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Art and War: Creating Human Rights Films

Freedom fighter or storyteller? To hide violence or to splatter blood everywhere? Extracting comedy from civil rights struggles and entertainment from genocide. Explore the creative process behind Django UnchainedHotel RwandaThe PromiseMarshallCries from Syria, and many more in the final panel of Lights. Camera. Reaction.

April 26, 2018  |  by Creative Armenia

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Lights. Camera. Reaction. was a groundbreaking summit on human rights entertainment that took place at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles on March 16. Co-hosted by Creative Armenia, The Promise Institute, and UCLA’s Skoll Center for Social Impact Entertainment, the event combined some of the world’s most accomplished directors, producers, and legal minds. The evening culminated with the first Promise Institute Award for Contributions to Human Rights through the Arts, which was received by actress Mira Sorvino.

Art and War, the summit’s final panel curated by Creative Armenia, set off a lively, witty, and trenchant conversation almost as riveting as the films discussed. Acclaimed writer-directors Terry George (The Promise, Hotel Rwanda) and Reginald Hudlin (Marshall, House Party), documentary filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky (Cries from Syria, Winter on Fire), and actress Angela Sarafyan (Westworld, 1915) analyzed clips of their work and spoke in depth about their diverse approaches to storytelling. They explored the hard decisions they’ve had to make at every step of the creative process, from page to set to cutting room—especially when dealing with real life subject matter of major, and potentially dangerous, consequence. How to do justice to complicated historical topics while entertaining an audience? Reginald Hudlin provided a coda for this theme when he said, “If your sales pitch is, This is an important film, you have failed.”

The panel was moderated by Alec Mouhibian (co-writer/director, 1915), Creative Armenia’s vice president. Below are some highlight clips, followed by the complete video.

Reginald Hudlin on the style he chose for Marshall and the importance of telling a good story:

Terry George on why he directed Oscar Isaac to hide the bloodiest sights from the camera in The Promise:

Evgeny Afineevsky on how he managed to acquire so much footage from Syrians on the ground for his documentary Cries From Syria:

Angela Sarafyan on having a personal revelation about her own history on set:

Full video of Art and War:

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