The Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns to New York screens from June 13 to 23, 2013 with a program of 20 challenging and provocative films from across the globe that call for justice and social change. Now in its 24th edition, the festival will once again be presented at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and this year adds downtown screenings at the IFC Center.
Eighteen documentaries and two fiction films will be featured, including 15 New York premieres. Most of the screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers, and some by panel discussions with experts and film subjects.
“One of the most rewarding aspects of programming this festival is that it always reveals thought-provoking and often surprising themes distilled from the past year’s human rights films,” said festival director John Biaggi. “The most striking theme this year is the tension between traditional values and human rights—from issues women face, including sexual harassment, gender equality and child marriage, to dangers faced by the LGBT community, to injustices faced by the disabled. At the core of each of these films—and of all the films in this year’s festival—is the inspiring strength of individuals standing up for themselves, their rights and their communities.”
Traditional values and human rights is one of four themes for this year’s festival—incorporating women’s rights, disability rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights. The other themes are crises and migration; a focus on Asia; and human rights in the United States.
The festival will launch on June 13 with a fundraising Benefit Night for Human Rights Watch featuring the HBO documentary ‘Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington‘. The film is Sebastian Junger’s moving tribute to his lost friend and ‘Restrepo‘ co-director, the photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington, who was killed while covering the Libyan civil war in 2011. The main program will kick off on June 14 with the Opening Night presentation of Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Mock’s ‘ANITA‘, in which Anita Hill looks back at the powerful testimony she gave against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and its impact on the broader discussion of gender inequality in America. The Closing Night screening on June 23 will be Jeremy Teicher’s award-winning drama ‘Tall As the Baobab Tree‘, the touching story of a teenage girl who tries to rescue her younger sister from an arranged marriage in rural Senegal.
Benefit Film & Reception – Thursday, June 13, 6:00 pm, Walter Reade Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center
WHICH WAY IS THE FRONT LINE FROM HERE? THE LIFE AND TIME OF TIM HETHERINGTON (+ panel discussion with filmmakers and others)
An HBO Documentary Film
Photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington was always searching for the humanity within armed conflict, as evidenced in his award-winning body of work. When he and author and documentarian Sebastian Junger spent a year filming a platoon of US soldiers in Afghanistan in their Academy Award–nominated film Restrepo, they weren’t… » simply looking for action; they also chose to focus on the many small moments that make war human. Hetherington’s footage of time he spent with rebel forces during Liberia’s civil war and in Libya prior to his tragic death from a mortar blast in 2011 conveys a rare sense of intimacy that contrasts sharply with the violence around him. Although he spent most of his time traveling to the center of war zones, Hetherington was seeking the truth, rather than adventure. That is his enduring gift.
Post-screening panel discussion: Featuring Sebastian Junger, Director; James Brabazon, Producer and Cinematographer; and Peter Bouckaert, Emergencies Director, Human Rights Watch. Moderated by Carroll Bogert, Deputy Executive Director for External Relations, Human Rights Watch
Opening Night Film & Reception – Friday, June 14, 7:00 pm, Walter Reade Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center
ANITA (New York premiere + panel with filmmaker Freida Mock and special guest)
On October 11, 1991, a poised young law professor sent shock waves through the nation as she sat before the Senate Judiciary Committee intrepidly testifying to the lewd behavior of a Supreme Court nominee. Twenty years later, Academy Award winner Freida Mock brings us ANITA, which crystallizes the sexist power dynamics in the room that day and unravels the impact of that lightning-rod moment on Anita Hill’s life and the broader discussion of gender inequality in America. Contemporary interviews with Hill and her allies, and unsettling archival footage, reveal the way her attempt to report confidentially on Clarence Thomas’s conduct quickly became a perverse and vicious public attack on her character and credibility. Hill’s hearing became a charade of justice. Yet her audacity to speak out detonated a national debate about sexual harassment that revolutionized gender politics.
Post-screening panel discussion: Featuring Freida Mock, Oscar-Winning Filmmaker and special guest. Moderated by Liesl Gerntholtz, Director, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch
Closing Night Film & Party – Sunday, June 23, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
TALL AS THE BAOBAB TREE (New York premiere + panel discussion with filmmaker and others)
Jeremy Teicher—Senegal/US—2012—82m—drama—In Pulaar with English subtitles
Tall as the Baobab Tree poignantly depicts a family struggling to find its footing on the edge of a modern world fraught with tensions between tradition and modernity. Coumba and her little sister Debo are the first to leave their family’s remote African village, where meals are prepared over open fires and water is drawn from wells, to attend school in the bustling city. But when an accident suddenly threatens their family’s survival, their father decides to sell 11-year-old Debo into an arranged marriage. Torn between loyalty to her elders and her dreams for the future, Coumba hatches a secret plan to rescue her younger sister from a future she did not choose.
