United Nations Festival starts tonight

I can’t possibly cover all the Bay Area film festivals. It’s hard enough just listing them. However, just this morning, I realized that I should write something about the United Nations Association Film Festival, which opens tonight. After all, its screening three movies that I’ve already seen.

None of these films are likely to get a theatrical release.

B+ Bias, Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, Monday, October 22, 8:10

Everyone, even the least racist and sexist among us, have implicit biases – the prejudices you don’t even know you have. Even computer algorithms take on the biases of their programmers. Director Robin Hauser, who often plays the film’s guinea pig, discovered her own biases in making the film. It’s a conventional talking-heads documentary that would probably work better on TV than on the big screen. But it will probably leave you with a desire to try Harvard’s IAT tests to discover your own biases.

B+ From Baghdad To the Bay, Mitchell Park Community Center, 3700 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, Sunday, October 21, 4:30

You can’t watch this documentary about Ghazwan Alsharif’s life without loving him. He has experienced tremendous cruelty, and yet, he can smile, laugh, and love. When we occupied Iraq, Alsharif offered his services to the American army as an interpreter. When they were done with him, they threw him into prison and tortured him. Under the agony, he blurted out his one big secret: He’s gay. Now living in San Francisco with a good career as a chef, he misses the country he can never return to and the family nearly ruined by his public outing.

B+ The Whistleblower of My Lai, Stanford University, Anderson Collection, 314 Lomita Drive, Thursday, October 25, 7:15

Don’t expect a conventional documentary about Vietnam, My Lai, or even Hugh Thompson – the helicopter pilot who was almost court marshaled for trying to stop a massacre and insisting on telling the world about it. Connie Field’s brief feature focuses largely on the Kronos Quartet, working with other musicians, to prepare and perform an opera about Thompson, dying of cancer, and thinking about the courageous act that changed, and to a large part ruined, his life. The film works best in the second half, when it’s less about the creation of the opera and more about its meaning.