Film notes: 'Blood Brother' among movies at human rights film series

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"Blood Brother," the award-winning story of Pittsburghers making a difference in the lives of children with HIV and AIDS in India, will open the 2014 Human Rights Film Series at Duquesne University.

A year ago, the documentary won two top prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. It will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursday in Room 105 of the university's College Hall and, like other movies in the series, is free and open to the public.

After the 92-minute movie, Sara Noel, outreach director for Amizade Global Service-Learning, will talk about her organization's volunteer program in India providing assistance with leadership development camps for rural children. A reception with light refreshments will follow.

In its seventh year, the film series offers a lineup of award-winning documentaries that address some of the most critical abuses of human rights in the world. Also scheduled to be shown, all at 7 p.m. and with experts speaking at each event:

"Tough Guise 2," exploring how the media and pop culture shape and distort what it means to be "masculine" in American society, Jan. 29; "Seeds of Death," an investigation of the impact of genetically modified foods on public health, Feb. 6; and "Last Call at the Oasis," from the company that examined climate change, industrialization of food and public education comes this look at the global water crisis, Feb. 10.

Also, "Bully," a film depicting the devastating impact of bullying on the lives of middle and high school students and their families, Feb. 19; and "Girl Rising," the stories of nine girls from around the world and the strength of the human spirit and transformative power of education, Feb. 24.

Duquesne's Department of Modern Languages and Literatures is presenting the series.

Teen Screen expanding

"Blood Brother" also is among the new movies being added to Teen Screen, an educational program of JFilm: The Pittsburgh Jewish Film Forum offering free screenings for middle and high school groups at the SouthSide Works Cinema.

It and "Sweet Dreams" will expand the roster beyond mainly Holocaust-themed movies. Both are recommended for students in grades nine through 12.

"Sweet Dreams" is about women from warring Rwandan tribes coming together after the 1994 genocide to form a drumming troupe. When the group decides to partner with two young American entrepreneurs to open Rwanda's first ice cream shop, they embark on a journey of independence, peace and possibility. It is 83 minutes and is in Kinyarwandan and English with subtitles.

Teacher guides, pre-screening preparation in the classroom and post-screening discussions in the theater are included at no charge. The program has served more than 20,000 students and teachers since 2005.

Also available to school groups:

* "As Seen Through These Eyes" (grades 11-12, especially art students), a 70-minute documentary about artists in the concentration camps. Maya Angelou narrates this English-language testimonial to the resiliency of the human spirit.

* "Inside Hana's Suitcase" (grades six-eight), a 60-minute documentary about the delivery of a battered suitcase to the director of the Holocaust Museum in Tokyo and a search for details about the owner's life. In Czech, English and Japanese, with subtitles. Shown with an Oscar-winning short, "Toyland," in German with subtitles.

* "Kinderblock 66: Return to Buchenwald" (grades 10-12), a 90-minute documentary about men who, as boys, were imprisoned at the Buchenwald concentration camp and return 65 years later to tell and film their story. In English, Czech, Hebrew and French with subtitles.

* "La Rafle" (grades 10-12), a 124-minute French epic about the mass arrest and detainment of Jewish people in Paris in summer 1942. A new addition to the program, it stars Melanie Laurent and Jean Reno. In French, German and Yiddish with subtitles.

* "The Last Flight of Petr Ginz" (grades six-10), an English-language documentary about a boy who died at 16 in Auschwitz after creating more than 170 drawings and paintings, writing short stories and editing an underground magazine in the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. With "Toyland."

* "Nicky's Family" (grades seven-12), a 90-minute English language documentary about the life-giving legacy of Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia by bringing them to his native Britain.

* "Saviors in the Night" (grades 9-12), a 97-minute drama about German farmers in Westphalia who risked their lives to hide a Jewish family. In German with subtitles.

For more information, contact Teen Screen coordinator Lori Sisson at or 412-992-5203.

Projects hinge on credits

So, is Russell Crowe returning to Pittsburgh to make another movie?

The answer hinges on whether "Fathers and Daughters" secures a film tax credit. The picture, also starring Amanda Seyfried and Aaron Paul, is among seven feature films that could land here. Four have applied for tax credits, and applications are expected from the other three soon.

"Both the governor's office and [the Department of Community and Economic Development] are working diligently to help us find the film tax credits that will ensure the production of these in our region," Dawn Keezer, director of the Pittsburgh Film Office, said last week.

Mr. Crowe, who shot "The Next Three Days" here with director Paul Haggis, is among "name talent" attached to major productions interested in the area.

"These are big movies, and they want to come to Southwestern Pennsylvania. They want to use our crew. They want to use our locations. They want to be here, because people love shooting in Southwestern PA, and we want them to come and spend the money and hire our people.

"And if the film tax credit program was uncapped, we wouldn't be having this conversation. We'd just be enjoying all the work."

In July, Pennsylvania opted to keep its tax credits for film and TV projects at $60 million, as some states have grown more aggressive about incentives. Among the projects lost from Philadelphia due to lack of money was "American Hustle," now a darling of Oscar voters.

Movie editor Barbara Vancheri: or 412-263-1632. Read her blog:

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