Post-screening panel discussion: Featuring Jeremy Teicher, Filmmaker and Rona Peligal, Deputy Director, Africa Division, Human Rights Watch
HRWFF NY 2013 Closing Night Party at the Bubble Lounge directly following the Closing Night screening and discussion from 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm, 228 West Broadway
Traditional Values and Human Rights: Women’s Rights
CAMERA/WOMAN (US premiere + Q&A with filmmaker)
Karima Zoubir—Morocco—2012—59m—doc—In Arabic with English subtitles
With enthusiastic musicians and ornate wedding parties setting the stage, we meet Khadija, a Moroccan divorcee who works as a camerawoman at weddings in Casablanca. Her mother and brother strongly disagree with her choice of occupation, complaining that Khadija is out until all hours and a source of gossip for the neighbors. Already ashamed that Khadija is divorced, they simply want her to remarry. But Khadija is the breadwinner in the family and she won’t bow to their demands. The fairy tale world of the wedding parties plays in sharp contrast to the difficulties of marriage and the reality of divorce. Together with her best friend Bouchra, also a divorcee, Khadija talks candidly about the issues they face and the competing forces at play in the lives of women in Morocco and beyond.
GOING UP THE STAIRS
Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami—Iran—2011—51m—doc—In Farsi with English subtitles
Married at age nine, Akram was so fearful of displeasing her husband that she left school before she learned to read. Now a grandmother living with her husband Heidar in Tehran, she has found her calling: painting. Akram’s children organize an exhibition in Paris for her and she hopes Heidar will give her permission to go. Like many couples married for decades, they bicker back and forth and Akram’s sarcastic sense of humor shines through. A charming portrait of an artist, Going Up the Stairs also provides an enlightening glimpse inside a traditional Iranian marriage.
Sunday, June 16, 9:15 pm, IFC Center
Tuesday, June 18, 6:00 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
PUSSY RIOT – A PUNK PRAYER (New York festival premiere + Q&A with filmmakers)
Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin—Russian Federation/UK—2012—86m—doc—In Russian with English subtitles
An HBO Documentary Film
In the winter of 2011, after a controversial election, Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin as president of Russia. The vote followed months of mass protests that challenged Putin’s rule. Around the same time, a group of young, radical-feminist punk rockers known as Pussy Riot took a stand against the direction Putin was taking Russia. Wearing colored balaclavas, tights, and summer dresses, they entered Moscow’s most venerated cathedral and air-guitared their way through 40 seconds of “Mother Mary, Banish Putin!” British filmmaker Mike Lerner and Russian Maxim Pozdorovkin collaborate to chronicle the way one small act of protest captured global attention. Putting a personal face on rebellion, they follow three women prepared to defend their actions no matter what it may cost them.
Monday, June 17, 9:00 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Tuesday, June 18, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
RAFEA: SOLAR MAMA (+ Q&A with filmmakers)
Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief—Denmark/US/England—2012—85m—doc—In English and Arabic with English subtitles
Rafea is a Bedouin woman who lives with her daughters in one of Jordan’s poorest desert villages on the Iraqi border. When she is selected for an intriguing program called the Barefoot College in India, Rafea doesn’t need to think twice, and travels to join 30 illiterate women from different countries to train to become solar engineers over the course of six months. Rafea immediately understands that she has a unique opportunity to give her children a better future and to provide the whole village with solar power. A tumultuous struggle with her husband threatens to put an end to her dreams, yet Rafea remains determined. Will she be able to empower the other women in the village to join her in the struggle to rewire the traditions of the Bedouin community that stand in their way?
Thursday, June 20, 9:00 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Saturday, June 22, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
SALMA (New York premiere)
Kim Longinotto—UK/India—2013—90m—doc—In Tamil with English subtitles
Like many other women in rural South Asia, Salma, a young Muslim girl in India, was forced into seclusion once she reached puberty. She was forbidden by her family to study and pushed into marriage. Words were Salma’s salvation. Once married, Salma began covertly composing poems on scraps of paper and, through an intricate smuggling system, was able to sneak them out of the house,… » and into the hands of a publisher. Salma won numerous accolades and was written about in the media. Against the odds, Salma became a famous poet: the first step to discovering her own freedom and challenging the traditions and code of conduct in her village. Her extraordinary story is one of courage and resilience. Salma has hopes for a different life for the next generation of girls, but as she sees, familial ties run deep and change is slow.
