Archive for the 'films' Category

Profile interview with Ahmer Khan, a journalist from J&K with a mission

November 4, 2020

On 18 October 2020 the Week published an interesting interview with Ahmer Khan, an award winning multimedia journalist under the title: “Covering other humanitarian stories helped me process the trauma of J&K, my homeland’’

ahmer-khan Ahmer Khan, multimedia journalist from Kashmir

Ahmer Khan is an award-winning, multimedia journalist from Kashmir. He was nominated for the Emmys 2020 for the Vice News film, India Burning, which focused on the plight of the 200 million Muslims in the country after the rise of Hindu nationalism. Khan is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Lorenzo Natali Media Prize by European Commission 2018, AFP Kate Webb Prize 2019, and the Human Rights Press Award 2020. He is also among the finalists for the Rory Peck Award 2020. He has contributed to major international publications such as The New York Times, The Guardian, TIME, Al-Jazeera, Radio France International,, The Christian Science Monitor and Vice News, among others. Khan talks to THE WEEK about his career and what it is to be a journalist in Kashmir.

Edited excerpts:

Was it the camera or telling stories through visuals that you were attracted to? 

Well, it was a little bit of both. Kashmir and photography are directly proportional to each other. First, I used to click pictures with a Sony Ericson handset. But I always knew what I was going to do in future. So I studied journalism and worked simultaneously.   

What exactly did your work consist of in ‘India Burning’? 

..I was a local producer of the film and I shot some parts of the film as well. My responsibility was to take care of everything in Assam. From set-up to the execution.

Is there a reason why you work with international media rather than the national media?  

Yes, of course. I have never worked with any Indian organisation purposely. I did not want my stories to get distorted and manipulated the way editors of most of the Indian organisations do. I am grateful that I have found work elsewhere because there is too much saturation and it is hard for stories to get accepted anywhere now.  

How did you establish your name in the industry? 

I think I chose to report outside Kashmir from the beginning. I didn’t restrict myself to Kashmir or even India. I have reported from Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. That is something not everyone does.  

Has living amidst the conflict in Kashmir, in any way, affected you as a person and as a journalist?

Our home is a dystopian state. We all have had encounters affecting our lives forever. My father passed away when I was 10 years old. I think every job/assignment in Kashmir is scary. The fear of uncertainty is always there. 

You deal with more humanitarian stories, you are always in the middle of conflict and turbulence, you report on natural disasters and political disruptions. What is it that drives you to this beat? 

It all comes from the basic human tendency of wanting to explore more of what you have grown up seeing. I grew up in the ’90s in Kashmir when the turmoil was at its peak and then I witnessed the uprising from 2008, 2010 and the following years. I, like any other Kashmiri, witnessed young Kashmiris being killed, tortured and extreme human rights violations on the streets. It is too much to handle and process, but when one looks at the other side of the world, we see pain everywhere and start being grateful for what we have. I think for me, covering other humanitarian stories helped me process the daily trauma of my own homeland.  

How is covering stories in Kashmir different from other places in India?

In Kashmir, everything is way too personal. At times, we have to cover the stories while looking at the dead bodies of our own people. It is hard to keep aside your human side. But covering other human rights stories elsewhere and in mainland India, including Assam and Delhi has surely strengthened me more. Although, in Kashmir, it is getting extremely difficult to work freely as days pass. There is a constant fear of being muzzled for telling the truth. And, I think it’s happening across the South Asian countries.

You deal with a lot of life-threatening situations, you have also been harassed by the authorities. How does that make you feel? 

Most people in the media in Kashmir have faced harassment and intimidation by the state. We have recently seen journalists being booked in stringent terror laws. We are living through one of the most dangerous periods of all times for the Kashmiri press to work. It is natural to feel worried. There is a continuous fear of life for all of us. .. 

You identify yourself as a multimedia journalist. How is covering a story through writing, photography and videography different? 

I am quintessentially a photographer and videographer. I started writing because I know the media nowadays is shrinking into one multimedia space. One skill isn’t enough. So the work adds. When you go to cover the story, you have to shoot, take quotes, video interviews and also make sure that you have got all aspects of the story in terms of text, video and photos. It is hard work but satisfactory in many ways. I also do radio stories. In fact, my Lorenzo Natali Media award was for my first radio story for Radio France International. Being a freelance journalist, you have to keep up with the demands of editors as there is a lot of uncertainty. 

What do you have to say about the mainstream journalism that is turning blasphemous? 

What they are doing is not journalism. It is dangerous and authoritarian. If a journalist does not report about the oppressed, undermined or underprivileged, he or she is just doing PR. …

https://www.theweek.in/leisure/society/2020/10/18/covering-other-humanitarian-stories-helped-me-process-the-trauma-of-jandk-my-homeland.html

Kenyan documentary Softie shows defenders torn between family and the struggle

October 22, 2020

Katharine Houreld writes for Reuters on 21 October 2020 a very interesting piece about a documentary that puts the focus on the difficult dilemmas facing human rights defenders.

