Human Rights Watch Film Festival

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Featuring filmmakers in attendance for all films!

Life Above All

The 22nd annual edition of the festival returns with stories of resilience from across the globe about the universal issues that grip our time. Human Rights Watch—one of the world’s leading independent human rights organizations—invites you to engage with these compelling films that are spurring vital dialogue. One of the most striking themes in this year’s selection is the power of media in all its forms to influence the craft of filmmaking and to impact human rights. Many titles are making their exclusive New York or U.S. debuts.

The festival will launch on June 16 with a fundraising Benefit Night for Human Rights Watch, featuring the Bosnia-set political thriller The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz. More information about the film and the benefit is available on

The main program will begin on June 17, with the Opening Night presentation of Granito: How to Nail a Dictator, the latest documentary from Pamela Yates, here with her sixth film in the festival. Another highlight is the Festival Centerpiece on June 25, Sing Your Song, an inspiring portrait of Harry Belafonte, with the legendary entertainer and activist present to discuss the film. On June 26 the festival will feature a special program, No Boundaries: Tim Hetherington, a tribute to the visionary work of the late photographer, filmmaker and journalist. The Closing Night screening on June 30 will be Life, Above All, a moving coming-of-age drama set in a South African township ravaged by HIV/AIDS.

Browse the line-up films by topic here >>

Photo from Life, Above All

We Card: Presentation of valid ID required to be served alcoholic beverages at the reception.

Past Films

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Alison Klayman | 2012 | 91 mins

Opening Night Film & Reception!

Filmmaker Alison Klayman in person!

An unprecedented look at Ai Weiwei and those close to him, capturing the controversial artist’s forthrightness and unequivocal stance against China’s various forms of oppression. New York Premiere! New York premiere followed by Opening Night reception.

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Susan Youssef | 2011 | 78 mins

Filmmaker Susan Youssef in person at all three screenings!

Two students from Gaza struggle to maintain their relationship in the face of class differences and parental disapproval in this lyrical and passionate romantic drama.

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Salaam Dunk

Salaam Dunk

David Fine | 2011 | 82 mins

Filmmaker David Fine in person at June 16 & 17 screenings!

With plenty of pop music and “girl power,” Salaam Dunk delivers a tale of hope and inspiration, courtesy of a winning group of Iraqi women basketball players at the American University in Sulaimani, Iraq.

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Special Flight

Special Flight

Ferdinand Melgar | 2011 | 100 mins

Filmmaker Ferdinand Melgar in person at June 16 & 17 screenings!

An intimate and emotionally charged portrait of the rejected asylum seekers and illegal migrants in Switzerland’s Frambois detention centre, awaiting their return to their countries of origin.

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