WASHINGTON, DC — Over the course of four days, whistleblowers, advocates and film enthusiasts descended upon Washington, DC, filling the halls of Congress, the Library of Congress, local theaters and landmark social establishments with educational panels and films educating lawmakers, influencers and the general public on the latest movements in the Civil & Human Rights arena. Over the last twelve years members from the Make It Safe Coalition have arranged an assembly of whistleblowers in Washington, DC each year for an annual conference originally known as Washington Whistleblower’s Week. ACORN 8, a Washington, D.C. based organization hosted its eighth annual event, the Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival on Capitol Hill from July 29 to August 1, 2019. The historic event coincides with D.C. City Government’s proclamation supporting National Whistleblower Appreciation Day.
This DC based summit and film festival is the latest in a series of smaller conferences the organization has previously hosted inside and outside of the Beltway. Organizers co-hosted free lectures and events open to the public that celebrate the important role of whistleblowers and their advocates. Beginning on July 29th, consistent with the theme "True North — Persevering in the Pursuit of Justice," attendees were treated to an array of finely tuned panel presentations featuring those most knowledgeable and impactful in their fields of expertise on wide-ranging civil and human rights topics spanning the globe. Film, including international film submissions, were showcased in conjunction with panel presentations to enhance the concentration of issues surrounding threats to citizens' rights and efforts seek accountability for abuses having gone unaddressed. Social events were also peppered throughout enabling participants the opportunity to mix, mingle, share, gather and synthesize subject-matter. Personal and professional associations were formed as a result of the united effort to provide and take part in a platform dedicated to shedding light upon the journey, obstacles, successes and laws encompassing the Whistleblower experience.
The film festival festivities took pace at various capitol hill locations including, the National Press Club, Busboy’s & Poets, Landmark E. Street Cinema and the Library of Congress. The Whistleblower Summit recognizes that cinema is a powerful medium for highlighting civil and human rights violations across the globe. It seeks to shine a light on stories of courage and perseverance in the face of injustice, and to encourage individuals to stand together to achieve human rights for all. 2019 Pillar Film Awards:
Gladys Louise Smith “Mary Pickford” Award — John Singleton
Best Whistleblower Portrayal — Official Secrets
Best Documentary — The Kids We Lose
Best Feature — The Guardians
Tank Man — Best Short
Audience Choice — The Great Hack
Other notable Pillar Award Winners included Ralph Nader and Richard “Dick” Gregory.
“We are looking for films about whistleblowers, the First Amendment or that touch on one or several human rights issues that are connected to our areas of work this includes freedom of expression, women’s rights, discrimination, communal violence, human rights defenders, among other issues” said Marcel Reid, Summit co-organizer and Festival Director.
“We are very pleased with the response from the film community. We are a boutique film festival that received nearly 200 film submission from 48 countries. These submissions were culled down to 15 films touching on free speech, civil and human rights, and social justice themes” said Michael McCray, Summit co-organizer and Managing Director.
The pre-summit publicity rollout began with an advanced screening of “Official Secrets” which opens in August, at the National Press Club on July 16th at 6:00 pm. The summit officially opened with a DC Proclamation followed by a symposium at the Hart Senate Office Building. Among the other events was a July 30th luncheon to honor National Whistleblower Day hosted by the National Whistleblower Center; followed by a Pillar Awards Reception with book signings and author events later that day at the Mott House from 5:00 to 7:00 pm sponsored by Public Citizen, Government Accountability Project (GAP) and Project on Government Oversight (POGO).
Authors, publishers and filmmakers all attended the summit. Tom Mueller the author of Crisis of Conscience—Whistleblowing In An Age of Fraud attended the event. Michael McCray and Marcia Mitchell the author of the book the film was based on introduced the Official Secrets screening on National Whistleblowers Day. Finally, Brittany Kaiser the Cambridge Analytica Whistleblower introduced her “Own Your Data Campaign” to the summit during a screening of Netflix’s The Great Hack on National Whistleblower Day.
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The Whistleblower Summit & Film Festival is the first and only film festival dedicated to whistleblowers and the First Amendment. It pairs four days of film screenings and professional symposiums that bring together whistleblowers, advocates, policy makers, journalists and filmmakers venturing into investigative storytelling about free speech, Civil & Human Rights and social justice.