Njeri and Boniface Mwangi are activists – they protest together and are arrested together – but as the film progresses, the focus moves from whether their crusade will succeed to whether their family will implode.

Families of human rights defenders or activists … I want people to know we exist,” Njeri, a movie buff and avid motorcyclist, told Reuters at the film’s Kenya premiere this week. “Our children really struggle.”

Softie – an award-winner at the Sundance and Durban film festivals – shows the evolution of Boniface from an activist outraged by the 2007-8 election violence into a political candidate promising his new Ukweli party will change the system from within, a decade later.

His family grapple with his absence, a house permanently full of people, and death threats targeting their three young children. Njeri, fearing for their lives, eventually takes the kids to the Unites States in 2016.

In one tense on-camera exchange before his family leaves, Boniface pleads with his wife: “you need to have an ideal that you live for, that’s worth dying for.” “You think it will be better if you die?” Njeri replies sadly.

A later scene lays out the stakes. The couple’s eldest son Nate returns from his American school with something he has made for father’s day: a loving card for his mother. When filmmaker Sam Soko asks from behind the camera why there’s no message for his father, Nate shrugs.

Moments like that forced a reckoning, said Boniface, who appeared with his family at the premiere, all in matching purple outfits. Now he’s building his party, taking a rest from protests and spending time making meals for his family. He’s finally realised he can’t – and shouldn’t – try to change everything himself.

Change is not an event… it’s not a popcorn that pops in a microwave,” he told Reuters. “It’s a very slow painful marathon – and then the marathon doesn’t end.”

The film started out as a five-minute Youtube clip about organising a protest, said Soko, who is an activist himself. It sprawled into a seven year project, now streaming on PBS in the United States and Britain’s BBC.

It’s essentially still an activist manual,” he said. “But a different kind of manual … (about) what it means to love.”

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-kenya-film/kenyan-documentary-spotlights-activist-torn-between-family-and-the-struggle-idUSKBN2761FY

Tonight screening of “Boys State” by RFK Rights

October 6, 2020

Tonight 5 October 2020 you can participate in the virtual private screening of Boys State, which won this year’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize for documentary. This engaging film tells the story of 1,100 boys who come together to build a representative government from the ground up, and in the process examines our divided country and the health of the American democracy. Rolling Stone calls it “both sweeping and intimate” and “exhilarating.”   The screening will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers and two of the film’s subjects, moderated by Kerry Kennedy.

Tonight at 7 p.m. EDT.    To RSVP to the event: email BoysStateRFK@a24films.com.   

https://mailchi.mp/rfkhumanrights/d7az6w232t-855714?e=99673fdc45

hajooj kuka: another case for the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR)

September 20, 2020

He, along with four other artists (Duaa Tarig Mohamed Ahmed, Abdel Rahman Mohamed Hamdan, Ayman Khalaf Allah Mohamed Ahmed, and Ahmed Elsadig Ahmed Hammad), have been jailed for two months in Khartoum following an attack on the Civic Lab, where they were creating  art for community engagement.

hajooj kuka is an exceptional filmmaker and TIFF has been proud to present his work,” said Vicente and Bailey. “His films Beats of the Antonov and aKasha revealed a singular view of life in Sudan through the eyes of a remarkable artist. hajooj, along with four other artists, is now in prison in Sudan and we need to bring attention to this urgent and troubling situation. When an artist is silenced, society as a whole suffers.

According to the Sudanese organization Gisa, where kuka is co-director: “The case, which was policed, prosecuted, and judged by al-Bashir era authorities, points to a dangerous backsliding in Sudan as oppressive laws put in place by the former regime continue to stifle free expression and target artists and human rights defenders.”

In an effort to increase awareness of kuka’s imprisonment and to demonstrate the value of artistic and political expression, both Beats of the Antonov and aKasha will be available to rent for free for a few days. TIFF also encouraged audiences to contact the Sudanese Embassy in their country and follow #ReleaseTheArtistsSudan on social media to learn more about this issue.

Two of kuka’s films, Beats of the Antonov (2014) and aKasha (2018), have premiered at TIFF, with the former winning the TIFF People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary.

See also: https://www.dabangasudan.org/en/all-news/article/artists-sentenced-to-two-months-imprisonment-in-sudan

​International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk Launched Officially

September 8, 2020

On September 7, 2020 IDFA (International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) announced that an ​International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk has been launched officially in Venice.

To activate the film community’s collective response to cases of filmmakers facing severe risk, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, International Film Festival Rotterdam and the European Film Academy have joined forces in establishing the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk.

With civil society in danger around the world, filmmakers are increasingly struggling to make their voices heard. Over the past few years, the world has seen a growing number of filmmakers being threatened, arrested, imprisoned and even killed in an attempt to silence them.

In these critical situations, the international film community could make a difference in supporting campaigns for the freedom of these filmmakers or pressuring authorities for their release. As the response of the film community has so far been deeply fragmentized, more co-ordinated action is needed.

