Social Justice Film Festival 2020 [Online]


Presented by the Social Justice Film Institute, Meaningful Movies Project, and Northwest Film Forum

We would like to acknowledge that the Social Justice Film Festival was organized on the traditional land of the first people of Seattle, the Duwamish People past and present, and honor with gratitude the land itself and the Duwamish Tribe. Wherever you are, please take a moment to recognize the land you are living in and its first stewards. To learn more about supporting the Duwamish Tribe, please click here.

Join filmmakers, film lovers, and activists around the world to celebrate the mission of social justice in film for the 9th Social Justice Film Festival, screening virtually from October 1–11, 2020.

Through dozens of strategic partnerships with Pacific Northwest organizations working on issues of social justice, the Social Justice Film Festival exhibits a series of short and feature-length documentaries and narrative films broadly related to social justice, with a special focus on prisoner justice in the US. As a movement, social justice promotes a global culture where equality is achieved on all levels. This includes issues pertaining to incarceration, the environment and sustainability, oppression, race and racism, the arts, animal rights, alternative currency and lifestyles, corruption within the system, and so much more. The festival will showcase works that challenge society structures all over the globe on a macro and micro level, as well as works that challenge the medium.

The festival’s mission is to forge creative alliances with diverse communities, bring inspiring filmmaking to new audiences, and make the art of filmmaking an integral part of social change.

** GENERAL FESTIVAL CONTENT WARNING: This year’s festival selections run the continuum of pain, celebration, heartache, injustice, and perseverance. Please note that some of the films include triggering or violent content, including racial slurs. **

Ways to Watch:




Festival passes and individual tickets are all sliding scale, pay-what-you-can. Please contribute at whatever level is appropriate to your means. Pass sales are an excellent way to support SJFF and NWFF’s work. Plus, they grant the most streamlined, flexible viewing experience possible!

Each passholder is granted online access to every film program in the festival, with the following exceptions, which are only available ticket and passholders in Washington State:

  • BLOCK 8: Learning from the Past and the Present
  • BLOCK 22: Black Lives Matter III


BLOCK 1: Health Issues Now (100 min.)

• Power to Heal: Medicare and the Civil Rights Revolution (56 min.)
A dramatic chapter in the historic struggle to secure equal and adequate access to healthcare for all Americans. Central to the story is how a new national program, Medicare, was used to mount a momentous, coordinated effort that desegregated thousands of hospitals across the country, practically overnight. Narrated by Danny Glover.

• From Durban to Tomorrow (40 min.)
Five advocates put a human face to the global HIV crisis and the intensifying battle for a rights-based future in public health to promote access to healthcare of the most vulnerable.

• How Speaking About Suicide Can Change Lives (4 min.)
There is an often overlooked significance of suicide in media, both negative and positive. Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life, explores how individuals can make a difference in saving lives.

BLOCK 2: Environmental Call to Action I (99 min.)

• The Last Ice (83 min.)
For centuries, Inuit have lived on the frozen ocean. Now, as climate change rapidly melts Arctic sea ice, Inuit in Canada and Greenland are fighting to protect what will remain of their world.

• Seed (16 min.)
A poetic look at families struggle who resist to the power of agribusiness with work, strength, and faith. Through agroecology they find their way to healthy food and life in communion.

BLOCK 3: Together Against Hate (93 min.)

• Liberation Heroes (40 min.)
Through the firsthand testimony of WWII liberators and liberation witnesses, parallels between the past and present are revealed. This film demands we heed the warnings to take a stand against hate.

• Bayt Jadeed: Seeking Home (29 min.)
The story of the search for home, told from the perspectives of refugees and receiving communities both in Germany and in Minnesota.

• Seva (16 min.)
August 5, 2012 marks the most violent hate crime against Sikhs in America. Following the temple massacre, Sikh activists combat rising xenophobia through the religious practice of selfless service.

• Stronger than Steel (7 min.)
Stronger than Steel reflects on the Tree of Life synagogue shooting, seeking hope for the future of our divided nation.

BLOCK 4: Our Bodies I (119 min.)

• Ask for Jane (108 min.)
Based on real events, Ask for Jane tells the story of a group of young college women who developed an underground abortion network that helped over 11,000 women get illegal abortions in Chicago between 1969 and 1973.

• In Conversation (11 min.)
In Conversation is a short documentary about safe abortion. While abortion is legal in South Africa many woman still risk unsafe practices due to the pressures of patriarchy and stigma. The film is told from the perspective of health practitioners across South Africa.

BLOCK 5: The Artist as Activist (112 min.)

Can Art Stop a Bullet (90 min.)
William Kelly, widely considered the social conscience of Australian art, once said: “Art can’t stop a bullet, but it can stop a bullet from being fired.” Can it?

