Each year the Oak Institute hosts a series of events highlighting human rights in relation to the particular theme of the fellowship.  The 2017 theme is film and human rights.  The fall and spring events include a human rights film series, Resistance and Repression. Each screening will include a discussion with the director or producer.

2017-18 Oak Events

Spring 2018

Taste of Cement

Ziad Kalthoum
February 21st | 7 p.m. | Ostrove, Diamond Building

Oak’s Resistance and Repression film series continues with a screening of Taste of Cement.  A portrait of workers in exile. An empathetic encounter with people who have lost their past and their future, locked in the recurring present. ZIAD KALTHOUM creates an essay documentary of Syrian construction workers building new skyscrapers in Beirut on the ruins caused by the Lebanese civil war. At the same time their own houses are being bombed in Syria. A Curfew prohibits them from leaving the construction site after work. Every night in their pit below the skyscraper the news from their homeland and the memories of the war chase them. Mute and imprisoned in the cement underground, they must endure until the new day arrives where the hammering and welding drowns out their nightmares. Cosponsored by Colby Cinema Studies, the Cultural Events Committee, and Pugh Community Board.

Moving Our Most Vulnerable Communities from Surviving to Thriving

Mustafa Santiago Ali from the Hip Hop Caucus
March 6th | 7 p.m. | Ostrove, Diamond Building

Mustafa Santiago Ali is the senior vice president of climate, environmental justice, and community revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus, a national, nonprofit and non-partisan organization that connects the Hip Hop community to the civic process to build power and create positive change. Mustafa is renowned as a national speaker, trainer, and facilitator specializing in social justice issues focused on revitalizing our most vulnerable communities. Cosponsored by the Oak Institute for Human Rights, the Environmental Studies Program, Pugh Community Board, Goldfarb Center, and African-American Studies.

Activism How To: A Workshop With Gail Carlson

Gail Carlson, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies
March 12th | 7:30 p.m. | Pugh Center

The Oak Student Committee presents the first in a series of spring workshops on engaging in activism.

Gail teaches in the Environmental Studies Program and focuses on environmental public health and environmental activism.  Much of Gail’s work involves civic engagement focused on environmental policy-making in Maine and at the federal level.  Many of her courses incorporate projects aimed to enhance learning by having students engage with community members, non-governmental organizations, and policy-makers on environmental health issues of public significance.  Outside of Colby, Gail is the chair of the Science Advisory Council and a former executive board member of the Portland-based nonprofit Environmental Health Strategy Center, which is committed to improving public health and incentivizing the use of safer chemicals in a sustainable economy.


A Personal Matter

John de Graaf
March 19th | 7 p.m. | Lovejoy 100

The Resistance and Repression film series brings a screening of the documentary, A Personal Matter followed by a discussion with the director, John de Graaf.  The film is about Gordon Hirabayashi’s fight against the U.S. policy that led to the internment of Japanese and Japanese-Americans during WWII.  It took 40 years, but he eventually prevailed.  Cosponsored by Colby Cinema Studies and Pugh Community Board.

Activism 101 Workshop with Activist, Author, and Filmmaker John de Graaf

John de Graaf
March 20th | 8:30 a.m. | Fairchild Room, Dana

John de Graaf has produced more than 40 documentaries about social and environmental issues, including 15 national PBS specials and has won more than 100 regional, national and international filmmaking awards.  The John de Graaf Environmental Filmmaking Award, presented annually at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival in California, is named for him.  He has written four books, including the international best-seller, AFFLUENZA, and dozens of articles for national publications.  He is the co-founder of three national organizations–And Beauty for All, Take Back Your Time, and the Happiness Alliance.  He has spoken on more than a hundred campuses, and has taught at the Evergreen State College in Washington State.  His website is: www.johndegraaf.com

Nuclear Amnesia: Waking Up to Love the World

Dr. Kathleen Sullivan, 2017 Nobel Peace Laureate, Director of Hibakusha Stories
April 4th | 7 p.m. | Ostrove, Diamond Building

