May 25 article at the American Libraries On Line website (emphasis added): Library Film Festival Riles Anti-Castro Community
The Princeton (N.J.) Public Library came under fire in mid-May over the inclusion of two documentaries about Cuba among 14 films in its 2007 Princeton Human Rights Film Festival. The controversy resulted in a shouting match at the May 12 screening of ¡Salud! What Puts Cuba on the Map in the Quest for Global Health, as well as accusations in the conservative blogosphere that the library was disseminating pro-Castro propaganda.
PPL Director and ALA President Leslie Burger told American Libraries that the purpose of the festival, now in its third year, is to highlight “what we think are human rights issues like the right to clean water or the right to a safe environment or the right to clean air.” Emphasizing that the 2 1/2 day event is “not about the human rights records of countries around the world,” Burger said that the film-selection committee chose ¡Salud! to spark discussion about what constitutes a quality public health system.
Which Cuba doesn’t have.
But area resident Faustia Wertz blogged May 8 that she saw PPL’s choice of ¡Salud! as well as The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil. as indicative of the library’s indifference to Castro’s human rights record. “People started organizing letter-writing campaigns,” Burger explained, “pressuring us to remove the films from the screening list, which we refused to do.” She said the library also refused to “uninvite” Ellen Bernstein of Pastors for Peace, who is a frequent traveler to Cuba, as a speaker after the ¡Salud! screening.
“The thing about the two films is not that they’re being shown. I have no objection to that. The facts on Cuba are not the facts that were shown,” Wertz told the May 18 Princeton Packet.
A couple of things here:
That’s Mrs. Wertz to you. Mrs. Fausta Wertz, while you’re at it.
At no time did I ask that Ellen Bernstein be disinvited.
And I’m not an “area resident”, I am a taxpayer in Princeton Township, whose taxes support the Festival.
“To have a film festival that doesn’t address the blatant and egregious human rights violations in Cuba seems really unbalanced,” agreed Maria C. Werlau of Summit, New Jersey, and executive director of Cuba Archive.
“If we want to have a discussion about people having public health care, we have to choose a film that allows us to have that discussion,” Burger asserted. “Unfortunately because Cuba appeared in the title of that film, we never had that discussion.” She added that PPL would continue holding the Human Rights Film Festival, “broadening our community involvement in it. We’re willing to take the heat.”
One suggestion, if the Princeton Public Library is calling its film festival the Princeton Human Rights Film Festival, it might be a good idea not to ignore the human rights abuses in the systems it defends, such as the medical apartheid system prevalent in Cuba, when three eye-witnesses in the audience wanted to talk about it.
The Princeton Packet at least emailed me before quoting me, and managed to spell my name correctly.
You can read my account of the PHRFF here.