Awareness Film Festival aims to open eyes to social issues
Where else but Los Angeles would you find a nonprofit that offers donation-based yoga classes and also puts on its own annual film festival? Heal One World is such an organization, a 501(c)(3) that promotes alternative healthcare in low-income areas and will hold its third annual Awareness Film Festival this weekend.
The festival, which runs Thursday to Sunday, showcases films that explore contemporary social issues, be they environmental, political, spiritual, cultural or health-related.
Founder Skye Kelly was inspired to create the nonprofit after her own positive experiences with alternative therapies (yoga, tai chi, meditation) while recovering from a car accident, and her background in filmmaking shaped her fundraising efforts.
"I thought instead of doing a big charity fancy-schmancy dinner thing, I'd do a film festival and highlight the kind of films I was interested in making."
This year's programming begins Thursday with a screening of Danfung Dennis' Oscar-nominated war documentary "Hell and Back Again" at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Culver City. The film, which follows a Marine as he attempts to re-enter civilian society after serving in Afghanistan, is one of several festival selections about veterans issues; others include "A Brotherhood: Reforged," "Medal of Honor: Extraordinary Valor" and "In Their Boots."
Friday features a sneak preview of "Greedy Lying Bastards," Craig Scott Rosebraugh's documentary about the fossil-fuel industry, and Saturday’s lineup includes a screening of Mary Liz Thomson's documentary "Who Bombed Judi Bari?" about the environmental activist who was initially blamed by authorities for a bombing attempt on her life in 1990 but who was posthumously vindicated by a federal jury. Sunday evening's closing film is Susan Froemke and Matthew Heinenman's "Escape Fire," which explores the widespread problems of the American healthcare system and which screened at Sundance in January.
The festival will also present panels on such topics as filmmaking as activism and making a difference. Most screenings will take place at the Regent Showcase theater in Hancock Park and the Macha Theater in West Hollywood.
Kelly said her ultimate goal with the festival was to open eyes and empower audiences by bringing attention to meaningful causes.
"I don't want to just see the problem," she said. "I want to see what's the light at the end of the tunnel."
-- Oliver Gettell
Photo: "Hell and Back Again." Credit: Danfung Dennis.