ASU film festival tackles environmental, other human rights

April 16, 2012

Of the 6 billion people on earth, 1.1 billion do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. And while the average American uses 150 gallons of water per day, those in developing countries cannot find five. Who owns water? Who gets to make decisions about who has access to water?

These are some of the issues addressed by the documentary “Flow: For Love of Water,” one of nine films to be featured at the second annual ASU Human Rights Film Festival coming up this weekend, April 20-22, on ASU’s Tempe campus. Coinciding this year with Earth Day, the festival’s Sunday lineup focuses on environmental rights. image of water coming from dam Download Full Image

“The film questions the very nature of water and our relation to it," says Irena Salina, the film's director, who builds a case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply by focusing on politics, pollution, human rights, and water’s emergence as a $425 billion industry. "It shows how local action can challenge giant corporations, and how the privatization of water has jeopardized the way of life for entire populations.

“It was inspiring to learn that the most effective way to implement change around water issues, both here in the U.S.A. and abroad, are individual, community-based initiatives.”

A post-film discussion about “Flow” will be led by LaDawn Haglund, an associate professor of justice and social inquiry in ASU's School of Social Transformation, and a fellow in human rights and sustainability in ASU’s Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics. Haglund’s research analyzes the social and political dimensions of sustainability, particularly the human right to water. She is just returning from a Fulbright Research Fellowship in Brazil, where she studied courts as mechanisms for adjudicating the human rights to water and environmental protection.

The festival will close out with a film produced by a student workshop led by assistant professor Aaron Golub in ASU’s School of Sustainability. “Overcoming Eco-Apartheid: Community Action for Environmental Justice in South Phoenix” documents a community’s efforts to create visions and strategies for justice and sustainability, tackling issues of health, environmental justice, urban history and segregation, food security and neighborhood organizing. Joining Golub as film discussants will be Steve Brittle, president of Don't Waste Arizona, and Darren Chapman, director of the Tigermountain Foundation.

The other seven films that will run on Friday and Saturday are “Miss Landmine,” “Education Under Fire,” “Granito,” “The Truth that Wasn’t There,” “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” “The invisibles,” and “Stop Kony.” The festival is free and open to the public, and all films will be shown in the Great Hall of ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s Armstrong Hall. For the full festival slate and listing of all film discussants, visit

This year's festival is sponsored by Human Rights at ASU, the School of Social Transformation, the Graduate Professional Student Assocation at ASU, the Center for Law and Global Affairs in ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, and Amnesty International Tempe.

Maureen Roen

Editorial and communication coordinator, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


1000 cranes launched to raise money for Japanese recovery project

April 16, 2012

Last spring, Airi Katsuta watched from her parents’ Ahwatukee home the news broadcasts of the devastating March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that demolished whole cities in Japan, a country she had left 14 years earlier when her family moved to Phoenix.

“When I first saw it I cried, but I thought it was someone else’s problem,’’ Katsuta said. That was then. Download Full Image

Now the ASU School of Art photography major has been to Ishinomaki, Japan, the coastal city that lost more than 3,000 residents in the massive tsunami. She volunteered there last summer, taking her grandfather’s Minolta 35mm camera and capturing images of devastation and hope along the way.

This summer after she graduates from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Katsuta plans to return to a country and a people she’s reclaimed as her own to continue her volunteer work and her photography.

She just needs to sell 570 more origami blue cranes.

“When I went there, it got personal,’’ Katsuta said, talking about the emotional shift from casual concern to deep commitment.

Initially, Katsuta had intended to spend a week volunteering. Her sister, who lives in Japan with their grandparents in an inland city unaffected by the earthquake and tsunami, had already been assisting in relief efforts. But Katsuta was so overcome by the destruction she saw in Ishinomaki and the resilient spirit of its residents that she extended her stay.

“The local people weren’t acting like victims. They were not crying for help,’’ she said. “I worked side by side with the people of Ishinomaki as they began to rebuild their community. Even after the tragedy, people found the strength to remain positive, smile and be grateful.”

It was this attitude that resonated with Katsuta and that prompted her to make 1000 origami cranes.

“Cranes are a national symbol of Japan that are thought of as mythical and holy creatures,” Katsuta said. “Legend has it if you fold one thousand cranes your wish will come true. Not a wish for materialistic objects but for health and recovery.’’

She returned to the ASU Tempe campus last August to complete her senior year and to raise $1,800 for a plane ticket to Tokyo. Her fundraising plan came from the ancient Japanese craft she learned as a child and the modern day Internet.

She also wanted to incorporate a photographic printing process called cyanotype that gives a cyan-blue print to the paper she would fold into cranes. Under the tutelage of Christopher Colville, visiting assistant professor of photography, she experimented with a feather imprint for her elegant cranes that hang in graduated size from a string.

She’s taken her cranes to festivals, markets and fairs and put her fundraising project on She has until May 5 to make her goal. As of April 12, she was $570 short with 23 days to go. For a $10 donation, she sends contributors each a string of three cranes and a marble and $100 donors receive two strings of 10 cyanotype cranes and one of her signed archival photographs.

The summer in Japan helping a community rebuild from rubble, also helped Katsuta crystallize her goals. She wants to bring her photographic eye to this place of recovery and resilience. “I’m not a photojournalist,’’ she said. “I realize what I’m good at: noticing the subtle things.”

Her photographs capture what the Japanese call Wabi-sabi, the Japanese aesthetic centered on the exploration of beauty in imperfection and the acceptance of transience, she explained.

Katsuta wants her images to remind people of the massive rebuilding that has been accomplished and what remains to complete after the news cameras and reporters have gone. Eventually, she wants to come back to the states to teach photography and to inspire students as she’s been inspired and encouraged.

“This experience opened my eyes to realize how ephemeral life is and what is essential in between the time. I have learned to appreciate the simple things as it is without it being decorated,’’ she said.

To contribute to her kickstarter fund visit her website,