Miami's Inaugural Radical Film Fest, Rise Up, Screens Two Days of Powerful Cinema

This weekend, protest organization Occupy Miami (a branch of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York) will host the inaugural Radical Film Festival. The two-day cinematic celebration of resistance aims to inform and inspire. Screening will be six topical films selected by local organizations, including Black Lives Matter Alliance of Broward, Miami Dream Defenders, Smash HLS, and Food Not Bombs Miami/Fort Lauderdale. Each screening will be followed by conversations with the activists. Taking place on Little River's serene Earth 'n' Us Farm, the festival is free and includes a community-driven potluck and drinks. 

Organizer Bruce Stanley of Occupy Miami and Emerge Miami says the event will be something of a reunion for old protesters from 2011 when the movement began. Five years later, the film festival will bring together key people from the original group.

"The goal is similar to what the Occupy movement was trying to do in the first place: Unite diverse activist groups in Miami, to provide a platform where they can explain the campaigns they are working on to the public," Stanley says. "We want to provide opportunities to plug in and get involved, and our whole concept behind this particular film festival is sending a message that you can make change and here’s how to do that."
The event will run from 2:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, showing films that examine international and locally relevant topics. Saturday will feature the screening of Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man, a radical black-power documentary chosen by Dream Defenders. The 2006 doc highlights Sankara's story and how the former president of Burkina Faso rose to power at age 34. He was known as the "African Che" and became famous for his innovative ideas and altruism. In the midst of today's Black Lives Matter movement, this documentary reminds people of the importance of solidarity.

"There is a whole universe of docs out there, but we want to showcase films that showcase an element of empowerment. People are oversaturated with docs identifying problems, ending with facts and figures about the problem. We want to focus on action and empowerment," Stanley says, "docs that feature movements and activists groups that go up against power structures and how they struggle through that."

This Sunday, the festival will close with the poignant Resistencia: The Fight for the Aguan Valley, a 2015 documentary about the consequences of the 2009 Honduran coup d'état by local farmers, who fought to take back their plantations. Berta Isabel Cáceres Flores, a Honduran environmental activist and indigenous leader of the Lenca people, was recently assassinated in her home by armed intruders after years of threats on her life.
"America is considering Hillary Clinton as a frontrunner, but one of her legacies is her involvement in the coup in Honduras in 2009, legitimizing the Honduran government. Her exact words were that it is a stable government," the organizer says. "Berta Cáceres' assassination is a direct result of that legacy. It caused the crisis of children migrating across the border because living conditions are unbearable, and it's getting washed from history." 

Stanley and co-organizers announced the Radical Film Fest March 15, the day of Florida's primary. It was a symbolic choice, he says, because America is at a critical moment. The 2016 election is rapidly being defined by fear, anger, and polarizing candidates.

"The big joke about the 2016 elections is if you look nationally at voter registrations, the majority of people are not affiliated with a political party. So politicians can only maintain interest in the election by exaggerating differences in the two parties to draw in mass consciousness into this little drama they’ve created," Stanley says. "Once we give ourselves up to it, they have us, they get legitimacy."

Stanley hopes the United States can move beyond a two-party system and believes Miami has a critical role in ensuring progress. The Radical Film Festival will engage all of these ideas, uniting Miami's socially conscious and radical communities through visionary art.

"When major cities get onboard with something, progress happens... Major cities have to be the innovators, the engine of progress." 

Radical Film Festival
2:30 to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at at Earth 'n' Us Farm, 7630 NE First Ave., Miami. Admission is free.

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