As expressed by Nora Armani, the founding artistic director, the goal of the event is to “raise awareness for everyday social issues through the powerful medium of cinema.” The tagline is, “Take a seat and be moved.”
Armani defines her objective as “promoting tolerance, understanding, acceptance and love.” Specifically, the mission statement outlines the need “to shine the spotlight on filmmakers who tell compelling, socially relevant, human interest stories across a broad range of social issues without resorting to gratuitous violence or violent forms of film making.”
The 2018 iteration features seventy films, with entries from thirty-five nations. Half of the movies have been directed by women.
In addition to screenings, there are award presentations, panels, workshops, performances and script readings.
I attended the opening night showing, and New York premier, of “Lou Andreas-Salomé: The Audacity to Be Free.” It was a vibrant film that introduced the story of a groundbreaking woman, determined
to seek a fulfilling and independent existence. Taking place from the 1860s through the first three decades of the 20th century, that was no easy task. Andreas-Salomé led an intellectually stimulating life, with companions such as Nietzsche, Rainer Maria-Rilke, and Freud. Director Cordula Kablitz-Post was on hand to answer questions from the audience.
The documentary line-up examines topics encompassing Big Pharma, the Armenian struggle, the Dalits of India, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the impact of human trafficking.
In addition to full length entries, there are narrative and documentary shorts. The subjects include American homelessness, the challenges of autism, the story of an Israeli 19-year-old woman who chooses to be a conscientious objector rather than serve in the army, Standing Rock, and the plastic pollution defiling our waterways.
At a time when social justice appears to be at a low ebb in American civic life, the Socially Relevant Film Festival schedule is cause to celebrate.
Photo: Marcia G. Yerman