Archive for the 'films' Category

‘Just Mercy’ – starring Michael B. Jordan as human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson – goes into premiere

December 26, 2019

in Heavy.com of 25he film Just Mercy – starring Michael B. Jordan as lawyer Bryan Stevenson – will be released nation-wide as from 10 January 2020.  The movie is based on Stevenson’s best-selling memoir, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. [See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/20/equal-justice-initiative-founder-bryan-stevenson-winner-of-2019-thomas-dodd-prize/]

It tells the story of how the Harvard law graduated moved to Alabama in order to help inmates who were wrongly condemned as death row prisoners. The main court case in the film focuses on one of Stevenson’s first clients, Walter McMillian, aka “Johnny D.” who’s played by Jamie Foxx in the movie, a 41-year-old tree-trimmer who was charged for the 1986 murder of Ronda Morrison, a local white teenager.Stevenson’s story is lesson in justice, persistence, and pushing to do what’s lawfully right. McMillian was released from prison after seven years on death row, he passed away from early on-set Alzheimer’s in 2013. However, Stevenson is still very much alive, and still working as attorney for the Equal Justice Initiative, which he founded in 1989. As described on their official website, “EJI is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the U.S., challenging racial and economic injustice, and protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.” Stevenson, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday, has helped release 135 wrongly accused prisoners sentenced to death.

We don’t see those kinds of stories very often and I think that’s created a void in our consciousness about what’s happening,” Stevenson told Delaware Online. “We have the highest rate of incarceration in the world and most people in this country have no knowledge of that. That lack of knowledge and that lack of compassion is what’s made us so vulnerable to the abuse that is on display in this story.

Over his career, Stevenson has earned 40 doctoral degrees, including those from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, and University of Pennsylvania. He’s also won a long list of awards, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Prize, the ABA medal, which is the American Bar Association’s highest honor, and the National Medal of Liberty from the American Civil Liberties Union. As a professor, he’s racked up even more hardware. In 2003, the SALT Human Rights Award was presented to Mr. Stevenson by the Society of American Law Teachers. In 2004, he received the Award for Courageous Advocacy from the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Lawyer for the People Award from the National Lawyers Guild. In 2006, New York University presented Mr. Stevenson with its Distinguished Teaching Award.

https://www.justmercyfilm.com/https://www.facebook.com/JustMercyFilm/

The Real-Life Bryan Stevenson Now: Where Is He Today?

 

 

PBI’s ‘Right to Defend’ – a new multi-media awareness campaign

December 26, 2019

Putting Human Rights Defenders at the Centre

Throughout 2018, PBI ran a global campaign championing defenders for the Nobel Prize. The nomination was supported by over 4000 people and 200 organisations worldwide [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/05/further-plea-to-nobel-foundation-to-recognize-the-hrds-of-the-world/]. Then, it launched the campaign ‘Shoulder to Shoulder with Human Rights Defenders’, to mark the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Now, it wants to go further to raise the profile of human rights defenders working in some of the most dangerous environments in the world. PBI UK are working closely with the filmmaker and photographer Manu Valcarce on ‘Right to Defend’, a multi-media, multi-platform communications and awareness campaign, celebrating those making universal human rights a reality. Their stories set an example of solidarity and humanity that needs to be heard: stories of extraordinary human rights defenders taking a stand against injustice: community leaders fighting to protect collective land rights against mining companies; women struggling for gender equality; human rights lawyers risking their own safety to defend the rights of activists.

PBI UK are working on a unique 60-minute documentary film, online platform, photographic exhibition, and social media campaign presenting the work of around 100 at-risk grassroots human rights defenders in Latin America, Africa and Asia on the frontline of the global fight for universal human rights. The first piece of the project was released on the 10th of December: Human Rights Day:

So far, approximately 100 stories of human rights defenders have been recorded across four countries (Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Nepal) alongside photographic material. You will be able to see the film at festivals in 2020, and the portraits will be debuted at an exhibition held at The Law Society in London, before touring worldwide. The online platform will enable PBI to further its impact as a global entity across 21 countries for campaigning, advocacy and awareness-raising to enhance the protection of human rights defenders.

https://peacebrigades.org.uk/news/2019-12-02/putting-hrds-centre

“The Animal People”, how terrorism charges were laid against animal rights activists

December 16, 2019

In the Intercept of 12 December 2019, use the release of the new documentary film “The Animal People” – which is available on demand as of this week  – to focus on the story of Harper and his co-defendants, all of whom were convicted under spurious charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism — though none of whom were found to have participated directly in any illegal acts. These were activists who attended raucous but legal protests, shared publicly available information about corporations on their website, and celebrated and supported militant actions taken in the name of the SHAC campaign. That is, they were convicted as terrorists for speech activity. It sounds eerily like the criminalisation fo human rights defenders today:

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Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty protesters. Still: Courtesy of Virgil Films

The SHAC 7 case is a lesson in how legal instruments can be deployed to shut down dissent. At a time of renewed criminalization of protest activity nationwide, the so-called green scare stands as a worrying benchmark for the repression of political speech and the re-coding of protesters as criminals and terrorists. The capricious application of conspiracy charges — which we have seen recently deployed against protesters from Black Lives Matter advocates to Standing Rock water protectors — was mastered in the SHAC 7 prosecution. But “The Animal People” doesn’t only emphasize the excesses of the corporate-state power nexus; it recalls the passionate moral commitments of the SHAC members, and reminds us of a potent protest strategy and set of tactics, which I for one would happily see deployed again.