Inner Self (15 min.)
A violinist wants to enter an administrative building but as she lacks the formal hijab, she must stay in the waiting room. She is inspired by the events in the room to make her new piece.

407 Days (7 min.)
Arbitrary detention is common in Haiti and the judicial system is failing. An innocent puppeteer will spend 407 days in prison for no reason. Today, his puppets are denouncing what he has lived through.

BLOCK 6: Black Lives Matter I (118 min.)

• TO BE US: To Work (96 min.)
A narrative-shattering documentary that holds a mirror to the treatment of Black people in the workplace. Featuring participants from a diverse class of professions and disciplines who share a common experience. For many participants, the time of filming was their first opportunity to name and vocalize their pain.

• Augustus (15 min.)
An escaped slave masquerading as a free man in pre-Civil War Massachusetts experiences nightmares of a future America that resembles the struggles of his own time.

• Target Practice (7 min.)
A lost boy seeking help is faced with a harsh reality.

BLOCK 7: Queer Strength and Community I (100 min.)

• Your Mother’s Comfort (79 min.)
In the face of a crumbling Brazilian democracy, trans activist Indianara Siqueira fights to protect a safe house for her chosen family: the trans, housing unstable, sex worker community of Rio de Janeiro. In her attempt to save the house she occupies a colonial palace in the city center to make her demands.

• Healthy Mind (17 min.)
Three sexually active college freshmen face new sexual desires and experiences that come with a cost.

• Gay as in Happy: A Queer Anti-Tragedy (4 min.)
An award-winning experimental autoethnographical documentary about queer joy, resistance, and resilience in the face of abuse, trauma, and transphobia.

BLOCK 8: Learning from the Past and the Present (115 min.)

** Please note: This film is available only to viewers in Washington State. **

The Prison Within (86 min.)
A relevant and timely documentary exploring the destructive impact of untreated trauma on individuals and communities through the powerful stories of survivors of violent crimes and prisoners incarcerated for murder in circle inside San Quentin prison. In a world where rehabilitation and reclamation is vital for us as a society to heal the wounds of trauma, this film dives deeply into what is needed to move toward that goal.

POETRYofPAYNE 2020 (17 min.)
Robert Payne a lonely, broke, homeless street poet living rough in the alleyway of Toronto, Canada, records his existence in poetry hoping for a normal life and becoming Canada’s Salinger.

Of Concrete and Skin: The Story of the Elaine Massacre Memorial (12 min.)
The story of the design, construction and significance of The Elaine Massacre Memorial in Helena, Arkansas – a memorial dedicated to the victims of one of the deadliest – and most forgotten – racial conflicts in United States history.

BLOCK 9: Systemic Inequality (95 min.)

Flint: The Poisoning of an American City (85 min.)
Flint: The Poisoning of an American City explores the critical question of how this could happen in America, and how this event should serve as a warning for the rest of the country.

La Vida de Un Latero (10 min.)
In New York, each redeemable bottle is worth 5 cents. Meet Josefa and Pedro, a canning couple who earn their living one nickel at a time.

January 14th (15 min.)
A young couple’s anniversary takes a bitter turn when a police officer pulls the husband over during a questionable traffic stop. Inspired by true events.

BLOCK 10: Stronger than Trauma (77 min.)

Unlearning Sex (38 min.)
Unlearning Sex is a documentary film that follows a survivor’s six month journey through sexual trauma therapy and recovery.

Mother, Daughter, Sister (28 min.)
Mother, Daughter, Sister exposes the Burmese military’s practice of using rape as a weapon of war and women’s calls for justice.

Dani Burt (11 min.)
Confronted with a dark reality as a new amputee, Dani Burt finds freedom and inner peace when she’s introduced to the sport of surfing.

BLOCK 11: Women's Work (81 min.)

Women of Earth (71 min.)
Mayara grew up in Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil. Surrounded by millions of people, technology, and everything the modern world can offer, she still felt empty. In search of answers, she went back to the roots of Brazil, to Indigenous quilombolas and rural communities. On this journey, she met women who showed her how the wisdom of the past can heal the future. They are traditional midwives, healers, and community leaders. They are keepers of an ancient knowledge that we can’t afford to lose. She calls them Women of Earth.

Pushing Forward – Skateboard Like a Girl (10 min.)
Women skateboarders promote their sport within a male-dominated culture, told from the perspective of three protagonists: a beginner, pro skater and veteran skater.

BLOCK 12: Be Seen, Stand Up (116 min.)

Suppressed 2020: The Fight to Vote (40 min.)
A short, powerful documentary about the growing threat of voter suppression to our 2020 election.

