Honoring art and activism

Local actors Daryl Hannah and Matthew McConaughey will be honored at the Artivist Film Festival & Awards, which provides a Hollywood arena for artists creating socially conscious films and honors artists who contribute to social causes such as environmental preservation, children’s advocacy and more.

By Vicki Godal

Locals Daryl Hannah, Matthew McConaughey and Joaquin Phoenix will be honored for their activism at the third annual Artivist Film Festival & Awards, which takes place next week, beginning Nov. 9.

Artivist is the first international film festival dedicated to raising awareness for global social issues with its focus on international human rights, children’s advocacy, environmental preservation and animal rights, Artivists’ mission is to strengthen the voice of international artist activists, i.e., artivists, by raising public awareness of global social issues.

Founder and president Diaky Diaz described Artivists’ creation.

“Coming from a background as a producer, I literally just wanted to find media that was inspirational and educational. Additionally, I wanted to work on projects that really gave back to our global community,” Diaz said. “I was having a really difficult time finding that in Hollywood. I went through this process of trying to figure out how to work on art and activism, something that I really feel passionate about. I finally realized I needed to create some sort of an arena where we could screen socially conscious films from around the world. That’s where the idea of Artivist came from; as long as it deals with social global issues then we’re interested.”


Diaz co-partnered with Bettina Wolfe and Christopher Reedesell to begin building Artivist as a nonprofit group. Now, three years later, Artivist has screened more than 150 films from 30 countries around the world. In the last two festivals, films featured noted activist artists like Tom Hanks, Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen, Viggo Mortensen, Elton John, Andy Garcia, Keanu Reeves and Alannis Morisette. Past honorees include Mira Sorvino, Ed Begley Jr., James Cromwell, Tippi Hedren, Mike Farrell, and France Nuyen. During this year’s four-day film festival, 70 films will be screened.

“The biggest success for Artivist is that it launched a new idea, actually a new extension for Artivist itself which is that next year we’re going to be launching an Internet portal for the Artivist global community,” Diaz said. “I think that’s probably the best thing to happen to Artivist is that it inspired this extension of itself.”

Artivist recently officially affiliated with the United Nations, yet even with the endorsement of a highly esteemed organization like the U.N., Diaz said the most important contributor to Artivist is the individual.

“With us, it’s still the contributing sponsor, the people that come in at the lower levels. Everybody brings a dollar to the table and the next thing you know we have a great festival,” Diaz said.

This year’s honorees are well-known environmentalists and humanitarians. Daryl Hannah, a Malibu resident, will receive an environmental preservation award.

“We wish we could honor Daryl everyday. She understands the entire interdependency between animals, the environment and humanity,” Diaz said. “We’re honoring Daryl for environmental preservation but I feel like we should be honoring her for being an artivist. She’s done so much not just for the environment but for animal advocacy, for children’s rights and for human rights. She’s doing things all the time across the board.”

Matthew McConaughey, who also has a home in Malibu, will be honored for his work for human rights.

“Matthew has done quite a bit of advocacy on behalf of children and human rights, particularly with the Katrina disaster,” Diaz explained. “He was very involved working down in New Orleans helping those folks and instrumental in rescuing animals that had been stranded as a result of Katrina.”

The final honoree, Joaquin Phoenix, is recognized for his animal advocacy. “Joaquin has been a longtime vegan, and environmental and animal rights advocate,” Diaz said. “Joaquin’s done quite a few commercials and public service announcements for animals rights and advocacy to promote compassion for animals and the environment. He’s one of those rare celebrities that really does not enjoy the spotlight. He does a lot of his work very low key.”

This year’s opening night ceremony features the short film, “Why Shakespeare.” The documentary illustrates the positive impact of theater and Shakespeare through interviews with children who live in gang-ridden communities. Testimonials from actors Tom Hanks, Christina Applegate, Martin Sheen and Bill Pullman attest to the importance of theater in their own lives. The opening night’s feature length film is “Class Act.” Celebrity drama teacher Jay Jensen stars in this humorous take on why the arts are a struggling educational curriculum in American schools. “Class Act” features many of Jensen’s former students including Andy Garcia.

For filmmakers, Artivist has a specific message.

“There is an arena now, a welcome home place in Hollywood for the artist that is creating socially conscious films,” Diaz said. “We are establishing and growing this community in Hollywood to showcase those films. Our overriding goal is to share these socially conscious films with as many people as we possibly can.”

The 2006 Artivist Awards take place Nov. 9-12, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Tickets can be obtained by calling 800.595.4TIX or online at www.artivists.org. Artivist is a nonprofit organization with all proceeds benefiting the annual Artivist Film Festival.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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