Kathleen Sullivan, PhD, has been engaged in the nuclear issue for nearly 30 years, and has worked internationally as an educator for disarmament focusing primarily on two distinct audiences: young people and atomic bomb survivors (hibakusha). Currently, she is the Program Director for Hibakusha Stories, an arts-based initiative that has brought atomic bomb survivors into the lives of some 40,000 New York City High Schools students. As an education consultant to the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, she developed the disarmament education web portal for the UN’s Cyberschoolbus website and co-wrote with Peter Lucas Action for Disarmament: 10 Things You Can Do! (2014), recently translated into Japanese and Korean.  Kathleen has produced four films on nuclear issues, two documentaries (The Last Atomic Bomb & The Ultimate Wish: Ending the Nuclear Age) and two projects that focus on art for disarmament — utilizing visual arts, music and dance (The Nuclear Age in 6 Movements & The Hiroshima Panels Project). With Robert Croonquist, Pioneer Works and the Maruki Gallery, she helped produce an exhibit of Toshi and Iri Maruki’s remarkable Hiroshima Panels, voted the second best arts exhibition in Brooklyn for 2015.

Sex and Labor Trafficking: Prevention and Ethical Storytelling

Rachel Goble
April 5th | 3 p.m. | Grossman 209

Rachel Goble is the CEO and Co-Founder of The Freedom Story (previously The SOLD Project), a trafficking prevention organization in Northern Thailand. After production of the film “The SOLD Project: Thailand” (2009), Rachel traveled to over 27 cities in America to share the hope that exists in prevention. Today, thanks to the power of these stories, The Freedom Story has sponsored 200+ students at-risk in Northern Thailand and has seen the drop-out rate statistics plummet from 50% to 6% in the past nine years. Prevention works, as is evident in the lives of the students that The Freedom Story is affecting. In 2017, Rachel launched Ethical Storytelling, a movement dedicated to creating industry standards for non-profit storytelling. Having learned from her own filmmaking mistakes, the Ethical Storytelling website and resources seek to put the constituent first and donor second. She calls Oakland, CA home and spends a fourth of the year in Thailand.

2018 Jan Plan interns, Emily Geske, Kevin Munoz, and Grace Yu will also speak about their experience volunteering with The Freedom Story.

Cosponsored by Davis Connects.

Activism 101: Activism at Colby

Es Topolarova ’17
April 5th | 4 p.m. | Mary Low Coffeehouse

Join the Oak Student Committee for a conversation over coffee with Es ’17 about their activism at Colby, and especially about their work with the activist collective United for Better Dining Hall Services (UBDS). The UBDS was a sustained 2-year-long activist effort to improve working conditions for dining hall workers at Colby, which resulted in the change of dining hall service provider. As one of the founders and a leading voice of the collective, Es is going to share with us the history of the movement and its goals and its long term impact ( whether positive or negative)  We will also learn about what it looks like to sustain a long-term issue focused campaign on campus, and what are the lessons to be learned from this case for the future activists.

Nazlee Saif, Performance Artist

Nazlee Saif
April 5th | 7 p.m. | Silberman Lounge

Born in Durban [South Africa] and raised on a diet of Tupac, Nazlee Saif has been claiming titles in poetry slams and street cyphers since 2011. Since they left the microphone for the megaphone during the Fees Must Fall and Rhodes Must Fall student uprisings of 2014, Nazlee has been working with multimedia art as a form of protest and mobilization.

Nazlee’s most recent works revolve around the self-coined term “Afrofuturistic gangsterism,” which they define as “a mental and spiritual recognition of the constant violence we face, which is taking arms in ways with much more longevity than the sound of a gun.”

Cosponsored by the Center for Arts and Humanities, PCB, The Bridge, Global Studies Department, and Colby Feminist Alliance.

Guerrero, Film Screening and Director Q&A

Ludovic Bonleux
April 16th | 7 p.m. | Ostrove

The Resistance and Repression film series brings a screening of the documentary, Guerrero followed by a discussion with director, Ludovic Bonleux.

