UNAFF: The United Nations Association Film Festival

The United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF) sees itself as a “two-decade-long celebration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, emphasizing our readiness to resume resolute strides towards lasting solutions.” It opens Thursday.

Although most of the festival will happen on the peninsula – Stanford and Palo Alto – UNAFF will have one day in San Francisco. On Wednesday, October 27 at the Roxie, the festival will screen two feature documentaries, two shorts, and live music from members of the group Fanny.

I have seen three of the 60 films to be shown. They are all ones that have already played in earlier Bay Area film festivals. That’s not true with most of the films that will be shown.

B+ The Conductor, Mitchell Park Community Center, Saturday, October 30, 7:00

A music teacher once told young Marin Alsop that only men could conduct orchestras. When her musician father heard that, he gave her a set of batons. She eventually became the first woman to helm a major symphony orchestra. Filmmaker Bernadette Wegenstein follows Alsop through her current work, along with older clips and photo stills, including some with her mentor, Leonard Bernstein. Alsop comes off as a very likable yet determined person. If nothing else, the film is filled with beautiful music.

B Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth To Power, Mitchell Park Community Center, Thursday, October 21, 8:30

I’ve been voting for Barbara Lee for decades, and I intend to continue doing so. But it’s nice to learn more about my congresswoman and discover her interesting history. She was born in Jim Crow Texas, had two bad marriages, one of which left her homeless with two young boys. She worked with the Black Panthers. When President George W. Bush called for complete control going to war, she was the only Congress member to vote against it. And yet, she later worked with Bush on a humanitarian mission. It’s a conventional documentary, but it taught me a few things.

B Seyran Ateş: Sex, Revolution and Islam, Mitchell Park Community Center, Friday, October 22, 7:30

Seyran Ateş wants to bring sexual freedom to Islam. Born in Turkey and raised in Germany (where she still lives), she has created an LGBTQ-friendly mosque with no gender segregation. Not surprising, there are death threats, which she considers a badge of honor. Director Nefise Özkal Lorentzen follows her through Europe and even into China. We meet her friends and relatives – her strict parents disapproved, but later generations of her family came to believe in her work. The film doesn’t shy away from Europe’s Muslim terrorist problem, but the film doesn’t really go into why it is happening.

Here are a few films that seem tempting to me:

Zero Gravity