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USA, 1989 (MIFF 1990, Documentaries)

Director: Ralph Arlyck

This is an expressive, reflective film that strings together seemingly dislocated stories and events in a provocative, and personalised treatment of the media and its impact on human rights. Arlyck considers the effect of the news on the general population of the privileged world. Nowadays interminable stories of distant catastrophes have an overwhelming effect in which the audience is able to blank out any response; whereas in the sixties, as a conscientious and socially concerned young man Arlyck participated in student protests where civil action was seen to be the appropriate response to world affairs. He remembeis his grandfather, a migrant to the US and his morality where people were expected to be "mensch": decent human beings with a concern for the world. Yet in his own family his children have a propensity for war games and toys despite efforts to inculcate alternative and positive values into them. He meets some of the 18,000 Americans who each weekend participate in "survival" (or war) games, while elsewhere in the world many others are being tortured, oppressed and killed.

We travel from Arlyck's family, friends and strangers who are inhabitants of the US, to drought striken Africa, where Arlyck served as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Sixties, to war-torn Central America. These encounters build up a profile of response and responsibility, both global and immediate, and terminate at the family dinner table where his son, who is fussing over his food, challenges his father behind the camera: "You're not going to use this? What has this got to do with human rights?" The point is that the human condition has been depersonalised through saturation and society can only improve if we are able to integrate our personal lives into a global perspective of its problems.
- (VD)

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