Yesterday I caught up with director Michael Pertnoy after The Last Survivor’s recent screening at the San Antonio Film Festival. One of his favorite parts of taking the film on the road is the post-film discussion he gets to have with impassioned audience members. Michael described a particularly poignant moment at SAFILM last weekend.
“A woman raised her hand and said, ‘After hearing Jacqueline talk about what happened in Rwanda and how genocide is a process, do you think we should be worried about what’s happening in our country in Arizona?’”
It’s an interesting parallel. “We always talk about the moment people’s rights get taken away,” says Pertnoy. “That’s how it starts. We say, ‘You’re not like us. You’re something else.’ According to Carl Wilkens, the way to eradicate genocide is to eliminate this idea of the Other.” Carl Wilkens is the only American who chose to stay in Rwanda in 1994 and was responsible for saving hundreds of lives. He is also the namesake for the Genocide Intervention Network’s Fellowship Program, in which Pertnoy participated in 2009.
For the woman at the Q&A, Michael had a ready answer. “Absolutely,” he replied. “We should be alarmed. It would be very naïve and arrogant of us to think that a genocide couldn’t happen in our country. In fact it already has.”
It’s something we don’t hear much about, maybe because it’s left such an ugly stain on our history. In her book “A Problem from Hell:”America and the Age of Genocide, Samantha Power points out that we killed 19 million Native Americans in this country. Not only did we instigate a genocide of epic proportions; we are the only nation to successfully carry one out.
Which brings us to 2010. There is no outright slaughter, no Trail of Tears. But we are erecting a pernicious “Other,” this time in the form of immigrants. Recent immigration laws in Arizona not only blatantly defy our country’s cherished protections of asylum, but our Constitution itself.
“We should be outraged,” Pertnoy says. “We should be alarmed. And we should be thinking more about our civil liberties and how we ought to respond.”
As Winston Churchill famously said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”
The Last Survivor was, as usual, a smash hit at SAFILM, taking home the Audience Award for Best Documentary. What’s next for the filmmakers? A trip to Israel, where the film will enjoy its international premiere at the Jerusalem International Film Festival. Stay tuned for transatlantic news!
On Thursday, we said “goodbye” to Dallas and “hello” to Atlanta.
I must say, as I recap our 5 days at the Dallas International Film Festival, I cannot imagine how the week could have gone any better than it did. We sold out both of our screenings, attended some incredible events, met interesting people, and moved THE LAST SURVIVOR one step closer to being seen by mass audiences around the globe. And as icing on the cake, during Friday’s award ceremony we were announced as winners of the DIFF Special Jury Prize!!!
From Dallas, director Michael Pertnoy made the trip to Atlanta, Georgia where the film is already garnering significant buzz around town. The Atlanta premier of THE LAST SURVIVOR is today at 2:20 PM at the Midtown Art Cinema. I look forward to keeping you updated on all of the happenings in Atlanta and beyond.
Over and out-
This weekend The Last Survivor screened at the Oxford Film Festival. It marked the first official film festival that the Righteous Pictures team has attended. Hopefully, it will turn out to be the first of many. The Oxford Film Festival, which started in 2003, brings independent filmmakers from across the country to Oxford, Mississippi to showcase their work and interact with the audience at a number of social events.
The Last Survivor was extremely well-received at Oxford. So much so, in fact, that we were presented with the “Hoka” Award for Best Documentary Feature. What an honor. And as if that was not excitement enough, just this morning we were informed that The Last Survivor also won the Audience Award for best overall film in the festival. A positive first step in the festival tour!
Check out the Oxford’s page for a little more information: Oxford Film Festival 2010