Powerful films not only teach us valuable lessons, but also inspire us to think of unique ways that can help make a difference.

This message was incorporated in Denison’s 13th Human Rights Film Festival, which began on Tuesday February 6 at 7 p.m. with the screening of “Gaza Surf Club,” in Slayter Union Auditorium. The festival screens five films at Denison, with one film screening each Tuesday night from the first week of February and is run by the International Studies Department.

“Being engaged with the world and understanding the issues that go on is a good start to make a change” said Dr. Isis Nusair, an international studies professor in charge of the film festival.

The first film “Gaza Surf Club,” co-directed by Philip Gnadt and Mickey Yamine is about a group of people living in the present-day Gaza strip, a self-governing Palestinian territory which borders Egypt. Despite facing poverty due to constant wars and border restrictions, people add meaning to their lives through surfing. The film demonstrated a topic that is a timely humanitarian crisis, and emphasizes the overall theme of empathy and social justice.

“I thought it was a really interesting film that lead to an engaging conversation from which I was able to learn a lot about the situation in Gaza. I just wish there was a stronger focus on the female character in the film and how important her work was” said Dasni Lakpriya ‘20, an international studies and French double major from California, after attending the Tuesday film screening of “Gaza Surf Club.”

The next film will be the screening on February 13 and feature  “500 Years: Life in Resistance,” directed by Pamela Yates, followed by a February 20 screening of “Fire at Sea,”directed by Gianfranco Rosi, “Stop Over” directed by Kaveh Bakhtiari on February 27 and “Born in Syria” directed by Hernan Zin on March 6. The first film is about Gaza, the second film is about Guatemala and the last three films will focus more on migrant and refugees coming from Africa and the Middle East into Europe.

Every year, four or five films are chosen from various parts of the world with different topics. This year, the last three films are interconnected with each other. The third film shows how asylum seekers and migrants cross country borders, the fourth film will talk about migrants being stuck in Greece and the fifth film will demonstrate what happens to those who make it to different parts of Europe like Belgium, Germany, etc.

Even though each film is different, it gives students a slice of the topic that is important for them to engage with. Students and faculty are encouraged to come for all screenings to see how the films speak to each other and what impact it has on today’s world.