POWER OUT (6 min.)
A night of fun and games among friends is interrupted when the power goes out…but who has their hand on the switch?

Thin Blue Variety Show (3 min.)
On a day in the life behind your television, five personified movie cop costumes attempt to guard the line of justice under rising pressures.

Growing for Good (15 min.)
A look at urban farmers Arthur and Nancy Culbert, who planted the initial seed that became the Central West End Farm in St. Louis.

Unsaid (19 min.)
A woman grapples with the sudden loss of her daughter and husband, who were killed in a mass shooting earlier that day.

ACTIVIZED (36 min.)
A handful of ordinary Americans — for the first time in their lives — have left their comfort zones and thrown themselves into a political cause. We follow their motivations, their goals, successes and failures, and how and why such activists are the embodiment of positive citizen participation in the best American tradition.

BLOCK 13: Immigrant Stories I (111 min.)

The Song of the Valley (50 min.)
Millions of Syrian refugees are waiting for the end of the brutal war, living in tents in the Bekaa-Valley. Full of devotion they sing about their daily lives, their desires, love, country and religion.

Teranga – Life in the Waiting Room (34 min.)
Haunted by the difficulties of their pasts and dreaming of a future with indefinite leave to remain, two young Gambian asylum seekers escape the boredom and fear of life as a migrant in Matteo Salvini’s Italy by dancing away their trauma in Teranga, an Afrobeats migrant-run nightclub in Naples.

Wednesday at Elizabeth (15 min.)
The story of Mabel, an asylum seeker detained by ICE. Hoping for release and fearing deportation, Mabel provides a harrowing view of the migrant detention system.

Cleats (11 min.)
On the morning of football tryouts one of Ilyas’ cleats falls in the river. When Ilyas and Ahmet try to take it out, Emir, a refugee, surprises them both.

BLOCK 14: Immigrant Stories II (118 min.)

SAMOS – The Faces of our Border (88 min.)
Through interviews from the people at the inhuman migrant camp of Samos (Greece), built for 600 persons and hosting more than 6000, learn the European politics that caused this humanitarian crisis.

Rebel (15 min.)
To Alex, a naive six years old boy, the mysterious patrols his father leads with his right-wing militia are just more occasions to go play hide and seek out in the woods.

Showan (13 min.)
Showan lives in a village in Kurdistan on the border between Iran and Iraq. He now has to smuggle goods on the Iranian-Iraqi border (Kolbari) to make money.

We walk (3 min.)
An artistic meditation on trauma, change, and what it means to run away from your roots and become an immigrant.

BLOCK 15: Building Our Place Together (95 min.)

Yoghurt Utopia (71 min.)
When a Spanish psychologist started a business with his patients, it grew into a multi-million dollar brand. Now, the founder needs to ensure that La Fageda Cooperative has a future without him.

Urban Seeds (17 min.)
Initiated by Mexican immigrant students, the film highlights the story of a school-based garden movement’s extraordinary passion and fight for food justice in urban Los Angeles.

Wilderness (7 min.)
A father and son contemplate life while stargazing on a camping trip. When the son is suddenly struck with homesickness, his father sets out to re-imagine for his son what home really means.

BLOCK 16: Tradition Turned Tragic (109 min.)

The Ones Who Search (75 min.)
Enrique was separated from his mother at birth and Ascensión was forced to hand over her daughter after giving birth to her. Both are victims of the “stolen children” conspiracy.

MÉBÉT (34 min.)
Njillan is forced into marriage by her father, despite her mother’s protests. She loses her education and succumbs to complications at delivery. From her grave, she narrates her story to her son.

BLOCK 17: Environmental Call to Action II (93 min.)

Spears From All Sides (90 min.)
Twenty years ago Christopher Walker was the first filmmakers to tell the story of the fight against Big Oil in the Amazon basin of Ecuador. Filming over three years, this film covers the fight by the Waorani people to remove the oil companies from their lands and preserve the Yasuni Park – one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world.

Fighting for Environmental Justice: The Health Crisis at the US-Mexico Border (3 min.)
This film documents how the San Ysidro community is threatened by air pollution stemming from traffic at the US-Mexico border port of entry.

BLOCK 18: Technology, Economy, Possibility (107 min.)

Hello World (78 min.)
Software development has been cloaked in a cloud of magic that keeps most people out of the career. The film tackles the topic of why under-represented minorities don’t pursue software careers.

The Neighborhood (20 min.)
Residents of a rapidly changing neighborhood in Sacramento discuss challenges and solutions to the dynamic economic forces and transitioning racial demographics altering the face and nature of their community.