2014: 43 students of Ayotzinapa’s teachers school in Guerrero, Mexico are kidnapped by the police in the city of Iguala.  A few weeks later, Juan and his companions from Guerrero Popular Movement (MPG) have taken Tlapa’s City Hall to protest the disappearance of 43 students from Ayotzinapa. They oppose having elections held in the state and organize marches and rallies to convince people to form popular councils.  Coni, Juan and Mario go their way fighting against impunity and trying to resist the apathy of society in a State that, day after day, becomes more chaotic.

Since 2002, Ludovic Bonleux directed three documentaries and one photographic essay about political violence and forced disappearance in Guerrero, Mexico.  During the last 15 years he participated in the production of numerous documentaries in Latin America as a director or producer.  He studied history, photography, and documentary film in Mexico, the US, and France. A common theme in all of his work is denouncing the violation of human rights and recording the struggle of those fighting for justice.

Activism At Colby: Panel with Alumni

Oak Student Committee and Colby Alumni
April 26th | 7 p.m. | Parker-Reed, SSWAC

Join the Oak Student Committee in dialogue with alumni as they share their experiences with activism on Colby’s campus and beyond.  Alumni on the panel include: Muheb Esmat ’16, Tionna Haynes ’15, Eric Mehner ’82, and Charles Terrell ’70.



Fall 2017


Dissent as a Way of Life: Freedom, Jail, Love 

2017 Oak Fellow Jinyan Zeng
September 13th | 7 p.m. | Ostrove, Diamond Building

Dr. Zeng, a Chinese human rights activist, digital storyteller, and scholar, completed her first film while under house arrest in Beijing.  She will talk about the power of love and creativity in the struggle for liberation. Please join us in welcoming the 2017 Oak Human Rights Fellow for a reception at 6 p.m. in the Diamond Atrium, followed by her first public talk at Colby.

Zeng has spent more than a decade and a half fighting for people with HIV-AIDS, women facing discrimination, factory workers suffering exploitation, a natural environment threatened by pollution, and political dissidents experiencing repression.

In 2006 Zeng made her first documentary, Prisoners in Freedom City, about living under house arrest in Beijing.  Her most recent film, We the Workers, had its world premiere at the Rotterdam International Film Festival in January 2017.  During the production of that film, the Chinese party-state detained several of the featured labor activists, placed a few of them under house arrest, and forced still others to make “confessions” on state television.  Zeng is cofounder of the Chinese Independent Documentary Lab in Hong Kong and the leading curator of an independent film series.

In 2017, Zeng earned a Ph.D. from the University of Hong Kong, where she studied film, gender, and cyber-activism.  Her dissertation focused on the work of Ai Xiaoming, a feminist professor of literature and a documentary filmmaker in China.

Whose Streets?

Film screening and discussion with director Sabaah Folayan
September 19th | 7 p.m. | Ostrove, Diamond Building

Told by the activists and leaders who live and breathe this movement for justice, Whose Streets? is an unflinching look at the Ferguson uprising. When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis, Missouri. Grief, long-standing racial tensions and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy. Empowered parents, artists, and teachers from around the country come together as freedom fighters. As the national guard descends on Ferguson with military grade weaponry, these young community members become the torchbearers of a new resistance. Filmmakers Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis know this story because they have lived the story. Whose Streets? is a powerful battle cry from a generation fighting, not for their civil rights, but for the right to live. We will be joined by director Sabaah Folayan for a discussion and question and answer session after the screening.  Cosponsored by Colby Cinema Studies, Pugh Community Board, African American Studies, The Center for Arts and Humanities, and The Goldfarb Center.

In Search of Our Mothers’ Arrows

Sabaah Folayan
September 20th | 12:15 p.m. | Pugh Center

Join director of Whose Streets, Sabaah Folayan for a multi-media presentation and workshop exploring femininity during conflict, romance, and its relationship to popular literature.  Lunch will be provided.  Cosponsored by The Center for Arts and Humanities, African American Studies, and the Pugh Community Board.

