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Commemorating Women’s History Month with Documentaries featuring a New Jerseyan Nobel Laureate, Maria Ressa 

2 Mar

Hello everyone! My name is Bernadette, and I’m the new Information and Digital Services Librarian at the Hoboken Public Library. Before I came to HPL, I had internships at New York Public Library, Pratt Institute Libraries, and the independent news program Democracy Now!. In the Philippines, I worked at the National Film Archives of the Philippines and the Cinematheque Center Manila, where I developed a love for cinema that engages communities and inspires social justice and societal transformation.

COMMEMORATING WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
March marks Women’s History Month, which celebrates women’s contributions to history, culture, and society. The National Women’s History Alliance designated the 2022 theme as “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.” Immediately, this theme made me think of the remarkable Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous fight for freedom of expression in the Philippines and around the world. Not only is she a Nobel Laureate, she is a Princeton alum and proud resident of New Jersey. 

As a journalist and CEO of the news outlet Rappler, she has defended human rights by shedding a critical light on Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial “war on drugs,” which has killed tens of thousands of Filipinos in the last five years. Because she exposed his administration’s track record of corruption, state-sanctioned violence, disinformation campaigns, and repression of the people, Rappler—and Ressa herself—was targeted by the Philippine government. 

Ressa’s struggle for truth, democracy, and freedom of the press in the Philippines is chronicled in two thrilling political documentaries available with a Hoboken Public Library card.

A THOUSAND CUTS
Directed by Ramona S. Diaz, the documentary A Thousand Cuts depicts the war between the press and the government, between truth and disinformation. Ressa and her team combat falsities spun by government officials seeking to lie their way to power. The Philippines’ democracy hangs in the balance—and so does Ressa’s own life and freedom. 

It is available to borrow on DVD from the Hoboken Public Library – BCCLS Libraries.

WE HOLD THE LINE
Another documentary We Hold the Line follows Ressa and her team. It gives the audience rare behind the scenes access as her team continues their brave journalism amidst threats to their work and lives. The documentary weaves together narratives from various perspectives—victims of the drug war, critical politicians in hiding, and even members of death squads commiting summary executions—to give insight into the real “war on drugs” of president Duterte.

We Hold The Line is available for streaming on Kanopy with a Hoboken Public Library Card.

IN RESSA’S WORDS
The Duterte government’s systematic crackdown on press freedom has led to 114 documented cases of attacks against media practitioners and journalists in the Philippines, including 19 killings. These attacks come at a critical time and weakens democracies globally, polluting the atmosphere of information dissemination. What can the community do when the people and the truth itself are under attack?

Ressa shared her wisdom and calls to action in her Nobel Peace Prize lecture delivered last December. “We’re at a sliding door moment, where we can continue down the path we’re on and descend further into fascism, or we can each choose to fight for a better world. … The destruction has happened. Now it’s time to build – to create the world we want.”

Written by:
Bernadette Patino
Information and Digital Services Librarian

Artificial Love: Klara and the Sun & Her

1 Sep

So often when we think of Robots in the future, it is of scenes like in the Matrix when they have taken over and controlling the world.  But what if the Robots could turn out to be the more compassionate ones?  Could there be a future that people form bonds not with each other, but with Robots or other forms of AI (Artificial Intelligence)?

Klara and the Sun

Though it was our pick for our August Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion, Klara and the Sun featuring a peak at AI in the future, is one of those books that will appeal to more than just Science Fiction fans; fans of literary fiction will also find a lot to enjoy. 

In the novel Klara is an AF or artificial friend.  She starts the novel in a store interacting with other AFs and the storeowner.  She is solar powered, and quickly picks up new information from those around her.  The story picks up as Klara is adopted by a sickly girl named Josie. 

There is something very simple about the way the novel is delivered from Klara’s limited childlike perspective and yet so much complexity is hinted at in the story that is going on in the wider world.  Klara despite being a robot often seems to have more compassion and sympathy than the humans in the novel. 

I was intrigued to hear what the book discussion group thought of the work and was pleased that they also had enjoyed the work a lot.  We had a great discussion about the future of AI and what it means for society.

Her

Before we discussed Klara and the Sun our book group watched the movie Her starring Joaquin Phoenix.  This was our first movie screening together since Covid and it was great to share a film again that tied to the book we had read this month. The movie was complimentary in that it also involved an artificial intelligence, in this case a Siri or Alexa like virtual personal assistant named Samantha voiced by Scarlett Johansson. 

Her won an academy award for Best Screen Play.  The group was less enthralled with Her than by Klara and the Sun, but we still had a lively discussion related to some topics it brought up.  Although in the case of Her it is a romantic relationship, rather than a friendship, between Theodore and Samantha, the movie touches on many of the same themes as the novel that are brought up about loneliness, humanity, and the place an AI might have in what has become a society centered on the hot new thing and disposability.

If you would like to join us for fun and friendly book discussions and screenings of great movies, sign up for the mailing list for our Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Discussion Group by email hplwriters@gmail.com!  Our next book will be the first in my personal favorite Steampunk series, Soulless, by Gail Carriger.  Soulless is a delightful brew of gaslight fantasy, humor, and romance so check it out and let us know what you think!

Written by:
Aimee Harris
Head of Information and Digital Services

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