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Area film festivals highlight human rights issues

Tom Magnarelli

Human rights issues -- including the ongoing civil war in Syria -- are being highlighted at different film festivals in Syracuse this fall.

Abdulwahab Tahhan left Aleppo, Syria 11 months ago. He was living in a refugee camp in Turkey when the documentary "The Suffering Grasses" was filmed. That film was screened at the ArtRage Gallery in Syracuse Tuesday night and Tahan spoke with the audience via Skype from the U.K. where he now lives.

"The problem is that when the revolution started and they formed the Free Syrian Army, who were a bunch of defectors, and the Free Syrian Army's mission was to protect the protesters and demonstrators," said Tahhan. "So at that time it was only protecting and now, it's not protecting. Now they are just as bad as the regime if not worse, actually."

The Syracuse University Human Rights Film Festival will screen the documentary "The Act of Killing" Saturday on the SU campus. The film is about the Indonesian paramilitary death squads who killed more than a million people in the name of anti-communism in the 1960s. The goal of all the film festival is to educate about issues of social injustice around the world.

"The stories are all about ordinary people living their lives but working towards change and I hope that at least one person in an audience of 200 to 250 gets inspired to do something," said SU Professor Tula Goenka, who started the festival in 2003.

The Syracuse International Film Festival will also have a day dedicated to peace and social justice films on October 6 at LeMoyne College.