Sabaah Folayan (Writer/Director, Producer) is an activist and storyteller born and raised in South Central LA. As an advocate at Rikers Island, Folayan interviewed incarcerated people about their experiences with trauma. She later helped organize The Millions March, one of the largest marches for racial justice in New York history, in response to the non-indictment of the police officer who choked Eric Garner to death. Folayan entered the world of storytelling through theater, attending the Lee Strasberg Institute of Theatre and Film as a teenager, and performing as a member of the Black Theater Ensemble while a pre-med student at Columbia University. In September 2014, she went to Ferguson with cinematographer Lucas Alvarado-Farrar to learn the truth behind the dramatic scenes playing out on the news. Hearing the stories from the community inspired her to embark on her directorial debut Whose Streets? landing her a coveted spot on Filmmaker Magazine’s annual “25 New Faces of Independent Film” along with Co-Director Damon Davis. Folayan recently directed an episode of Glamour Magazine + The Girl Project’s Get Schooled web series presented by Maybelline. She is a 2015 Firelight Media Producers Lab Fellow, 2016 Chicken & Egg Accelerator Lab Fellow, and 2016 Sundance Institute Documentary Edit and Story Lab Fellow.

GS 111 Open Class Human Rights in Global Perspective: Discussion with Film Maker Wang Wo 

Wang Wo
September 27th | 7 p.m. | Diamond 141

Director WANG Wo, born in 1967, is a designer and visual artist. He began to make independent films and videos in 2001. He was the 2012 Artist in Residency and International Fellow at Jacob Burns Film Center and Media Arts Lab (New York) and the (2014) Visiting Artist in Performing and Media Arts Department of Cornell University.  This session will be a discussion with the director of two films, A Filmless Festival and Zhe Teng: According to China.

The Maribor Uprisings 

Maple Razsa and Milton Guillen ’15
October 6th | 7:30 p.m. | Ostrove

Reception | 6:30 p.m. | Diamond Atrium

In the once prosperous industrial city of Maribor, Slovenia, anger over political corruption became unruly revolt.  In The Maribor Uprisings– part film, part conversation, and part interactive experiment-you are invited to participate in the protests.  Dramatic frontline footage from a video activist collective places you in Maribor as crowds surround and ransack City Hall under a hailstorm of tear gas canisters.  As a viewer, you must decide collectively with your fellow audience members which cameras you will follow and therefore how the screening will unfold.  Like those who joined the actual uprisings, you will be faced with the choice of joining non-violent protests or following rowdy crowds towards City Hall and greater conflict.  These dilemmas parallel those faced by protesters everywhere as they grapple with what it means to resist.  What sparks outrage?  How are participants swept up in- and changed by- confrontations with police?  Could something like this happen in your city?  What would you do?

Maple Rasza (writer, director, producer) earned his PhD in anthropology and filmmaking at Harvard University, and has since, been teaching in the Global Studies program at Colby College.  Maple is committed to using text, images, and sound to embody the experience and political imagination of contemporary activist movements. His previous films, co-directed with Pacho Velez, include Bastards of Utopia and Occupation: A Film about the Harvard Living Wage Sit-In and have shown in festivals around the world.

Milton Guillen ’15 (director, editor, director of photography) focuses in exploring the borders between fiction and documentaries to explore the cinematic intersections of ethnographic research and sensorial experiences. Milton earned his BA from Colby College in Anthropology and studied film production at the Film and Television Academy of Performing Arts (FAMU) in Prague.  He’s directed several short documentaries in Brazil, Nicaragua, and Kenya and is committed to engage in multiple platforms that strive for social justice.

We the Workers

2017 Oak Fellow Jinyan Zeng
October 8th | 1:30 p.m. | Ostrove, Diamond Building

Shot over a six-year period (2009-2015) in the industrial heartland of south China, a major hub in the global supply chain, WE THE WORKERS follows labor activists as they find common ground with workers, helping them negotiate with local officials and factory owners over wages and working conditions. Threats, attacks, detention and boredom become part of their daily lives as they struggle to strengthen worker solidarity in the face of threats and pressures from the police and their employers. In the process, we see in their words and actions the emergence of a nascent working class consciousness and labor movement in China.

War’s End? Guerrilla Demobilization in Colombia

Nancy Sanchez, 2007 Oak Human Rights Fellow
October 9th | 4 p.m. | Diamond 122

The hemisphere’s longest running guerrilla war formally ended when the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia agreed to lay down there arms in November 2016. Southern Colombia was one of the regions hardest hit by the war; now, residents ask, what kind of world will peace bring? Establishing a Truth Commission, ensuring complete hand-over of weapons, and reintegrating FARC combatants into civilian life are only some of the challenges.