Friday, June 14, 9:45 pm, IFC Center
Saturday, June 15, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Traditional Values and Human Rights: Disability Rights
IN THE SHADOW OF THE SUN (US premiere + Q&A with filmmaker)
Harry Freeland—UK/Tanzania—2012—84m—doc—In English and Swahili with English subtitles
Filmed over six years, In the Shadow of the Sun tells the story of two men with albinism in Tanzania pursuing their dreams in the face of virulent prejudice. In the midst of an escalation in brutal murders of people with albinism, we meet Josephat Torner. Josephat decides to confront the communities where the killings are taking place saying, “I need to change society so it can accept me.” Along the way, he visits Ukerewe Island, where he finds 62 people with albinism living there, including 15-year-old Vedastus. Vedastus, whose mother was told to kill him when he was born, has been bullied out of school and rejected by his community. But Vedastus dreams of returning to get an education. Dedicating his life to campaigning against this sort of discrimination against people with albinism—segregated from society and deprived of education—Josephat becomes a mentor to Vedastus. Through his intimate portrait of Vedastus and Josephat, filmmaker Harry Freeland reveals a story of deep-rooted superstition, heartfelt suffering and incredible strength.
Saturday, June 15, 9:15 pm, IFC Center
Sunday, June 16, 6:00 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Traditional Values and Human Rights: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights
BORN THIS WAY (New York premiere + Q&A with filmmakers)
Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann—Cameroon—2012—84m—doc—In English and French with English subtitles
There are more arrests for homosexuality in Cameroon than in any other country in the world. With intimate access to the lives of four young gay Cameroonians, Born This Way steps outside the genre of activist filmmaking and offers a vivid and poetic portrait of day-to-day life in modern Africa. This is a story of what is possible in the global fight for equality.
Friday, June 21, 9:15 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Saturday, June 22, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
THE NEW BLACK (New York premiere + Q&A with filmmaker)
The New Black tells the story of how the African American community is grappling with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in light of the marriage equality movement and the fight over civil rights. We meet activists, families, and clergy on both sides of the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland, a state with a 30 percent African-American population. Through this story, the film examines homophobia in the black community’s institutional pillar—the black church—and reveals the Christian right wing’s strategy of exploiting this phenomenon in order to pursue an anti-gay political agenda. The New Black takes viewers into the pews and onto the streets as it tells the story of the historic fight to win marriage equality in Maryland and charts the evolution of this divisive issue within the black community.
Wednesday, June 19, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
Thursday, June 20, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Srdjan Dragojevic—Serbia—2012—115m—drama—In Serbian with English subtitles
Srdjan Dragojevic’s The Parade takes a comedic look at Serbia through the lens of one group’s fight to hold a Gay Pride parade in Belgrade. When a bulldog is shot, an improbable alliance develops. We meet Pearl and Mickey, a couple about to be married, and Mirko and Radmilo, a couple involved in the gay pride parade. Mirko happens to be Pearl’s wedding planner and Radmilo, his partner, turns out to be the veterinarian who saved Mickey’s dog’s life. After a lover’s quarrel, Mickey—who is less than accepting of Gay Pride—makes a deal to protect the participants in the parade in order to win Pearl back. Mickey and Radmilo embark on a road trip across Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo as Mickey attempts to assemble a fearsome security team for the parade. As they gather Mickey’s old friends from the war, it becomes clear to all that so-called enemies are often your greatest allies.
Monday, June 17, 9:15 pm, IFC Center
Wednesday, June 19, 9:15 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Crises and Migration
FATAL ASSISTANCE (US premiere + Q&A with filmmaker) – Festival Centerpiece
Raoul Peck—Haiti/France/US—2012—100m—doc—In English and French and Haitian Creole with English subtitles
Award-winning Haitian born filmmaker Raoul Peck takes us on a two-year journey inside the challenging, contradictory and colossal rebuilding efforts in post-earthquake Haiti. Through its provocative and radical point of view, Fatal Assistance offers a devastating indictment of the international community’s post-disaster idealism. The film dives headlong into the complexity of the reconstruction process and the practices and impact of worldwide humanitarian and development aid, revealing the disturbing extent of a general failure. We learn that a major portion of the money pledged to Haiti was never disbursed, nor made it into the actual reconstruction. Fatal Assistance leads us to one clear conclusion: current aid policies and practice in Haiti need to stop immediately.