Origin of a Hero (9 min.)
When a young person loses both their parents in a mugging gone wrong, a famous billionaire arrives to help them at the beginning of their journey.

BLOCK 19: Black Lives Matter II (98 min.)

• Shaw Rising (57 min.)
The story of the oldest Historically Black College in the South. From training America’s first Black doctors to the creation of SNCC, Shaw has been at the center of U.S. history.

HBCU Storytellers: Confederate Monuments – Heritage or Hatred? (22 min.)
HBCU students explore the question of Confederate monuments in America. Virginia’s contentious history and the controversies surrounding the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville gained national attention after the Unite the Right Rally in 2017 and the tragic death of Heather Heyer.

Outrage in Rockland: The Lynching of Howard Cooper (15 min.)
On July 13, 1885, Howard Cooper, a fifteen year-old boy, was lynched by a mob in Towson, Maryland. Cooper was accused of attacking a young woman as she walked home from a train station.

When a Black man is viciously assaulted by a police officer right outside their window, all of the guests at a dinner party seem to consider the attack unremarkable except for one.

BLOCK 20: Environmental Call to Action III (84 min.)

Our Gorongosa (60 min.)
Gorongosa Park, Mozambique has become one of Africa’s most famed wildlife restoration stories. But the park must also find a way to co-exist with the 200,000 people living in surrounding communities.

Voices on the Road (24 min.)
Deep in the remote Peruvian Amazon, a road is quietly destroying a protected rainforest, causing conflict and fear. But for some Indigenous communities, desperate for change, it is also bringing hope.

BLOCK 21: Queer Strength and Community II (79 min.)

The Unlikely Story of the Lesbians of First Friday (62 min.)
In 1980, a vibrant group of lesbians unbuckled Virginia’s Bible Belt and started a party! Now, for the first time, women of First Friday regale us with stories of their incomparable antics.

Parental Guidance Suggested (17 min.)
Everything you always wanted to know about your gay child…but were afraid to ask.

BLOCK 22: Black Lives Matter III (121 min.)

** Please note: This film is available only to viewers in Washington State, and will be available for viewing only between October 7–11, 2020. **

Since I Been Down (105 min.)
In America’s backyard, a community held captive by policies targeting gangs and drugs, sacrifices their youth for a false sense of justice, and safety. Nearly forty years later, a true path to justice and healing is led from inside their prison walls.

Canary in a Mine (16 min.)
A young Black man who is led to discover happiness during dark times by a strong Black woman, after losing his younger brother at the hands of the police.

BLOCK 23: Poverty in America (103 min.)

The #1 Bus Chronicles (58 min.)
The #1 Bus Chronicles uses a small sociological microcosm – a bus stop on an industrial highway in New Jersey – to intimately portray some of the most marginalized lives in America today – the “working poor,” the recently incarcerated, and immigration asylum seekers.

Welcome to River View (18 min.)
Residents of the Santa Ana Riverbed homeless encampment face eviction and a host of other challenges as authorities begin to move in and dismantle what many of them call their community.

Major Nobody (15 min.)
A homeless man, suffering from mental illness and a history of abuse, must decide whether or not to surrender to being institutionalized.

Some Million Miles (13 min.)
Set within a rural landscape of abundant beauty and deep poverty, Some Million Miles presents a meditation on loss and the search for redemption amidst systemic social and economic marginalization.

BLOCK 24: Just Good Vibes (73 min.)

Plants, Pollinators & Prayers (40 min.)
The decline of monarch butterflies in the Midwestern prairie inspires a gardener, educator, and pastor to transform a rural church’s backyard into a sacred garden for pollinating animals and people.

Little Nations (14 min.)
Little Nations follows a momentous piece of mail as it travels through the hands and into the worlds of young people from a rich array of cultures that constitute Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood. Coming to a poignant climax, it illuminates the true multicultural spirit of America.

Nurturing Roots (11 min.)
Nurturing Roots is a South Seattle community farming program, focused on educating youth & community members on healthy food choices. Creating community through gardening.

Butterflies (8 min.)
Another Sunday in April. A kibbutz in the North of Israel. A natural phenomenon. A family on an impromptu ride, maybe the last one…

BLOCK 25: Our Bodies II (80 min.)

Personhood (80 min.)
With the rise of the “fetal personhood” movement, comes dangerous new laws that treat pregnant women as second-class citizens. This widening web of laws encourages the surveillance, policing and criminalization of women during pregnancy. As a result, prosecutions for miscarriages, stillbirths, and using drugs while pregnant are becoming widespread. Personhood brings the human impact of these policies into the light through the story of a rural Wisconsin mother who was jailed after telling her doctor about her occasional pre-conception drug use.

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