Nancy Sánchez is an award-winning Colombian human rights defender. She was the Colby Oak Human Rights Fellow in 2007, and is currently working with the Women’s Alliance of Putumayo: Weavers of Life. Sponsored by the Anthropology Department, Latin American Studies Department, Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs, and the Oak Institute for Human Rights.

GS 111 Open Class Human Rights in Global Perspective: Discussion with Tang Danhong 

Tang Danhong
October 18th | 7 p.m. | Diamond 141

Guest speaker TANG Danhong is a feminist poet, avant-garde filmmaker, an ally of the Tibetan people. She has written extensively about Tibetan history and culture, especially the conflict between Tibet and China. She boldly confronts her own relationship to the Tibetan people as a Han Chinese woman. Tang was born in 1965 in Chengdu, the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan. Her parents’ abuse when she was a child is a major theme of her controversial 2000 documentary, “Nightingale, Not the Only Voice”, which is the opening film of Guggenheim Museum’s Turn It On: China on film 2000-2017 project. Tang started traveling to Tibet and befriended Tibetan writer and activist Tsering Woeser. Tang’s first documentary, At Tsurphu Monastery, came out in 1998. She has made several films about Tibet, including Nima Incarnate, At Samsara’s Door, and Zhaxika. More recently, Tang traveled to India with exiled writer Sangjey Kep to collect oral histories from elderly Tibetan exiles who had fled Tibet as the People’s Liberation Army entered and tightened control of the region in the 1950s. Kep and Tang published 11 interviews in the book “Troubled Times: Voices of Tibetan Refugees,” released in 2014 in Taiwan by Snowland Publishing House.

Waking the Green Tiger 

Film screening and discussion with director Gary Marcuse
November 6th | 7 p.m. | Olin 1

Seen through the eyes of activist, farmers and journalists, Waking the Green Tiger follows an extraordinary campaign to stop a huge dam project on the Upper Yangtze river in southwestern China. Featuring astonishing archival footage never seen outside China, and interviews with a government insider and witnesses, the documentary also tell the history of Chairman Mao’s campaigns to conquer nature in the name of progress. An environmental movement takes root when a new environmental law is passed, and for the first time in China’s history, ordinary citizens have the democratic right to speak out and take part in government decisions. Activist test this new freedom and save a river. The movement they trigger has the potential to transform China. Cosponsored with East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, Global Studies, Colby Cinema Studies, Center for the Arts and Humanities, and DavisConnects.

Gender and Human Rights Tea Time Discussion

Eliza Capai, Sonja Thomas, and 2017 Oak Fellow Jinyan Zeng
November 8th | 3 p.m. | SSWAC Library

Join Oak for our first afternoon tea time round table discussion.  This session will focus on gender and human rights with WGSS faculty member Sonja Thomas, 2017 Oak Fellow Jinyan Zeng, and Brazilian filmmaker Eliza Capai, moderated by Oak Student Committee member Erica Lei.


Eliza Capai
November 9th | 7 p.m. | Lovejoy 100

Join Oak for a screening of the film followed by a discussion with director Eliza Capai.

Brazil: Between May and August 2016, the legislature voted to oust the first woman elected president in the county, Dilma Rousseff.   As a response to the process, dozens of public buildings were occupied, demanding constitutional rights such as culture, education, gender equality and democratization of the media.

#Resistance follows these occupation movements and the shouts on the streets during the months that culminated in the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and in her vice, Michel Temer, taking office as the president of Brazil.

Cosponsored by Colby Cinema Studies, Pugh Community Board, and the Cultural Events Committee.

