Aussie Filmmaker Wendy Dent Guest-Speaks at Columbia University Screening of her Zimbabwe Human Rights Documentary

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As Zimbabwe faces its upcoming referendum and election, Columbia University presents a screening and discussion of 'No News From Harare' with director Wendy Dent as guest speaker, following special events at Harvard and several West Coast Ivy League universities.

Wendy Dent

I am honored to present and speak on the film at four of the world's most important human rights institutes. I hope that through these think tanks we may bring ideas to the table of how to help usher in change, through a greater respect for human rights

Award winning Australian filmmaker Wendy Dent is guest-speaking at Columbia University at 4pm Thursday September 13 with a special screening and discussion of 'No News From Harare', her human rights documentary filmed in Zimbabwe about the Robert Mugabe regime. The event will be co-presented by Columbia University’s Institute for Human Rights and the Human Rights Master of Arts Student Council.

The event follows an enthusiastic response to Harvard University's September 12 screening and discussion, with Wendy Dent as guest speaker, which was co-presented by the Harvard Humanitarian Academy at the School of Public Health, the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research. Claude Bruderlein, Negeen Darani and Charlie Clements, the executive directors of the three human rights institutes, were in attendance and spoke highly of the documentary.

‘No News From Harare’ is an account of censorship and attacks on both the media and the opposition movement in Zimbabwe, featuring razor-edged political comedy and several human rights lawyers speaking about the challenges of their work under the Mugabe regime. “It is a portrait of persecution in the guise of democracy”, Dent says, “which Mugabe may prefer remains unseen”.

With both an upcoming Zimbabwe election and Zimbabwe referendum looming, the timing of this week's screenings at Columbia University and Harvard’s influential institutes for human rights is particularly pertinent. Dent hopes that the Columbia University post-film discussion, like that at Harvard, will be spirited and unflinching in addressing both human rights and foreign policy issues, in Zimbabwe and also the wider African continent.

Columbia University is the eighth university screening and discussion with Wendy Dent as guest speaker, following on from this week's event at Harvard, as well as earlier events at Villanova University, Sydney's Macquarie University and West Coast Ivy League universities.

The film launched the University of California Berkeley's Center for African Studies' 2012 events program on February 3, where a faculty member reported the post-film discussion with the director was “inspiring”. A second event followed on March 7 at Stanford University, presented by the Center for African Studies and Stanford’s Institute for Human Rights.

“By necessity, the film is provocative”, Wendy Dent states, noting that the power of the documentary was proven by the Stanford University event, which was not only a full house but “successfully sparked very intense discussion from the audience. After the screening several people came up to privately tell me their own experiences, echoing the stories of fear and censorship told in the film.”

The director was then invited to present and discuss her work- including ‘No News From Harare’ - as a guest-speaker on March 19 at the acclaimed University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, consistently ranked the top film school in the US.

The professors' and students’ enthusiastic reaction to the director and her documentaries led to a prestigious invitation from the University of Southern California for Wendy Dent to serve as Visiting Scholar at the USC School of Cinematic Arts for their 2012-2013 Academic year.

In reflecting on the film’s journey, and her own journey from Australia to Zimbabwe then on to speaking engagements at the United States' most prestigious universities, Wendy Dent comments; “I produced 'No News From Harare' -and many of my other films -on a shoestring budget in some of the most dangerous conditions thinkable for an independent filmmaker. It proves that there is always hope. And anything is possible. I hope the same will prove true for Zimbabwe”.

After the Columbia University event on Thursday, Wendy Dent plans to continue on to Washington for further screenings of her documentary and meetings with Zimbabweans in exile. She hopes that the interest building in ‘No News From Harare’ may also bring more news of Zimbabwe back into the press, and put an action plan for the country back onto the international foreign policy agenda.

“Harvard and Columbia University's students and faculty are the policy-makers of the future, and of today. I am honored to present and speak on the film at four of the world's most important human rights institutes. I hope that through these think tanks we may bring ideas to the table of how to help usher in change, through a greater respect for human rights, to a country facing a critical moment in its history”.

Further information on Wendy Dent and 'No News From Harare' can be found at: http://www.wendydent.com and http://www.humanrightsonfilm.com

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