By LAUREN KOSKE
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG) — Everyone has a story to tell. At the Show Me Justice Film Festival, filmmakers were able to share various stories of injustices with students and the local community through the visual medium of film.
The seventh annual Show Me Justice Film Festival focused on raising awareness of various types of injustices that we as humans face in our social climate, past or present, according to an informational brochure. The festival screens films entered from all over the world.
Jenni-Juulia Wallinheimo-Heimonen, a textile artist and filmmaker from Finland, was present at the festival for the screening of her film “Illusionist’s Visions” a story about Ronja Oja, a Finnish athlete with a visual impairment. In the film, Oja examines her environment with a glove that makes sound contact with objects.
Wallinheimo-Heimonen said she enjoyed her time at the festival, despite the long travel to get here.
“I am all the time searching, ‘social justice,’ ‘feminist art,’ ‘art film festivals,’ ‘disability film festivals’ (online) and it was giving me this one,” Wallinheimo-Heimonen said. “When I was selected I wanted so much to come and meet other people and talk about social justice.”
The festival, which ran April 5-7 on UCM’s Warrensburg campus, allowed filmmakers to interact directly with university students, professors and high school students, as well as members of the community.
Filmmakers who would be present at the festival were invited to teach free workshops built into the schedule of the festival. Erika Street, a filmmaker based out of Chicago, taught a workshop called “Working with non-actors.”
Street directed and co-wrote the film “The Orange Story,” a story following Koji Oshima, a Japanese-American man facing forced incarceration during World War II.
“There are all of the obvious civil rights issues that can be seen in the film, whether it be racism or xenophobia,” Street said. “These are all important issues and I think that they are all things that young people can relate to in their own lives.”
The film tells a true story of societal oppression in the United States, set in a time that is often glossed over in academics. In 1942, there was an Executive Order forcing 120,000 Japanese-Americans to relocate from their homes to incarceration camps throughout the U.S.
Street said she chose to tell the true story told through a narrative film, rather than a documentary, to draw in viewer’s interest.
“Having a social justice film festival at a college, seemed like a really good place to bring this story,” Street said. “When you are looking at the history of the movie, the issues seem so far away, so that is the age group we are really reaching out to – after the film screens, maybe it can be used in classrooms.”
Mason Potter, senior Digital Media Production student with an emphasis in digital cinema, said one of his favorite aspects of the festival is being able to interact with the filmmakers.
“It’s really good to talk to people about how they are making films today, and maybe even things we as students can use in our projects,” Potter said. “I think even faculty benefits from that because the get ideas of what people are doing in the field so they can better represent that in their classrooms.”
Martha Gorzycki, animation and digital cinema professor at San Francisco State University, directed “Voices for Kaw Thoo Lei,” which screened as a feature film at the festival. The animated documentary focuses on the oppressed Karen People of Burma, whose country has been ravaged by war for more than six decades.
Gorzycki said one of the most difficult aspects of producing the film was interviewing the subjects.
“I think it takes a tremendous amount of courage for people who have gone through that kind of trauma to share their stories with a stranger, so I really admire the elders and the young women that would like to share their story,” Gorzycki said.
Gorzycki said she advises students to follow their heart when it comes to choosing a topic to produce their film over.
“If it comes from an authentic place instead of a focused copy of a piece someone else make, you become a better artist when you try to work more authentically,” Gorzycki said.