Human Rights Watch film festival started in New York

June 19, 2012

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‘Words of Witness’

The 2012 Human Rights Watch Film Festival (HRWFF) opened on June 14, and runs for two weeks at New York City’s Walter Reade Theater, screening 16 films set in 14 countries. Among the strong slate of documentary features are Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (IFC Films), about the eponymous Chinese dissident and conceptual artist, and Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s Call Me Kuchu, a portrait of Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato, who was murdered in 2011.

Women and girls take center stage in several documentaries, among them David Fine’s Salaam Dunk, a delightful season spent with the first women’s college basketball team in Iraq, and Little Heaven, about a young woman in an Ethiopian orphanage for children with AIDS. In Mai Iskander’s Words of Witness, we meet a female journalist on her first assignment in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Narrative features include Maggie Peren’s Color of the Ocean, a moving story of a German tourist unable to turn away from illegal immigrants she encounters on the beach, and Kim Nguyen’s War Witch (Tribeca Films), which chronicles the life of a female child soldier in the Congo. The latter screened at HRWFF’s opening-night benefit. Susan Youssef’s Habibi, a love story set in Palestine, made its New York premiere the first weekend of the festival.

HRWFF has been showcasing the work of human-rights filmmakers for 23 years, each year awarding one the Nestor Almendros Prize, named for the late filmmaker-cinematographer who was a festival founder. The winning documentary at HRWFF 2012 is Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War, an emotionally charged look at rape in the U.S. military. The United States is also the focus of Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke’s Escape Fire (Roadside Attractions), in which doctors, insurance executives and patients discuss the failures of our healthcare system.

While HRWFF often features advocacy documentaries, this year it screens several documentary films that are distinguished by their investigative approach and objectivity, compelling viewers to assess their shared responsibility for safeguarding human rights. See the full article below by Maria Garcia below for interviews with five of these filmmaker-journalists

Cinema for change: Human Rights Watch Fest sheds light on injustices.

2 Responses to “Human Rights Watch film festival started in New York”


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