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Hearts and Minds Film Festival Finds New Home at Villanova University

Villanova's Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society (WFI) partners with Hearts and Minds Film Initiative for annual social justice film showcase

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Some paths just seem destined to cross; and when those paths emphasize important issues of ethics and social justice, positive social change can result.

Villanova University’s Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society (WFI)—established in 2011 to support the study of communication and its power to create positive social change—has partnered with the Hearts and Minds Film Initiative, which facilitates media-based programs that address social issues surrounding the human condition. Together these socially minded organizations present the seventh annual Hearts and Minds Film Festival, April 13-14, at Villanova University’s Connelly Center Cinema.

Fourteen film selections will be shown, including a combination of short- and feature-length documentary, narrative and animated films. The two-day festival is free and open to the public.

“Villanova University, the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication and Society, and the Hearts and Minds Film Initiative each are committed to social justice endeavors and an improved understanding of those we encounter in this world that we share. This truly is a bit of a destined collaboration,” said Bryan Crable, Ph.D., Founding Director of WFI. Crable, along with faculty members in WFI’s Center for Social Justice Film and other WFI faculty, staff and students, assisted in selecting the films for this year’s festival.

The opening night featured film, “Erasing Hate,” will begin at 8 p.m., on Friday, April 13. A question-and-answer session including director Bill Brummel will follow the 93-minute documentary. “Erasing Hate” follows the true story of Bryon Widner, a former skinhead whose face, neck and hands were covered with racist tattoos, as he undergoes an extensive series of painful laser tattoo removal procedures—25 treatments spanning more than a year and a half. “Erasing Hate” chronicles both the outward and inner transformations, taking viewers inside the world of the white power movement, while offering hope through one man’s escape from a life of bigotry and hatred.

“The goal of the festival is to feature micro cinema, or super-independent, films that address issues critical to society and humanity—from faith, love and homelessness to race, identity and disability,” said Sharon Baker, Founder and Director of Serviam Media, Inc. “In an era of increasing social and economic challenges, we feel these films herald a timely call to awareness and service in enlightening, exciting and, most importantly, entertaining ways.” The Hearts and Minds Film Initiative is a Serviam Media program.

The remaining 13 selections will be shown Saturday, April 14, from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and include the following, in order of showing.

  • Shot on location in Tibet and northern India, “Nomad to Nobody” is the director’s personal take on the plight of Tibetan nomads, who are being forcibly relocated by Chinese officials—shifted off their traditional grazing lands into concrete ghettos, where they are marginalized. The nomads have gone from living in a self-sufficient, entirely sustainable way to being unemployed and dependent on the Chinese government for handouts, including food.
  • Afghanistan: Between Light and Darkness” portrays two young Afghan leaders working to heal their country, transcending the televised images of their nation’s never-ending wars. It is a story of light and hope amid a world still in darkness.
  • The film “Mato Oput” chronicles the efforts of the people of northern Uganda to foster justice, peace and reconciliation following a 20-year civil war known for its extreme brutality. Many of the combatants were abducted children, often forced to commit atrocities against their own families as a way to ensure loyalty. Now that peace has been restored, these children are young adults who face the challenge of reintegrating with their communities, which are trying to heal as well.
  • In “Orchids,” documentary filmmaker Phoebe Hart showcases her journey of self-discovery to embrace her future and reconcile the past shame and family secrecy surrounding her intersex identity. Despite her mother’s outright refusal to be in the film, Hart receives help from her sister, Bonnie, and support from husband, James. She reflects on her youth and connects with other intersex people on camera.
  • Inspired by “Los inocentes,” the award-winning short story by Pedro Juan Soto, “Innocent” features a man living in an inner city with his mother and sister. Due to a mental condition, he spends his days gazing out the apartment window and feeding the pigeons that occasionally land nearby. His winged friends remind him of happier days. When his condition proves to be too much, the family faces a difficult decision.
  • In “L Train,” Sunny is a self-absorbed teenager fighting her way through an inner city blizzard until she encounters someone who forces her to consider an altruistic, if not absurd, action.
  • In “Encounter,” a young white woman on a search for inner peace gets stuck in an elevator with an older African man. Though the residue of apartheid still remains, does he hold the key to her finding inner peace? A story about loss, compassion and how connected we are, “Encounter” features unexpected twists and turns designed to surprise and inspire.
  • Starring Academy Award nominee James Cromwell, “Admissions” is a short film about what it takes to find lasting peace, even in a war-torn place like the Middle East. Featuring an Israeli couple and a Palestinian man, this modern parable is set in the Admissions Room for the afterlife. Its purpose is to start a conversation that heals.
  • The message of “No Greater Pain,” a film produced by a Villanova student, is simple: No mother should have to bury her child.
  • From the Ground Up” depicts the story of five New York firefighters’ widows 10 years after 9/11. It’s their journey to triumph despite tragedy, taking two steps forward then one step back, through tears, depression and laughter. The film captures the women’s resilience, courage and spirit after surviving extraordinary loss.
  • A Read on Inside Books” is a short film about Inside Books Project, a nonprofit organization in Austin, Texas, that provides free books to people in Texas prisons. The film features the organization’s volunteers, who explain how the Project works and why it’s important. It also raises the question of who benefits if inmates are denied the opportunity to improve their educations.
  • The Road to Rehabilitation and Reform: A Short Film about DC and Its Most Disconnected Youth” examines the recent successes and challenges within Washington, D.C.’s juvenile justice agency. For years, youth were committed to the Oak Hill Youth Detention Center, a dingy, often-overcrowded facility. In May 2009, the Oak Hill facility was closed, and a new, smaller, rehabilitative-focused facility, New Beginnings Youth Development Center, was opened in its place.
  • What does it take to make it “out there” once released from prison? “In Your Hands” showcases the personal journey of Kim, a 25-year-old white woman, and Xavier, a 29-year-old black man, as they struggle with their newfound freedom. As Kim and Xavier fight the system and their own inner demons, viewers are challenged to examine their lives.

In addition, on April 13 at 7 p.m., prior to the start of the opening night’s featured film, the Waterhouse Family Institute, Fielding Graduate University’s Institute for Social Innovation, and the CMM Institute for Personal and Social Innovation will recognize the 2011-2012 CMM Institute Fellows for their efforts in the field and contributions to the common good.

About Serviam Media: Serviam Media is a non-profit, charitable, educational corporation formed in 2002 for the purpose of creating educational programming, digital media and outreach initiatives to inform, inspire and empower diverse audiences. The company partners with organizations, institutions and individuals throughout the nation to create programs that will foster human understanding, multicultural appreciation and civic engagement.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's five colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.