Freedom Film Festival 2003

During its six year existence this festival has acted as a messenger between America and Europe, carrying on an extended on-screen conversation about freedom and democracy, and ways that our future shared culture must learn from 20th Century history. In the past year, as more people have joined in, the viewpoints have often diverged. This creates a new challenge to we who believe that reinforcing shared, common values is more important than arguing about our differences.

In Los Angeles the 2003 Freedom Film Festival opened with The Publisher ("Der Verleger," Bernd Böhlich, 2001) based on the true story of maverick German newspaper and book mogul Axel Springer.

It continued with Romania's Bless You, Prison ("Binecuvintata fii, inchisoare" Nicolae Margineanu, 2002) the stark, graphic, and ultimately uplifting story of a woman who refuses to give up religious faith and hope in the face of overwhelming repression in 1949 Bucharest. The Claremont Colleges in Pomona, leading educators in 20th century history and the Cold War, hosted the festival's first college screening on their campus.

At the American Film Institute campus in Hollywood, exiled Iranian filmmaker Parviz Sayyad screened his groundbreaking film The Mission on its twentieth anniversary. He also discussed the experiences of exile; the Iranian-American broadcasters who have sprung up in Los Angeles; and the lack of knowledge in the Western press about art films made for export under the Tehran government.

We looked to the future of freedom with the technological revolution that is making it possible to bypass the gatekeepers of the media. Los Angeles journalist Catherine Seipp hosted a panel of bloggers ("web-loggers"). These young authors of on-line personal journals about art, politics, and culture tend toward the non-conformist, the unconventional, and the libertarian; many are connecting their digital cameras to the internet as well.

The Freedom Film Festival noted the 50th anniversary of the death of Joseph V. Stalin on March 5, 1953 and contemplated how the world has changed in the half century since then.