As a journalist, educator and documentary filmmaker, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects of war, poverty, hatred and hunger. My deep interest in humanitarian issues led me sixteen years ago to create the annual international documentary festival UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival). Unlike other film festivals, which focus on one theme, one part of the world or one ethnic group, UNAFF is striving to provide a cross-section of the world by illuminating numerous issues from various countries, bound together by the common thread of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
UNAFF has grown and earned the respect of audiences and filmmakers alike for its fearless independence and integrity. In addition to providing early outlets for films, many of which later went on to win major awards and accolades, UNAFF prides itself in creating a community forum for discovery and dialogue about different cultures, issues and solutions.
Last year's festival with the theme “Human Dignity” was even bigger and more successful than the previous festivals regarding submissions, publicity, sponsorship and attendance, with eleven days of screenings in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto, San Jose, San Francisco and Stanford. The audience enjoyed 70 documentaries presenting topics from around the world.
The 15th UNAFF initiated a meaningful community dialogue with the filmmakers at the UNAFF headquarters at “Live Greene” and after the screenings of the films. UNAFF offered seven free panel discussions during which renowned experts elucidated topics such as Philanthropy, Filmmaking and Social Change, Visual Pollution, Torture, The Dream Act and Arts Activism.
For the fifth year in a row we presented a very popular matinee program “UNAFF & Kids”, which has previously received the prestigious Academy Foundation Grant and our program “UNAFF in Schools”, which began in 2005, held screenings at the Girls’ Middle School, Eastside College Preparatory School and the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Peninsula in East Palo Alto. All events were free for students and teachers.
As a gift to the elderly in our community we decided this year to introduce free tickets for all seniors.
None of this would have been achievable had it not been for the generous hearts of our supporters and friends.
Our efforts are not exhausted by the festival in October, but continue year round. Enthusiasm and participation in numerous local screenings and events under our “UNAFF Café“ and “UNAFF for Seniors“ programs and the “UNAFF Traveling Film Festival“, which started in 2000, have meant that tens of thousands of people around the country and the world have viewed, discussed and responded to global issues with great passion. We collaborate with the “Camera as Witness” Program at Stanford to leverage the educational potential of UNAFF films, and the incredible wealth of several thousand documentaries in our “UNAFF Archive” is available for research purposes.
The reach of UNAFF has grown so broad that is has created loyal and engaged festival audiences and received praise from academic, civic and community leaders. Because the documentary film format provides unique opportunities to hear the voices of people that would otherwise go unheard and to see vastly different life experiences, our audiences place great value on this important opportunity to benefit from the dedicated research of filmmakers and acquire perspectives unavailable through mainstream news media.
As human rights injustices continue to impact millions of vulnerable individuals throughout the world, it is my hope that you will be moved to embrace the issues our films explore. The films featured always awaken new understanding of major political, cultural and environmental issues, in the unique way that only documentary film can.
As a testimony to the integrity of its selection process, UNAFF consistently receives film submissions by filmmakers of highest regard in their field. Many past UNAFF films have gone on to inspire some of the most spirited appraisals of the power of documentary film with five winning Academy Awards in the best documentary category and 22 receiving nominations.
Although UNAFF receives benefit from partnering with important organizations, including the Stanford Camera as Witness Program, the Stanford Film Society and the UNA-USA, we remain independent both financially and in governance and so rely on the generosity of the community and our officers for support. Philanthropic gifts also extend opportunities for our varied programs, which engage groups that otherwise have limited access to quality documentary film viewing.
Your support is essential for us to be able to continue with the UNAFF mission. For your convenience, gifts may be made online through a secure PayPal module or by mailing a check payable to UNAFF
P.O. Box 19369
Stanford, CA 94309
All contributions are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law for 501(c) 3 organizations.
By both attending screenings of the many exceptional films and offering your generous support, you will have the opportunity to take an active role in upholding human dignity in our global community.
Founder and Executive Director, UNAFF & UNAFF Traveling Film Festival