George to moderate panel on Syria at 2017 Sundance Film Festival

University of Utah S.J. Quinney College of Law Professor Erika George will moderate a panel discussion on the crisis in Syria at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance directors will discuss Syria at a “Thought Leader Symposium” at the law school on Jan. 25 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The symposium features Matthew Heineman and Evgeny Afineevsky, two directors with international films at the Sundance Film Festival. Heineman and Afineevsky will talk about the conflict in Syria and repercussions felt around the world.  Erika_George_yptrii

George is a scholar with expertise in human rights and global justice issues. The symposium is hosted by World Trade Center Utah and Zions Bank in partnership with the Sundance Institute.

Participants at the event and the films they represent include:
Matthew Heineman, City of Ghosts
Heineman’s previous film, Cartel Land, was nominated for an Academy Award and won three Emmy Awards after premiering at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it won Jury Awards for directing and cinematography. For his work on the film, Heineman also received the DGA Award and the International Documentary Association’s Courage Under Fire Award. Previously, he directed and produced the Emmy Award–nominated documentary Escape Fire, which premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
A real life international thriller, City of Ghosts exposes a new type of warfare: a battle over ideas, a fight for hearts and minds, a conflict over clicks and views. Captivating in its immediacy, it follows the journey of “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently”—a handful of anonymous activists who banded together after their homeland was taken over by ISIS in 2014. With astonishing, deeply personal access, this is the story of a brave group of citizen journalists as they face the realities of life undercover, on the run, and in exile, risking their lives to stand up against one of the greatest evils in the world today.
Directed, produced, and filmed by Academy Award–nominated and Emmy-winning filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, 2015 Sundance Film Festival Directing Award), City of Ghosts is a singularly powerful cinematic experience that is sure to shake audiences to their core as it elevates the canon of one of the most talented and exciting documentary filmmakers working today.
Evgeny Afineevsky, Cries From Syria
Award-winning filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky most recent film was “WINTER ON FIRE,” the historical feature documentary which was nominated for the Academy Award, as well as a Primetime Emmy Award. Afineevsky also received the People’s Choice Award for the Best Documentary from the Toronto International Film Festival, and the Television Academy Honors Award. “WINTER ON FIRE” was an official selection of the prestigious Venice and Telluride International Film Festivals. Afineevsky stared his career by producing and directing over six award-winning independent features.
A strikingly intense portrayal of a dire situation, Cries from Syria serves as a potent record of the events that have transpired there since 2011. Inspired by the Arab Spring, Syrians were hopeful they could end their country’s 40-year reign of brutal dictatorship. Instead, their efforts yielded horrific consequences as the government swiftly punished those in opposition, demonstrating their ruthlessness by targeting and torturing children. As peaceful protests were held, the government retaliated with extreme force, resulting in a full-blown civil war. From cutting off the food supply to the use of chemical weapons and targeted airstrikes on hospitals and schools, those fighting for freedom have endured a grave humanitarian crisis.
Incorporating gripping firsthand accounts from activists, child protesters, and a former army general who joined the uprising, director Evgeny Afineevsky has created a powerful and immediate depiction of the recent and current situation in Syria. This compelling documentary bears witness to the resiliency of the people in the wake of their exposure to unthinkable crimes against humanity.


Tonislav Hristov, The Good Postman
Tonislav Hristov (born in 1978) studied engineering in Bulgaria before moving to Finland to study film. The Good Postman is his sixth documentary film as a director. His most recent film, Once Upon a Dream—A Journey to the Last Spaghetti Western, premiered at the 2015 Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, and his film Love & Engineeringpremiered at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.


On the eastern edge of Bulgaria, bordering Turkey, amid wizened orchards and an ancient patchwork of farmlands, sits a poor and sleepy hamlet that time seems to have forgotten. Despite the sparse population of silver-haired citizens wistful for the brighter days of communism, democracy is in full force as the village prepares in earnest for its mayoral election. Meanwhile, an endless train of Syrian refugees bound for Europe silently traipses through the rural terrain, visible through the binoculars of one gentle and taciturn candidate, the postman.
Told through indelible, lush images, this quietly cinematic film exposes seismic divisions regarding immigration and what it means to be European in an age of global displacement and shifting political systems. With dry humor and remarkable sensitivity toward its beguiling ensemble of characters, Tonislav Hristov’s documentary plays like a scripted narrative, with the postman as the film’s grounding hero—a man who sees encroaching darkness not in the desperate exiles filing across his land, but in his own increasingly closed-off and distrustful town.