On the side of the Venice Film Festival, “Join the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR)” saw Marion Döring (Director, European Film Academy), Mike Downey, (Chairman, European Film Academy), Vanja Kaludjercic (Festival Director, International Film Festival Rotterdam), Orwa Nyrabia (Artistic Director, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) and Marjan van der Haar (Managing Director, International Film Festival Rotterdam) unite at the festival’s Spazio Incontri. To the invited festival attendees—film professionals and journalists—they explained the ICFR’s idea and activities:

The mission of the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk is to advocate for and to act in solidarity with filmmakers at risk. The Coalition will respond to cases of persecution or threats to the personal safety of these filmmakers and will defend their right to continue their work, by mobilizing the international film community.

Activities will include:

  • Advocacy
  • Accessing the support system
  • Monitoring and observatory.

That there is scope may be clear from the following examples:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/26/sad-story-continues-saba-sahar-afghanistans-first-female-film-director-shot/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/07/update-to-monas-campaign-for-her-sister/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/02/filmmaker-and-human-rights-defender-shady-habash-dies-in-egyptian-pre-trial-detention/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/04/500-signatories-demand-release-of-indian-filmmaker-sarangi/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/06/26/human-rights-film-makers-kidnapped-in-sulu-philippines/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/06/20/more-known-about-hrd-du-bin-in-detention-in-china-thanks-to-hu-jia/

https://www.idfa.nl/en/article/135007/international-coalition-for-filmmakers-at-risk-launched-officially-in-venice?utm_source=IDFA+Newsletters&utm_campaign=6cdd331ab2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_09_08_08_07&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_32b31333b2-6cdd331ab2-70115329

Bill Browder speaks about “his’ Global Magnitsky Act

August 29, 2020

The Human Rights Foundation published on 27 August this interview with Bill Browder in which international legal associate Michelle Gulino speaks with Browder about just how and why he’s become a thorn in Putin’s side, what makes the Kremlin such a threat to democracy and why Magnitsky legislation is so critical to address this threat, and finally, Sergei’s legacy and his message of resilience.On November 16, 2009, Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer of global financier Bill Browder, was murdered for uncovering a $230 million corruption scheme by officials within Russia’s Interior Ministry. Bill became a thorn in Putin’s side after he began a campaign to seek justice for Sergei through the Global Magnitsky Act, which implements visa bans and asset freezes against serious human rights abusers and corrupt officials.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/08/29/european-court-rules-on-sergei-magnitskys-death/ and

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/05/08/the-case-for-smart-sanctions-against-individual-perpetrators/

 

Shirin Ebadi biopic: Until We Are Free

August 27, 2020

Harris says, “It’s been an honor to work with many remarkable Nobel Peace Laureates, including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Shirin Ebadi, as part of the PeaceJam Nobel Legacy film series and to lend my voice to Shirin’s story of fighting for women and children to be treated with basic human dignities.”

https://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/20/08/p17263858/award-winning-producer-and-voiceover-actor-laurel-harris-narrates-shirin-ebadi-until-we-are-free-w

Iranian woman wins top award with religious freedom animation

August 26, 2020

An Iranian-born animator has won a top prize for her film about the importance of freedom of religion. Maral Karaee’s “District 18” tells the story of a little girl who lives in a world where people, animals of object of different colours – red, blue, green and yellow – are not allowed to mix. It won the Grand Prize in the Animation category in the Short Film Competition at the Empower Women Media and the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation. When the girl accidentally breaks the rules, she is fired from her job and made an outcast.

https://www.keepthefaith.co.uk/2020/08/25/iranian-christian-wins-top-award-for-religious-freedom-animation/

Second issue of Cypher Comics is out

August 25, 2020

In July 2020, Front Line Defenders launched Cypher (@cypher_comics on Instagram), a digital comics magazine that advances the organization’s storytelling and narrative framing work in collaboration with and in support of HRDs. Working with artists from around the world, including the award-winning visual storyteller, Beldan Sezen, as creative director, the ’zine is a monthly publication featuring stories of HRDs, their work and the challenges they face. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/07/23/new-cypher-comics-for-human-rights-defenders/]

If you are interested in an annual subscription to receive printed editions of Cypher, please email campaigns@frontlinedefenders.org, with ‘Subscription’ in the subject line, and you will be sent more information about options.

Cypher 02 (published on 18 July 2020) features an audio interview with Palestinian HRD and artist Hafez Omar – listen to the interview by clicking on the ‘Hafez Talks’ buttons when viewing the comcis in the ‘zine viewer below (the PDF file does not support the audio files).

Download Cypher Edition 02 PDF (no audio)

Human rights defender’s story: Maryam Al-Khawaja from Bahrain

August 3, 2020

On 17 July 2020 ISHR published this video of Maryam Al-Khawaja, who is a human rights defender from Bahrain/Denmark. She is the Vice-Chair of the Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights, a board member at ISHR, and a board member at CIVICUS.

see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/maryam-al-khawaja/

https://www.ishr.ch/news/human-rights-defenders-story-maryam-al-khawaja-bahrain