JAYU Human Rights Film Festival Recap
This past weekend (December 9th-11th) the 5th annual JAYU Human Rights Film Festival happened at The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto. It is a small festival that doesn’t get a whole ton of press, but they play some great films each year that highlight important issues. Their name ‘JAYU’ comes from a Korean word meaning freedom.
I had the opportunity to attend the opening and closing night films this year. Opening Night was the PBS documentary Undocumented, about undocumented people in America, which while highlighting a very important issue did feel a bit overlong at feature length, especially following two shorts in the program. The two shorts were both good – the first outlining the photography program connected with JAYU for Syrian refugees in Toronto entitled IAm, and the second on being “Stateless”. “Stateless'” tells the story of Deepan Budlakoti, a young Ottawa man who was born in Canada, raised in Canada, but declared ‘not a Canadian citizen’ due to an obscure law. Facing deportation to India (a country he has never been to, nor recognizes him as a citizen either), Deepan’s fight raises important questions on what it means to be Canadian. Both Deepan and the director of “Stateless” were on hand for a Q & A afterwards, which provided a fascinating 20 minute discussion.
Closing Night was a 3-minute experimental short called Golden, which played before the feature presentation of the Canadian Premiere of Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? This well done fly-on-the-wall style documentary follows Saar, a Israeli man living in London after being exhiled by his family for the past 17 years since he came out gay and HIV-positive. He sings in the London Gay Men’s Chorus, and tries to balance his orientation with his religious Jewish upbringing. Filmed with interactions between Saar and his family as they try to come back together after many years, the film is a fascinating and very human look at family, religion, LGBT issues, and the reality of someone living with HIV. If you get a chance to see this one at another festival or once it’s on DVD, it is well worth it.
This was my first time attending JAYU, and while I only caught two screenings, both were well put on and The Bloor is a great place to watch films. I’ll be keeping an eye on this festival in the years to come.