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Video Eye on Rights

[whitespace] Jennifer Harbury
Derrill Bazzy

Hard Truths: In her search for her missing husband, Jennifer Harbury went on a 32-day hunger strike in 1994; her story is the focus of the documentary 'Dirty Secrets.'

Community TV of Santa Cruz commemorates human rights declaration

By Michael S. Gant

IN AN ERA WHEN The World's Wildest Police Videos and Busted on the Job #3 pass for cinema verité, when the network news magazines feature segments on spontaneous combustion on the operating table and when even PBS seems to prefer tenors to exposés about tenants' rights, serious documentaries are becoming an endangered species on TV. Luckily, the independent cable syndicate Free Speech TV (FSTV) plans to counteract mainstream TV's social amnesia with a new series of programs about the fight for human rights around the globe.

Tied in with the 50th anniversary of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the series, titled Just Solutions, takes a hard look at some deep wounds in the body politic. (It airs Mondays and Thursdays locally on Community Television of Santa Cruz County on Ch. 71.)

A Pig's Tale examines how a misguided decision in the early 1980s by the Haitian and U.S. governments to eradicate the Creole pig (which supposedly was threatened by African swine fever) tore apart the traditional economy of the island's rural population. Indonesia: One Struggle, One Change examines that country's so-called economic miracle, with an emphasis on the oft-stilled voices of dissidents and anti-government activists. The crusade of a pissed-off Englishman against McDonald's and its food and employment practices is chronicled in McLibel: Two Worlds Collide.

Not content to compartmentalize human rights as a "foreign" problem, the series also focuses on abuses closer to home. The Last Graduation: The Rise and Fall of College Programs in Prison shows in chilling detail how federal and state governments, in their rush to incarcerate, have abandoned the ideal of rehabilitation.

As part of the events commemorating the Human Rights Declaration, Community Television and the Resource Center for Nonviolence will host a special screening of one of the Just Solutions documentaries--Dirty Secrets: Jennifer, Everardo and the CIA in Guatemala--on Thursday (Dec. 10).

Patricia Goudvis' documentary--part love story, part mystery--profiles Jennifer Harbury, an American lawyer who married a Mayan rebel leader in Guatemala. After Everardo's disappearance, Harbury embarked on a journey to find her missing husband--a journey that turned up disturbing facts about U.S. involvement in Guatemala's war against its own people.

Free Speech TV provides programming to 49 stations, but only five are hosting a human rights "town hall" meeting. "I think it's an honor that we were selected as one of the target affiliates," says Geoffrey Dunn, executive director of Community TV. Dunn explains that FSTV picked Santa Cruz because "we are a primary market for the type of socially conscious programming they provide."

The evening also includes a talk by journalist John Ross, an expert on the politics and culture of Mexico. Ross' 1995 book, Rebellion From the Roots: Indian Uprising in Chiapas, won an American Book Award. Lately, much as B. Traven did in his "Jungle" novels about the Indians of Chiapas, Ross has been using his extensive knowledge of Mexico to create fiction with the publication of Tonatiuh's People: A Novel of the Mexican Cataclysm. Ross will speak about the ways in which the global economy affects human rights.

FSTV, Community TV of Santa Cruz County and the Resource Center for Nonviolence present Dirty Secrets: Jennifer, Everardo and the CIA in Guatemala and a talk by John Ross on Thursday (Dec. 10) at 7pm at the Pacific Cultural Center, Broadway and Seabright, Santa Cruz. A reception follows at 9:30pm. Free; call 423-1626 for tickets. For the Community TV schedule of Just Solutions programs, call 425-8848.

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From the December 9-16, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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