University of Ottawa students were exposed to diverse perspectives on hot-button issues at the annual Free Thinking Film Festival this weekend.

OutsideThe festival, held at the Library and Archives building from October 31st to November 3rd, featured films and panels covering a variety of topics including international human rights violations, the effects of fracking, the war in Syria, and cyber espionage.

The weekend combined documentaries and live events in which audience members were invited to participate. Ottawa Citizen columnist Terry Glavin, for example, discussed his recent visit to Syria and his opinions on the war and refugee crisis, before opening up the floor for audience questions.

Attendees were also treated to an informative panel and Q&A session with cyber security experts after a screening of Hacked: When Cyber Spies Attack.

The Free Thinking Film festival was founded by Fred Litwin in 2007, in response to the Michael Moore film Fahrenheit 9/11. “That film was everywhere and it was all a complete lie,” Litwin explained.

After unsuccessfully attempting to get the Bytowne Cinema to screen Michael Moore Hates America, he and a group of friends started to organize showings of films expressing viewpoints which they felt were overlooked by the mainstream media. These “stand-alone” screenings eventually expanded into a full festival.

Events like the Free-Thinking Film Festival are especially beneficial for university students because they provide alternate views on current political issues. Litwin elaborated, “Our festival is great for students – first, because we have low prices for students, but more importantly, we expose students to ideas they will never get at school.”

The University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives received ten tickets to the festival to distribute to members. First year Political Science student and UOCC member Marcus Mattinson enjoyed the festival’s presentation and Q&A featuring National Post columnist Barbara Kay: “The Free Thinking Festival is a great event featuring films about some of today’s most pertinent topics.”

Litwin told the Fulcrum, “What makes our film festival stand out is that we are the only festival that tackles important political/social problems of our day without the usual political correctness.  No one else covers the issues we cover.”

Part of the university experience is expanding your horizons and exposing yourself to all sides of a debate. Events like the Free Thinking Film Festival are vital contributors to the marketplace of ideas and valuable resources for students.

Originally published in The Fulcrum as “Outside the Mainstream – Ottawa film festival presents alternative perspectives on hot button issues,” November 7, 2013