Wednesday, June 19, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Thursday, June 20, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
MY AFGHANISTAN – LIFE IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE (New York premiere + Q&A with filmmaker)
Nagieb Khaja—Denmark—2012—88m—doc—In English and Danish, Dari and Pashtu with English subtitles
Nagieb Khaja, a Danish journalist of Afghan origin, travels to Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province in Afghanistan. Because journalists are not able to move safely outside of the capital, contact with the civilian population in rural areas is almost impossible. But Khaja has a trick up his sleeve. He gives people living in outlying communities mobile phones equipped with cameras and asks them to film their daily lives, providing a rare glimpse into the war-torn existence of ordinary Afghans. We ride along with Hakl Sahab in his 70-year-old Jeep with no brakes, get hair-styling tips from Jurna Gulm, seek shelter from fire fights with Shukrullah, and watch farmer and widower Abdul Mohammed raise his four children alone. And as the project progresses, it becomes clear how challenging it is to capture the difficult lives of women. Alternating between the participants’ scenes of daily life and Nagieb’s own experiences, My Afghanistan depicts a country where civilians are the greatest victims of the war, and Afghans struggle to live in the constant shadow of violence.
Sunday, June 16, 8:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Monday, June 17, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
THE UNDOCUMENTED (New York premiere + Q&A with filmmaker)
Marco Williams—US/Mexico—2013—88m—doc—In English and Spanish with English subtitles
Since 1998 more than 2000 dead bodies and skeletal remains of illegal border crossers have been found in the desert in southern Arizona. The Undocumented tells the story of Marcos Hernandez, an undocumented Mexican living and working in Chicago. Marcos came to the United States, crossing through the Sonora Desert in southern Arizona. Each month he sends money to his mother in Mexico City for medicine for his brother Gustavo who is in need of a kidney transplant. But Marcos had an even more pressing reason for coming to the United States. He came to search for his father, Francisco, who disappeared in the Sonora Desert trying to enter the United States. Chronicled over the course of Arizona’s deadly summer months, the film weaves Marcos’ search for his father with the efforts of humanitarians and Border Patrol agents who try to prevent migrant deaths; medical investigators and the Mexican Consulate working to identify the remains of deceased border crossers; and Mexicans who struggle to accept the loss of a family member.
Friday, June 21, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
Saturday, June 22, 9:00 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Focus on Asia
THE ACT OF KILLING
Joshua Oppenheimer—Indonesia—2012—122m—doc—In Bahasa Indonesian with English subtitles
A true cinematic experiment, The Act of Killing explores a chapter of Indonesia’s history in a way bound to stir debate—by enlisting a group of former killers, including Indonesian paramilitary leader Anwar Congo, to re-enact their lives in the style of the films they love. When the government of President Sukarno was overthrown by the military in 1965, Anwar and his cohorts joined in the mass murder of more than one million alleged communists, ethnic Chinese, and intellectuals. Now, Anwar and his team perform detailed re-enactments of their crimes with pride, holding numerous discussions about sets, costumes and pyrotechnics. Their fixation on style rather than substance—despite the ghastly nature of the scenes—makes them mesmerizing to watch. But as movie violence and real-life violence begin to overlap, Anwar’s pride gradually gives way to regret. And we see a man overwhelmed by the horrific acts he has chosen to share with the world.
Courtesy of Drafthouse Films, US theatrical release July 19
Tuesday, June 18, 9:30 pm, IFC Center
Wednesday, June 19, 9:15 pm, IFC Center
CAMP 14 – TOTAL CONTROL ZONE (New York premiere + Q&A with filmmaker)
Marc Wiese—Germany—2012—104m—doc—In Korean with English subtitles
Camp 14 – Total Control Zone is a fascinating portrait of a young man who grew up imprisoned by dehumanizing violence yet still found the will to escape. Born inside a North Korean prison camp as the child of political prisoners, Shin Dong-Huyk was raised in a world where all he knew was punishment, torture, and abuse. Filmmaker Marc Wiese crafts his documentary by quietly drawing details from Shin in a series of interviews in which Shin’s silence says as much as his words. Weaving anecdotes from a former camp guard and a member of the secret police with powerful animated scenes capturing key moments in Shin’s life, Wiese pulls audiences into Shin’s world. Shin escapes and becomes a human rights ‘celebrity,’ but as we see, his life outside the camp is often just as challenging as it was inside it.
