Coded Bias (2020)

Coded Bias
Director: Shalini Kantayya
Writer: Shalini Kantayya
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 13.12.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

“Plot”:
When MIT researcher Joy Buolamwini started working with facial recognition software for a class, she didn’t expect to discover that the AI is absolutely biased. She dug into the matter, uncovering more and more problems. Meanwhile facial recognition is used more all the time, for surveillance and police work, regardless of the problems that still aren’t solved.

Coded Bias takes on a very timely topic, considering the racist and also sexist bias in apparently neutral software and algorithms and its implications for police work, amont other things. It’s interesting, well-argued and so well-structured that time flies by and yet you never feel overwhelmed by the topic. It was the perfect choice of final film for the this human world Film Festival.

The film poster showing a white mask in front of a black background. Around the eyes you can see that a Black person is wearing the mask.
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Glory to the Queen (2020)

Glory to the Queen
Director: Tatia Skhirtladze, Anna Khazaradze
Writer: Ina Ivanceanu, Tatia Skhirtladze
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 13.12.2020

“Plot”:
Nona Gaprindashvili, Maia Chiburdanidze, Nana Alexandria and Nana Ioseliani are all world-class Georgian chess players. Their careers changed chess forever, and all four of them are still active teaching and playing chess. But even outside of that, they became feminist icons in Georgia and beyond.

Glory to the Queen tells the story of four very different women who happened to have the same knack for chess. Combining historical footage and current images, it tries to show what their achievements in chess meant to them, to the world, to women, especially the women of Georgia. Unfortunately it isn’t always as clear in its storytelling as it should have been.

The film poster showing drawings of the four women walking over a chess board.
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La casa dell’amore [The House of Love] (2020)

La casa dell’amore
Director: Luca Ferri
Writer: Luca Ferri
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 13.12.2020

“Plot”:
Bianca Dolce Miele is a trans sex worker in Milan. She works at home and the film shares her space and her work for a while.

I had issues with La casa dell’amore. It seems more interested in undressing Bianca and showing her at work than giving us an idea of her as a person.

The film poster showing Bianca half-naked, sitting on a whie cube, wearing nothing but a white skirt and white furry boots. A black cat's but is also in the picture in the corner.
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Bring Down the Walls (2020)

Bring Down the Walls
Director: Phil Collins
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 12.12.2020

Plot:
Right in Manhattan, there is an old firestation that has been transformed into a communal center. During the day, it is an educational space, offering political workshops and talks. During the night, it becomes a club playing house music. The thing that unites those halves is the prison-industrial complex in the USA as the center gives space to former inmates to share their experiences, to activists to campaign for prison abolishment and traces the way house music was developed by Black and Latinx communities as a form of liberation.

Bring Down the Walls takes a look at the strength that lies in community, activism and music, especially when they come together. It is an unusual perspective on the prison-industrial complex, but a welcome one.

The film poster showing the back of a Black head with short hair.
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Meu Nome é Bagdá [My Name Is Baghdad] (2020)

Meu Nome é Bagdá
Director: Caru Alves de Souza
Writer: Caru Alves de Souza, Josefina Trotta
Cast: Grace Orsato, Karina Buhr, Marie Maymone, Helena Luz, Gilda Nomacce, Paulette Pink, Emílio Serrano, William Costa, João Paulo Bienermann, Nick Batista
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 12.12.2020

Content Note: sexualized violence, police brutality

Plot:
Baghdad (Grace Orsato) cruises the streets of Sao Paulo with her skateboarding crew. When she isn’t out and about she hangs with her single mother (Karina Buhr) and little sister (Marie Maymone), and her mothers friends. Baghdad is little interested in school or anything but improving her skating abilities. But her group of friends is mostly boys, except for her and Vanessa (Nick Batista). Until they meet another group of female skaters.

