The Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival will take place in Portland November 12 to 19. The festival was created to give a face to issues like free speech, slavery, illegal imprisonment, and forced prostitution.

All films screened at the festival are socially aware on various topics. The subjects range from the global coffee trade ("Black Gold"), two female lawyers in Cameroon ("Sisters in Law," a winner at Cannes), and my favorite film from the Vermont International Film Fest, "Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars," about a band formed in refugee camps during the civil war.

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Telemark Film Festival

If you'd rather stay on campus to attend a film program, the Telemark Film Festival is happening Friday in the Visual Arts Center.

Co-president of the Bowdoin Outing Club Nicole Melas '07 said, "The tele film festival is one of several ski film events that the outing club sponsors in the fall in order to get the campus and community excited about winter and the upcoming ski season."

The festival will feature the new telemark ski film "PW06," as well as the three finalists of the National Amateur Telemark Film Contest. These finalists responded to the festival's theme, "What is the spirit of telemark to you?" in their own 10-minute short films.

The event will be Friday at 7 p.m. in Kresge, VAC. Admission is free and the films are open to the public. A bazaar in the lobby will have representatives from resorts, ski shops, and more.

"Silk Road Comes to America"

Similarly, the Kazakhstan film series "Silk Road Comes to America" is ongoing, and will wrap up on Saturday. Borat won't be participating, but Kazakh directors are, so it's sure to be an interesting event.

The topic is "History as a Source of National Kazakh Identity Ancient and Modern." There will be a screening of four or five seven-minute short documentary films, including "The Golden Man" (5th century BC) and the short fiñtion (25 minute) "Kara bala." There will be a Q&A with director Dusembaev at Evening Star Cinema at 10 a.m.

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"Borat! "

And now to Borat himself. Sasha Baron Cohen certainly succeeded in creating a memorable character from his "Ali G Show"?funny, affectionate, and amusingly lovable. Economic success and mainstream popularity were only a matter of more people catching on.

And catch on they did.

Adapting a character from the small screen and maintaining the essence of that character is one of the greatest challenges for "Borat." On HBO, Cohen had much greater freedom to catch average Americans agreeing to racist, homophobic, or otherwise asinine comments. This is partially due to an anonymity that is quickly leaving him, as well as lack of censorship on cable TV.

But doing so was primarily about Cohen's intelligence and comedic abilities. These people might have reason to feel stupid, but Borat never judged them. He trusted his audience to be aware of that fine line between personal opinions and hurtful judgments, and how it is a basic human characteristic.

All of this was never going to be viable for a motion picture. Cohen did not relinquish this subversiveness in the film, however. He instead chose to appeal to a more mainstream audience: for instance, by thinking about homophobia through a gratuitous scene featuring two naked men fighting. This may encourage viewers to think about homophobia, but in a radically different way than the TV show.

Ultimately, it's up to your personal preference whether the film or TV show is more successful. I prefer the wittiness and candid conversations with unsuspecting Americans, the quicker editing, and the less specified cultural characteristics of Kazakhstan (in truth one of the most prosperous of post-USSR republics).

So before you go to the theater, check out the 25-minute Kazah film showing on Saturday. Then go enjoy "Borat" with that cultural understanding, for your own benefit, and for Borat.