Community discussion on child abuse hosted by The Little

05:00 AM, May 08, 2013

Not My Life fillmmaker Bob Bilheimer talks to boys who have been forced to work 100 hours a week. (Craig Braden)/

Written By Jack Garner

We all want films that entertain us and move us. But once in a while, we need films that do both of those things, but go beyond by generating great empathy within us, and perhaps even stirring us to action. That’s why a weeklong film presentation, starting Friday at the Little Theatre is so worthwhile.

Robert Bilheimer, a veteran documentarian from Bristol, has been making films of great passion and social conscience for decades, going back to the 1988 Oscar-nominated anti-apartheid film, The Cry of Reason, and continuing with A Closer Walk, 2003’s powerful film on the global AIDS pandemic.

His latest film, Not My Life, is a potent, eye-opening exposé of virtual slavery and abuse of children around the world through human rights labor violations and the virulent child sex trade. As I wrote before its one-time premiere screening here in May 2011, Not My Life is a beautifully made and deeply impassioned plea on behalf of the millions of young people around the world who have few advocates in a world bent on abusing them.”

Finally, Rochester filmgoers will have a chance to see this film during a weeklong run at the Little, complete with nightly panel discussions. It’s part of a community-wide effort to increase awareness of human trafficking in the Rochester region.

Hailed as a “seminal” film by the CNN Freedom Project and others, Not My Life was filmed on five continents over a period of four years, and is the first documentary to focus on human trafficking as a global, multifaceted human rights abuse. It was written and directed by Bilheimer, with the late Richard D. Young as co-director and co-cinematographer.

As the film underscores, human trafficking is not only a Third World abuse, but is found everywhere, including our area and many others parts of the U.S. That’s the key point of this screening effort and corresponding panels and conversation.

Recently, Monroe County was selected to participate in a statewide pilot program that offers 24-hour crisis intervention and medical care to child victims of human trafficking. The state office of Children and Family Services funds the Safe Harbor Plan for Sexually Exploited Children. Also, local activists have formed the Rochester Coalition Against Human Trafficking.

Here’s the screening schedule, including the discussion programs, for the run of Not My Life, on May 10 to 13 and 15 and 16. (There is no film or program on May 14.) Screenings are at 7 p.m., with additional 4 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday. For discussion guests and topics, go to

A LEGENDARY FILMMAKER. Mark your calendars now for a three-day appearance here in June by one of the most influential documentarians ever, D.A. Pennebaker, the 2012 winner of a lifetime achievement Academy Award.

Primarily known as a pioneer of great music documentaries, spotlighting Bob Dylan, Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix, Pennebaker has also directed or co-directed a variety of non-musical gems, including The War Room (about the team behind President Clinton’s first successful White House bid) and Kings of Pastry (a film for your sweet tooth).

His visit to Rochester on June 14, 15 and 16 is part of the Little Theatre’s One Take: Stories Through the Lens, organized and hosted by Linda Moroney, and will focus on the glories of Pennebaker’s several famous music docs.

Most notable is Don’t Look Back, the film that delightfully shadows Bob Dylan during his 1963 English tour. The film is considered by many to be the greatest rock documentary ever and is particularly noted for its inclusion of a segment in which Dylan flips title cards for his song, “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” which could arguably be labeled the first modern music video.

The Pennebaker appearances kick off at 6:30 p.m. June 14 with the screening of Don’t Look Back. It’ll be preceded by Pennebaker’s first short, Daybreak Express. The screenings will be followed with a Q&A with Pennebaker that I’m proud to be moderating.

It’ll be followed at 9:30 p.m. with a separate program featuring Pennebaker introducing his 1973 film Ziggy Stardust, which captures David Bowie’s last concert with the Ziggy persona and the Spiders from Mars.

At 1 p.m. on June 15, the Little presents Monterey Pop, a 1968 film of the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967, which includes performances by Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. The afternoon will also feature a screening of Dave Lambert, a short that documents Lambert’s 1964 audition for the seminal “vocalese” trio, Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Pennebaker will participate in a Q&A session with yours truly.

The June 15 evening will conclude at 9:30 p.m. with an encore of Don’t Look Back. An encore of Ziggy Stardust follows on June 16 at 9:30 p.m.

Admission for the two films with Q&As each are $15; $10 for students, seniors and members. Other screenings are $8 and $5.