My Name Is Baghdad is a wonderful film that takes a sharp look at how a girl really can’t ever be one of the boys – but she can be lucky to be one of the girls. It’s sweet and touching and has great energy.

The film poster showing Bagdá (Grace Orsato) hugging her skateboard.
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Las ranas [The Frogs] (2020)

Las ranas
Director: Edgardo Castro
Writer: Edgardo Castro
Cast: Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli, Nahuel Cabral, Gabriela Illarregui, María Eugenia Stillo
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 12.12.2020

Plot:
Barbara (Barbara Elisabeth Stanganelli) is one of the women called Las ranas – the frogs. That means she visits her boyfriend (Nahuel Cabral) in prison as much as she can. The prison is far and the visits are a strenuous addition to her everyday struggle to raise enough funds just to live. But she unfailingly goes, bringing food and whatever else is allowed and even what isn’t. Sometimes she also brings their daughter.

Las ranas is a fiction film that feels very much like a documentary. That has advantages but also disadvantages, and here and there I was wishing it would stick more to narrative conventions for fiction.

The film poster in simple grass green with a black frog on it.
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Sommerkrieg [Summer War] (2019)

Sommerkrieg
Director: Moritz Schulz
Writer: Moritz Schulz, Tetiana Trofusha
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 11.12.2020

Content Note: fascism, abuse

“Plot”:
Jasmin and Jastrip are both looking forward to summer camp. Only their summer camp is a very special one: Azovez camp is organized by a nationalistic militita group that has been instrumental for Ukraine’s fight against Russia. And the camp is there to raise the next generation of patriots and soldiers.

Sommerkrieg gave me chills. It not only wonders why children would want to go to a war camp with military drills, it’s also a matter of fact depiction of right-wing extremists brainwashing children.

The film poster showing Jasmin and Jastrip in military style shorts and yellow shirts, cradling wooden machine guns.
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Ploshcha [Kalinovski Square] (2007)

Ploshcha
Director: Yuriy Khashchevatskiy
Writer: Yuriy Khashchevatskiy
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 11.12.2020

Content Note: police violence

“Plot”:
In 2006, Belarus had presidential elections, re-confirming Alexander Lukashenko as the president. But the election turned out to be fraudulent and protestors took to Minsk’s main square. Khashchvatskiy details the events leading up the election and how the protestors were “handled” by police – including mass arrests and violence – to silence dissidence.

With current events in Belarus, Ploshcha is an incredibly topical documentary still. It’s irreverent tone also makes it more fun than I thought possible, given the content. I guess it’s an instance of gallows humor, but it works.

The film poster showing a young man in a crowd of people, surrounded by militia.
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The 8th (2020)

The 8th
Director: Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 10.12.2020

Content Note: abortion

“Plot”:
Ireland was long known for having the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. But after 35 years of near constant organizing, the campaigns against those laws were finally successful. In a 2018 referendum the 8th amendment to the Irish constitution was overturned.

The 8th is a nice documentary, showing us how much hard work went into the campaign and how long people fought for their rights, and fortunately was also able to give us the happy end in the success of 2018. It’s a satisfying ode to activism.

The film poster showing a group of protester above a large figure 8.
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In My Blood It Runs (2019)

In My Blood It Runs
Director: Maya Newell
Part of: this human world Film Festival
Seen on: 10.12.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

“Plot”:
Dujuan lives with his mother and his siblings in Alice Springs. His grandmother tells him that he has inherited is grandfather’s healing power. It’s important to her that Dujuan gets to know his Aboriginal heritage and learns to speak Arrernte. For Dujuan, too, it is important: he is never more at home than when he returns to the traditional lands. But unfortunately, Dujuan also has to attend a state school where he is always an outsider.

In My Blood It Runs is a wonderful portrait of an extra-ordinary boy who has his work cut out for himself. Between poverty and prevalent racism, he finds strength in family and tradition, underscoring the importance of communities for BIPOC everywhere.

The film poster showing Dujuan crouching in the desert.
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