Human Rights Is the Watchword


Jeremy Teicher’s Tall As the Baobab Tree

Film Society of Lincoln Center is honored to announce the lineup for the 24th Human Rights Watch Film Festival, which will run June 13 – 23. HRWFF will bring 20 eye-opening films, including 15 New York Premieres, to Film Society and the IFC Center and, as always, most will be bolstered by fascinating Q&As and panel discussions.

Before the traditional Opening Night festivities, a special Benefit Night fundraiser for the Human Rights Watch organization will kick off the festival. The evening will honor Tim Hetherington, the Restrepo co-director, photojournalist and filmmaker who was killed covering the Libyan civil war in 2011. The Benefit Night features a screening of Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington, directed by Hetherington's close friend Sebastian Junger.

On June 14, Opening Night begins with Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Mock’s Anita, about Anita Hill and her testimony against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas for sexual harrassment. Mock won an Oscar for Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision (1994), and continues to unveil injustices against women through her work. Closing Night on June 23 features Jeremy Teicher’s award-winning drama Tall As the Baobab Tree, about two young sisters scheming to rescue the youngest from an arranged marriage in Senegal.


Anita Hill in Freida Mock’s Anita.

Through 18 documentaries and two narrative features, HRWFF shows us the lives of those on the margins and the injustices suffered by millions around the world. Each year, HRWFF focuses on specific themes to focus audiences' attention. This year's themes are: traditional values and human rights (women’s rights, disability rights, LGBT rights), crises and migration, Asia, and U.S. human rights.

"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, which is reflected in 11 films in the festival, 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."


Karima Zoubir’s Camera/Woman.

Traditional Values and Human Rights:

In addition to Anita and Tall As the Baobab Tree, women’s rights issues can be seen in Kim Longinotto’s Salma, the story of a South Indian Muslim woman who was held in confinement for 25 years and became the most famous female poet in the Tamil language. Rafea: Solar Mama, directed by Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief, profiles a Jordanian Bedouin woman fighting for her right to education. The life of a wedding filmmaker in Morocco comes to life in Karima Zoubir’s Camera/Woman. Sundance and SXSW alum Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, directed by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin, focuses on the news-making imprisonment of the titular Russian all-female punk band/activist group.

Three films stand out addressing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights: Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann’s Born This Way, focusing on four gay and lesbian young people in Cameroon; Yoruba Richen’s The New Black, exploring the controversial histories of African-American and LGBT civil rights; and Srdjan Dragojevic’s dark comedy The Parade, about activists' attempts to pull-off a gay pride parade in Belgrade.

Harry Freeland’s In the Shadow of the Sun rounds out the traditional values and human rights category with with its documentation of the lives of two albino men in Tanzania, who survive being killed at birth or banished as outcasts, but face fears and prejudices on a daily basis.


Raoul Peck's Fatal Assistance.

Crisis and Migration:

Director and Haiti’s former minister of culture, Raoul Peck’s Fatal Assistance is this year’s festival Centerpiece film, focusing on Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and the unsolvable human rights assistance that continues to negatively affect the country. Also in this section are Nagieb Khaja’s My Afghanistan—Life in the Forbidden Zone, about Afghans in war-torn areas, and Marco Williams’ The Undocumented, about Mexican migrants crossing Arizona’s Sonora Desert to "freedom."

Asia:

Although seemingly broad in its focus on the continent of Asia, these HRWFF docs hit hot spots of injustice. Coming back to the Film Society after its New York Premiere at New Directors/New Films, Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing can do no wrong... well, at least for viewers held in awe of the joy the unrepentant members of Indonesia’s death squads get out of reenacting some of their most horrendous crimes. The second Asian film, Camp 14—Total Control Zone, from German director Marc Wiese, chronicles the life and time of Shin Dong-Huyk, who spent two years in a North Korean labor camp.

United States:

Lastly, the theme of human rights in the United States hits close to home, specifically for New Yorkers in 99%—The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film, about what exactly happened in the 2011 movement and where it’s going. Al Reinert’s An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story tells the tragically common story of a man who was wrongfully convicted of murder and served out 25 years of his sentence before being exonerated. And don’t miss Lisa Biagiotti’s deepsouth, documenting the rise of HIV in rural southern states.


Dowry: Child and Forced Marriage in South Sudan. Photo: Brent Stirton

As always, the festival will also present a photo exhibit in the Furman Gallery of the Walter Reade Theater. This years show is Dowry: Child and Forced Marriage in South Sudan, featuring powerful images of child brides by Getty photographer Brent Stirton. The exhibit is free and open to the public throughout the festival.

For more information on the 24th Human Rights Watch Film Festival check out the festival program (PDF).

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