15th Annual Human Rights Film Series showcases current issues

Mary Liz Flavin | news editor. All movies will be featured in either room 104 or 105, located at the bottom of College Hall, at 7 p.m. Students can check dates of films on Campus Link.

by Mary Liz Flavin | news editor

Feb. 10, 2022

As the dust settled, many responders, citizens and workers helped to mend the city of New York on 9/11 by cleaning and moving rubble over a span of many months. However, a cost they didn’t see were the many health issues due to the polluted air and contaminated work environments. 

The movie, 9/11 Unsettled Dust covered these issues and took a deep dive into individual stories as well as the larger, underlying issue at hand.

Tuesday Feb. 8, the Department of Modern Languages and Literature kicked off their 15th Annual Human Rights Film Series with the movie 9/11 Unsettled Dust. The film series consists of various movies that are meant to spark discussion about difficult issues of today’s world. 

In addition to the films, a guest speaker will be present to talk about the specific topics covered in the designated film.  

9/11 Unsettled Dust was directed by Liz Katzman, and it examines the stories of those who were affected by the toxic conditions and public health failures after 9/11 occured. Many workers weren’t given masks or hazmat suits while working at ground zero and the World Trade Center. For months responders, as well as residents were affected by the poor air quality and other varying conditions caused by the events on 9/11. 

Jensan Bauman, a student at Duquesne, said the film tackled important issues. 

“I enjoyed the movie as it depicted information we don’t normally talk about,” Bauman said.

The film also discusses the actions of former EPA Administrator Christine Whitman and many other government officials and their stance throughout the years on health and safety. Originally, Whitman stated in 2007 that the air was safe and those who were working at ground zero should continue to do so. 

Throughout the documentary ,it was clear that as more and more stories came out about those with newly developed respiratory issues and cancer, as well as a rise in deaths associated with these ailments, there was a bigger issue at hand. 

Speaker Jay D. Aronson, founder and director of the Center for Human Rights Science at Carnegie Mellon University, has dealt with research examining the interactions of science, technology, law, media and human rights. 

“Watching this I couldn’t help but think of the victims and the health effects they had developed. One thing that struck me was the core mission of city leaders was for American capitalism to grind again, making money was one of the more important issues,” Aronson said. 

Aronson points out that one of the goals of the city leaders was to make sure the economy was up and running again. However, by making the economy a priority it caused people harm as well. 

Years later, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was created to insure health monitoring and aid to first responders, volunteers and survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks. It was named after James Zadroga, a New York City Police Department officer who died of a respiratory disease that he gotthrough his rescue and recovery operations at the World Trade Center. 

Mark Frisch, associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literature, wants students to be aware of issues that bring these films to light. 

“Many of these things go behind our backs, it’s important for students to be aware of what some of the problems are. We can start to eliminate them if we really apply ourselves,” Frisch said. 

The other films that will be shown throughout the duration of this month are The Shadow of Gold, Building the American Dream and Invisible Hands. Three movies that highlight issues such as diamond mining and precious metals, a look into the lives of immigrants and the exposing of child labor.