Thursday, June 20, 9:30 pm, IFC Center
Friday, June 21, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
Human Rights In the United States
99% – THE OCCUPY WALL STREET COLLABORATIVE FILM (New York premiere + Q&A with filmmakers)
Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, Nina Krstic—US—2012—97m—doc
In September 2011, the Occupy Wall Street movement propelled issues of economic inequality into the spotlight. 99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film goes behind the scenes of the movement, revealing what happened and why. Personal stories imbue analysis of big picture issues with the real-world struggles of those compelled to take action, speak up, march, and risk arrest and brutality by police forces around the country. Supporters, participants and critics shed light on why and how this movement took off with such explosive force, and ask what the next phase of the movement might encompass. An unprecedented collaboration of almost 100 filmmakers across the country, the production process of this feature film offers a diverse way of bringing meaning and context to the movement that swept up America, and much of the world, with its story.
Courtesy of Participant Media
Friday, June 14, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
Saturday, June 15, 9:00 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
AN UNREAL DREAM: THE MICHAEL MORTON STORY (New York premiere + panel with filmmaker, subject Michael Morton, and special guests to follow)
In 1986, Michael Morton’s wife Christine was brutally murdered in front of their only child, and Michael was convicted of the crime. Locked away in Texas prisons for a quarter century, he had years to ponder questions of justice and innocence, truth and fate. Though he was virtually invisible to society, a team of dedicated attorneys spent years fighting for the right to test DNA evidence found at the murder scene. Their discoveries ultimately reveal that the price of a wrongful conviction goes well beyond one man’s loss of freedom.
Sunday, June 16, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
Tuesday, June 18, 8:45 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center
DEEPSOUTH (New York premiere + Q&A with filmmaker and film subjects)
deepsouth explores the rural American South and the people who inhabit its most distant corners. Beneath layers of history, poverty, and now soaring HIV infections, four Americans redefine traditional Southern values to create their own solutions to survive. Josh, a college student, seeks the support of an underground gay family miles from his suffocating Mississippi Delta hometown. With no funds and few resources, Monica and Tammy tirelessly try to unite reluctant participants at their annual HIV retreat in rural Louisiana. Kathie, an Alabama activist, spends 120 days every year on the road fighting a bureaucracy that continues to ignore the South. Each of these stories shares a particular perspective on life with HIV in a region of the United States often ignored by politicians and the public—a point of view that turns out to be both educational and inspirational.
Saturday, June 15, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
Monday, June 17, 7:00 pm, IFC Center
Photography by Brent Stirton
DOWRY: CHILD AND FORCED MARRIAGE IN SOUTH SUDAN
Reportage by Getty Images for Human Rights Watch
June 13-23, 2013 at the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery, Walter Reade Theater
A young, unmarried girl stands amid a herd of cattle outside Bor, the capital of Jonglei State. Cattle carry significant social, economic, and cultural importance for South Sudan’s pastoralist ethnic groups, which use cows for the payment of dowry – a key driver of child marriage. © 2013 Brent Stirton/Reportage by Getty Images for Human Rights Watch
South Sudan is a “hot spot” for child marriage in Africa where nearly half of all girls between the ages of 15 and 19 are married. Dowry payment is a key driver of child marriage with the groom’s family typically paying dowry of cows, cash, and other gifts to the bride’s kin. Marriages are arranged without the girls’ consent and girls who try to resist may face violent attacks by their own families.
The impact of child marriage on girls’ lives is devastating. Child marriage disrupts or ends a girl’s education, increases her risk of violence and abuse, and jeopardizes her health. Child brides are at a higher risk of life-threatening complications during pregnancy and childbirth, contributing to South Sudan’s high maternal mortality rate, one of the highest in the world. Girls who try to resist marriage or leave abusive ones often face huge obstacles in accessing help or justice.
Globally, the numbers of girls subjected to child marriage is staggering. The United Nations estimates that, in 2010, more than 67 million women between the ages of 20 to 24 were married before age 18. Over the next decade, more than 14 million girls under 18 are projected to marry every year.
Brent Stirton, senior staff photographer for Reportage by Getty Images, specializes in documentary work and is published by international titles and news organizations including: National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times, The London Sunday Times Magazine, Geo, The Discovery Channel, Smithsonian Magazine and CNN. Brent has received awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Frontline Club, the Deadline Club, Days Japan, The Pictures of the Year competition, China International Photo Awards, the Lead Awards Germany, Graphis USA, American Photography, American Photo, and the American Society of Publication Designers, as well as the London Association of Photographers.