Human Rights Film Fest 2012: Full Program
The 23rd annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns to New York from June 14 to 28 with a program of powerful human stories of oppression, injustice, and resilience from across the globe.
Sixteen documentary and fiction films from 12 countries will be screened, including 14 New York premieres. A co-presentation of Human Rights Watch and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the festival will be held at the Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater. Most of the screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers, and some by panel discussions with experts and film subjects.
The program this year is organized around five themes: health, development, and the environment; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and migrants’ rights; personal testimony and witnessing; reporting in crises; and women’s rights.
“What is truly inspiring and hopeful about this year’s program is how many films showcase the powerful impact that individuals have on human rights issues on the world stage,” said John Biaggi, Human Rights Watch Film Festival director. “These films demonstrate that committed individuals can generate positive and lasting change.”
“For over 20 years, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival has provided a forum for the creative community to share stories that bear witness to the human condition,” added Rose Kuo, Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director. “We are proud to support their mission of bringing important issues to the screen.”
The festival will launch on June 14 with a fundraising Benefit Night for Human Rights Watch, featuring Kim Nguyen’s War Witch, an emotionally powerful drama about a 14-year-old girl abducted by a rebel army in sub-Saharan Africa. The main program will begin on June 15, with the Opening Night presentation of Alison Klayman’s festival favorite Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, an up-close look at renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei and his ongoing battle with the Chinese government. The Closing Night screening on June 28 will be Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s Call Me Kuchu, which follows the bold efforts of Ugandan David Kato and a close-knit group of activists to repeal their country’s homophobic laws and liberate their fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, or “kuchus.”
Health, Development, and the Environment
Three American-directed documentaries highlight the wide-ranging effects of corporate commoditization on human rights. Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke’s Escape Fire: The
Fight to Rescue American Healthcare skillfully examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo of a broken medical system—a system designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care. Micha X. Peled’s Bitter Seeds is a vibrant investigation into a suicide epidemic among India’s cotton farmers, deeply in debt after getting caught up in program that uses genetically modified seed program. Beth and George Gage’s Bidder 70 profiles courageous environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, who was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2011 for deliberately sabotaging a much-protested Bureau of Land Management auction of oil and gas leases on pristine public lands in Utah.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) and Migrants’ Rights
While the closing night documentary Call Me Kuchu looks at the injustices facing the LGBT community in Uganda, two other festival titles highlight the issues and abuses faced by predominantly African migrants in Europe. In the emotionally charged documentary Special Flight, director Fernand Melgar gained intimate access to his subjects, rejected asylum seekers and unauthorized migrants in Switzerland’s Frambois detention center. German filmmaker Maggie Peren’s drama, Color of the Ocean, tells the moving story of a father and son, Congolese refugees whose paths collide with those of an altruistic tourist and a Canary Islands police officer—changing the course of all their lives.
Personal Testimony and Witnessing
Four films in this year’s program—including the narrative portrait War Witch and the documentary profile Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry—reveal the permanent and pervasive impact of human rights abuses on the lives of individuals. Annie Goldson’s powerful Brother Number One follows New Zealander Rob Hamill as he is given the chance to testify at the Cambodia War Crimes Tribunal against Comrade Duch, the man responsible for ordering the death of thousands of prisoners at the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 prison, including Rob’s brother Kerry. Lieven Corthouts’ Little Heaven is a touchingportrait of 13-year-old Lydia, as she goes about her daily life in an Ethiopian orphanage for children living with HIV.
Reporting in Crises
Three documentaries offer insight into the work of courageous journalists the world over who, despite the many risks they face, refuse to stay quiet. Mexican-American filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz’s Reportero follows veteran reporter Sergio Haro and his colleagues at Zeta, a Tijuana-based newsweekly, as they boldly ply their trade in what has become one of the most deadly places in the world to be a journalist. Beate Arnestad’s Silenced Voices is told as a personal encounter with exiled journalists from Sri Lanka who have been “silenced” and almost killed in their home country because they exposed war crimes, corruption and massacres of civilians. Egyptian-American director Mai Iskander’s Words of Witness focuses on daringyoung Cairo-based internet reporter Heba Afify as she takes to the streets to report on an Egypt in turmoil.
Three festival films address women’s rights issues, from the Middle East to the US. Director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering are the recipients of the festival’s annual Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking for their groundbreaking investigative documentary The Invisible War, which reveals the profound personal and social consequences of the rape epidemic in the US military. David Fine’s uplifting Salaam Dunk chronicles a year in the life of the women’s basketball team at the American University of Sulaimani, Iraq, where the sport offers the young women a release from the realities of a war-torn nation. Arab-American filmmaker Susan Youssef’s Habibi, the first fiction feature set in Gaza in over 15 years, challenges the stereotype of the oppressed Arab woman ina love story between two Palestinian students torn apart by the combined forces of Israel’s rigid political boundaries and Palestinian social conventions.
In conjunction with this year’s film program, the festival will present the photo exhibit Unreported Stories, South African photographer Brent Stirton’s visual investigation into abuses against people living near the Porgera gold mine of Papua New Guinea. Stirton and Human Rights Watch won a 2012 Peabody award for their investigative work in the mine. The exhibit will be featured in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater for the duration of the festival.
COMPLETE PROGRAM INFORMATION CAN BE FOUND AT:
All films are screened at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street, north side/upper level (between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave.)
TICKET INFORMATION: Ticket information for the 2012 Human Rights Watch Film Festival can be found at www.FilmLinc.com or in person at the Walter Reade Theater box office. Hours: Mon.-Fri. opens at 12:30pm, Sat./Sun. opens 1/2 hr before first public screening; closes 15 minutes after the start of the last show. The box office closes at 6pm when there are no public screenings. For more information visit www.FilmLinc.com, ff.hrw.org or call 212-875-5600 during operating hours. Experience the festival on the go with HRWFF’s mobile site: Visit ff.hrw.org from mobile devices to buy tickets, browse the film schedule, view trailers and listen to interviews with filmmakers.
Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. We work tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and fight to bring greater justice and security to people around the world. Through the Human Rights Watch Film Festival we bear witness to human rights violations and create a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference. The film festival brings to life human rights abuses through storytelling in a way that challenges each individual to empathize and demand justice for all people. To learn more about our work or to make a donation, visit www.hrw.org
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