Students Raise Awareness of Social Issues Through Film

Arts Fest

Moviegoers packed the auditorium in Devlin Hall for the social justice film portion of Boston College’s 21st Annual Arts Festival. The screening was part of the Jacques Salmanowitz Program for Moral Courage in Film, which provides student filmmakers with the resources to inspire future generations through documentaries that display acts of moral courage. After a short speech by John Michalczyk, the head of the program, the theater blackened, the screen lit, and the audience saw what BC’s young filmmakers were all about.

John Mohler, MCAS ’21, kicked it off with Saving Faith, a film covering the hardships of Iraq Christians facing persecution from ISIS and the 2006 kidnapping of Father Douglas Al-Bazi by Islamist militants. Despite tortures involving a hammer to the face, Al-Bazi refused to renounce his beliefs, sympathized with his captors, and even forgave them for their actions. The film’s simple yet powerful last words, “love, love, love,” summarized Al-Bazi’s beliefs and promoted what the world seems to be lacking nowadays.

Alfonso Gonzalez, MCAS ’20, presented a quote at the beginning of his film Limbo that stated,  “In order to find who you really are, you must peel away all the layers of your identity and discover the truth within.” Alanis felt lost as he moved from Mexico to America, a journey that mirrored the process of embracing his identity. Away from home, he soon realized how proud he was of the pivotal role Mexican culture played in his life. The touching film reminded us, whoever we may be, to own ourselves regardless of what others think.

In Art of Reconciliation, Kelsey McGee, former Heights editor and MCAS ’19, and Ciarra Duffy, MCAS ’20, discussed the easing of the Northern Ireland Conflict between Irish Catholic Republicans and British Protestant Loyalists through creativity. Interviewing professors and artists, the pair revealed the power of the murals in Northern Ireland and how the artistic expression gave people a sense of identity, encouraged them to learn from the past, and granted them long-lasting wisdom.

Louise Nessralla, MCAS ’19, presented her film Unveiled, which centered on the hijab-wearing French Muslims’ reaction to the 2010 French bill that banned face-covering headgear for security and identification purposes. Some of these Muslims spoke about how the bill interfered with the freedom of their self-expression, discriminated against their religious values, and pressured them to conform to French social norms.

Lizzy Barrett, former Heights editor and MCAS ’19, and Narin Briar’s, MCAS ’20, film To Resist explained what it means for Palestinians to exist in Israel. According to the film, Palestinians have been expelled, held under Marshall Law, and kicked out of government positions just for their political opinions. The film suggested Palestinians channel this frustration in a positive manner, not by resisting through force, but by peacefully refusing to be seen as enemies.

The Hanauma and Maalaea bays in Two Bays are polluted, and Laura Huepenbecker, MCAS ’19, tackles the environmental effects in her first experience with short films. She interviews bay volunteers, trash-cleaning divers, and city council members about the harm inflicted on oceanic wildlife, drinking water, and air quality. The film encourages people to pass on their stories of pollution in hopes of them reaching government officials and encouraging stronger environmental protection policies.

The Salmanowitz Program’s screening exhibited blooming talent among BC’s filmmakers, who depicted moral courage in times of violence, uncertainty, segregation, conformity, discrimination, and pollution. The program encourages students to spread these positive messages and even contribute their own.

Featured Image by Celine Lim / Heights Editor