Eliza Capai is a journalist and documentary filmmaker focused on gender and social issues.  As an international correspondent, Capai has produced work for different media in over 30 countries.  In 2015, Capai produced the thriller, “It’s Forbidden to Talk in Angola,” which was one of ten works nominated for the Garcia Marquez Award for Ibero American Journalism in the “Coverage” category.  In 2014, Capai made a web-series called “Linhas” for Greenpeace, discussing the Brazilian energy scenario, which led to her second feature, “The tortoise and the tapir,” which was released at the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival.  In the same year, her short-film, “Severinas” was a finalist of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Journalism Award.  Footage filmed for this short led to the production of “As time flies slowly by,” released internationally in the Guadalajara Film Festival and awarded in Brazil, Venezuela, and Morocco.  Capai has also directed numerous documentaries for Canal Futura, WikiLeaks, GNT, and TV America Latina (TAL) for which she has received a number of awards and accolades.

Film, Activism, and Human Rights Tea Time Discussion

Huang Wenhai, Maple Razsa, and 2017 Oak Fellow Jinyan Zeng
November 14th | 3 p.m. | SSWAC Library

Join Oak for our second afternoon tea time round table discussion.  This session will focus on film, activism, and human rights with Global Studies Chair Maple Razsa, 2017 Oak Fellow Jinyan Zeng, and visiting independent film director Huang Wenhai, moderated by Oak Student Committee members Aiste Vaitkeviciute and Allie Douma.


GS 111 Open Class Human Rights in Global Perspective: Discussion with Huang Wenhai 

Huang Wenhai
November 15th | 7 p.m. | Diamond 141

Guest speaker WEN Hai studied at the Beijing Film Academy and has since 2001 been active as an independent film director. Among his best known films are Floating Dust (2003), that received the Prix Georges Beauregard at the 16th Festival International du Documentaire in Marseille in 2005, Dream Walking (2005), and the film We (Women) that won the Horizons Special Mention award at the 2008 Venice International Film Festival. WEN Hai also worked as a cameraman on WANG Bing’s film Three Sisters (2012). His 2016 book放逐的凝——见证中国独立纪录 [The Gaze of Exile: Witnessing Chinese Independent Documentary Films] is published in Taipei by the Tendency.

Born a Chinese Woman- new film release

2017 Oak Fellow Jinyan Zeng
November 29th | 7 p.m. | Ostrove, Diamond Building

Be among the first to see a preview of the new film by Oak Fellow Jinyan Zeng, tentatively titled Born a Chinese Woman, in which Chinese women struggle and protest for individual and collective autonomy: rural women working in world factories, female intellectuals speaking in secret and underground spaces, performance artists addressing violence against women. Zeng’s new film, about to be finalized and released, connects women around the world who are healing from pain and trauma.

Producer and Script Director: ZENG Jinyan

Film Director: Wen Hai

Animation Director: Trish McAdam

Sex Trafficking: A Local and International Problem

Bill Stauffer ’89 and Tricia Grant
December 4th | 5 p.m. | Diamond 123

Bill Stauffer is a small business entrepreneur based in Portland, Maine.  Bill graduated Colby in 1989.  While at Colby he studied in Beijing, China, Taipei, Taiwan, and Thailand.  During his Colby semester in Thailand Bill did a research paper on the sex tourism industry that helped form the foundation for his current volunteer work in the field of anti-trafficking.

In 2011 Bill became an Ambassador with The Freedom Story, an NGO working in northern Thailand to prevent children from being trafficked into prostitution.  In 2014 Bill was awarded Freedom Story’s Freedom Award for his fundraising campaign to build a new resource center in Chiang Rai, Thailand for at risk children.  More recently, Bill has worked to start a scholarship fund for USM’s Stonecoast MFA program for Writers for social justice, supports a student scholarship at Colby, and is on the board of Oceanside Conservation Trust of Maine.  In addition to an East Asian Studies degree from Colby, Bill holds an MFA in creative writing from USM.

Tricia Grant lives in Lewiston and is a survivor of sex trafficking who now educates youth and adults in large group and one-on-one settings about the dangers and realities of human trafficking.  Having been trafficked at a popular restaurant in Auburn, Maine when she was 15 and living on her own with her little boy, Tricia has been able to connect deeply with at-risk youth and encourage victims of trafficking and sexual abuse as they move forward in their healing process. She shares her story with the hope that it will help others understand that trafficking can happen to anyone anywhere, and prevent victims from waiting 16 years to talk about it, as she did.