youssef, at a party. Mariam leaves with Youssef and their carefree evening turns into a nightmare when Mariam is violated by a group of police officers. “Beauty and the Dogs” was an official Un Certain Regard selection at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Pitt’s Dana Och will moderate the post-film discussion.

Scene from "BPM (Beats Per Minute),” a French film directed by Robin Campillo, will be shown at 7 p.m., March 29 in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium. Set in Paris in the early 1990s, the organization ACT UP fights for those stricken with HIV/AIDS, taking on sluggish government agencies and major pharmaceutical companies in bold, invasive actions. Amid rallies, protests, fierce debates and ecstatic dance parties, newcomer Nathan falls in love with Sean, the group’s firebrand, and their passion sparks against the shadow of mortality as the activists fight for a breakthrough. “BPM” is France’s 2018 Oscar entry for the Best Foreign Language Film award.

The festival will continue its tradition of holding a Short Film Competition, highlighting both local and international shorts, at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 31 in the Melwood Screening Room.

The festival closes at 4 p.m., Sunday, April 8 in CMU’s McConomy Auditorium with “Human Flow.” From director Ai Weiwei, “Human Flow” captures the worldwide refugee crisis. In this global point-of-view, Weiwei visits 23 countries to follow refugees’ quest for things every human needs — safety, shelter, peace and the opportunity to be who we are. A discussion will follow the screening.

In conjunction with the festival, Lion will teach the course “Faces of (In)Equality: Critical Analysis of Inequality Through the Art of Film,” which is open to all students from Pittsburgh universities. The course is an opportunity for students to work more closely with film directors in a workshop setting from Friday, March 23 to Sunday, March 25.

General admissions tickets to the film and reception on opening night (March 22) 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 2018 film festival is sponsored by Carnegie Mellon's Department of English, Humanities Scholars Program, Center for the Arts in Society, School of Computer Science, OSHER, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering, Center for Diversity & Inclusion, Gender Programs & LGBTQ+ Initiatives, CAUSE, Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, FORGE, Steinbrenner Institute, Tepper School of Business, Interfraternity Council, Department of History and Department of Modern Languages. Sponsors also include The Fine Foundation, University of Pittsburgh, Point Park University, Carlow University, Carnegie Nexus, Mansions on Fifth, Einhorn Media Group, WYEP & WESA and Pittsburgh Filmmakers.