Cinema of Urgency examines civil liberties

The Cinema of Urgency
Judge Juan Guzman, a former supporter of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, is called to investigate Pinochet's war crimes, and learns things that "open the eyes of [his] soul." He is the central character in "The Judge and the General," which will play at the Walker Art Center.
Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center

The consequences of our government's actions and inaction is a major theme in the Cinema of Urgency.

Walker film curator Sheryl Mosley points to "Secrecy," a film that examines what government information should be public, and what should be kept private.

"Secrecy," directed by Peter Galison and Robb Moss, peers into the invisible world of government secrecy and its tug-of-war with civil liberties.
Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center

"I think that is a struggle," said Mosley. "It's not a clear line, and I think the film really takes that on. It's not easy to say we should have completely open government, because all of us in America also have a sense of individuality and privacy."

Mosley says she hopes the four films in the Cinema of Urgency series, which will rotate through over the next several weeks, will inspire conversations.

In particular, "The Listening Project," a documentary in which four people travel the world to find out what others think of America, offers some juicy material.

Mosley says "The Listening Project" reveals that people on the other side of the planet are able to distinguish between America's government, its people and its ideals.

Flow: For Love of Water
Director Ilena Salina explores the planet's coming shortage of drinking water and corporate plans to privatize the delivery of clean water in "Flow: For Love of Water."
Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center

"And it felt like the ideals of America, which we all believe in so strongly, are really the ideals people would like to see in the world," said Mosley.

Other films in the Walker series offer a more cautionary tale. "Flow: For Love of Water" explores the planet's coming shortage of drinking water and how corporations are working to control access to it.

Minnesota filmmaker Elizabeth Farnsworth's documentary "The Judge and the General" opens the film series. It follows one Chilean judge's investigation into the crimes of Augusto Pinochet during Pinochet's 17-year rule.

The judge transforms from being a blind supporter for a violent regime, into a pivotal character in bringing members of that regime to justice.

Director Farnsworth says the story of Pinochet and the torture of innocents offers its own lessons for the United States.

The Listening Project
"The Listening Project" asks the question, "What does the world think of America?" and then travels the world in search of answers.
Image courtesy of the Walker Art Center

"I think we all ask the question, why can terrible things happen, whether it's a famine or terrible state repression or torture, and some people just look the other way, or actively help in some way," said Farnsworth.

While Augusto Pinochet died before he could go to trial, and thousands mourned at his funeral, Farnsworth says the judge's work shows the power of one man's persistence.

The Walker Art Center presents "Cinema of Urgency" through Aug. 28. The screening of "The Judge and the General" will be followed by a conversation with director Elizabeth Farnsworth.