 

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The first half of the film traces the rise of what seemed, at certain times, to be an “unstoppable” movement. What began as a series of protests in the U.K. soon spread to the U.S., as activists in cities across the country took it upon themselves to confront Huntingdon-affiliated companies and shareholders. Some of the most committed organizers spent hours on complicated research into Huntingdon’s financial infrastructure, following the money to find any and every chokepoint on which to put pressure: be it the major banks and insurance firms propping up the company, or even the janitorial services contracted by a given Huntingdon lab. The information about potential targets was then shared on the SHAC website for activists to use as they saw fit.

……

SHAC tactics were, as any radical political experiment necessarily is, imperfect. Under the campaign’s banner, some activists exposed the names of children of targeted executives —  an outlier action, to be sure, but one that visibly still haunts a number of the SHAC defendants in the documentary. The prosecution also made much of the publication on the SHAC website of such information, even though the defendants had no direct involvement. (In the only incident of human harm associated with the movement to shut Huntingdon down, U.K. activists at one point assaulted CEO Brian Cass.)

Skepticism also hovers around the decision to focus wholly on closing Huntingdon, given the prevalence of abusive animal testing. The idea had only been to start with the company, which had already come under public scorn following the release undercover video footage of animal abuse in their labs (parts of which are replayed in “The Animal People”). The activists had planned to win against HLS and expand from there; the biochemical and pharmaceutical industry, with the weight of the federal government behind them, ensured otherwise. Huntingdon has since changed its name to the banal and faux-Latinate “Envigo.”

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“The Animal People,” along with most every decent retelling of the SHAC 7 case, makes clear that the six individuals indicted on terror charges were fall guys in the government’s scrambling attempt to put a stop to a movement, which was, against all odds, bringing major corporations to heel. “Corporations get to do what they want — that’s a rule in our society,” Lauren Gazzola, a former SHAC 7 defendant with a robust knowledge of constitutional law, tells the filmmakers. “We challenged the right of this corporation to exist.”

The story of who gets to be a labeled a “terrorist” in this country reflects the ideological underpinnings behind government policy and law. Under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, expanded in 2006 into the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, a terrorist is someone who intentionally damages or causes the loss of property — including freeing animals — used by the animal enterprise, or conspires to do so. It is an obscene state sanctification of corporate private property over life.

…..

As I have written, the current pattern in law enforcement of labeling protests as “riots,” invoking slippery statutes of collective liability, and attempting to justify harsher crackdowns are all troubling for the same reason……

“The animal rights movement has really been the canary in the coal mine when it comes to modern government repression of activist campaigns,” the film’s co-director Denis Henry Hennelly told me by email. The sentiment was echoed by Potter, the journalist. “This is the new playbook for the criminalization of dissent,” he told me. “I’ve already seen it applied to other social movements, both here in the U.S. and internationally. In the years since the trial, though, it has only become more prescient.”

For viewers with little to no knowledge of this history of animal liberation struggle and its repression, “The Animal People” offers a compelling primer, organized through archival protest footage, old home videos of some of the SHAC 7 defendants, interviews with legal experts and investigative journalists, one smug businessman who was targeted by a SHAC campaign, and more recent interviews with the former defendants. As with any 90-minute film, the story the directors, Suchan and Hennelly, chose to tell is only one slice of an international and dispersed movement’s history. But for a documentary with some Hollywood backing — animal lover Joaquin Phoenix is an executive producer — “The Animal People” stands uncomplicatedly on the side of the SHAC defendants and doesn’t dampen their anti-capitalist message.

For Stepanian, this element of animal liberation and the necessary connection with anti-capitalist environmental activism can’t be forgotten. “In terms of the direct-action animal liberation movement today, it’s largely impotent compared to the time period of the SHAC campaign, because most messaging falls squarely in what is safe within the framework of capitalism: Much of the activity revolves around better consumer choices,” Stepanian told me. “I’d like to see another campaign with a lens critical of capitalism, which understands that it is this socioeconomic system which rewards the worst practices when it comes to the treatment of animals as resources, and rewards rapacious attitudes towards the environment.”

The film closes with a montage of uprisings, from students in Hong Kong, to the gilets jaunes in France, to Black Lives Matter activists in the U.S., and marchers for liberation in Palestine. It’s a minimal gesture toward intersectionality in a film that underplays the aspects of SHAC that were dedicated to shared struggle. “It’s not OK to be singular in your solidarity; justice and liberation for all life is paramount,” Stepanian told me, recalling how, prior to his indictment, he went on two organizing road trips with former Black Liberation Army member Ashanti Alston. “We are all intersectional activists,” he said of his former co-defendants.

Jake Conroy of the SHAC 7, who joined one of the road trips, comments near the film’s end: “It’s not just about earth liberation, it’s not just about human liberation, and it’s not just about animal liberation. It’s about collective liberation.”

https://theintercept.com/2019/12/12/animal-people-documentary-shac-protest-terrorism/

Carter Centre: Human Rights Defenders speak out

December 10, 2019

At the occasion of international human rights day 2019, the Carter Center published “Human Rights Defenders: In Their Own Words“, a selection of participants at the 12th Human Rights Defenders Forum in Atlanta [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/22/carter-centre-wants-to-preserve-the-stories-of-human-rights-defenders/]:

  • “The right to defend human rights is a right already recognized. We have to be mindful and careful and state clearly that no one should be defamed, persecuted, prosecuted, or killed because they exercise their right to defend rights, regardless of their political position.”
    CLAUDIA SAMAYOA
    Unidad de Protección a Defensoras y Defensores de Derechos Humanos
    Guatemala
    and
    ALEJANDRA SERRANO PAVÓN
    Environmental Law Alliance
    Mexico

  • “We believe that if people understand the concept of human rights and are able to apply it to their lives, then there will be more peaceful coexistence. Then government can cut down on the bills for buying arms and ammunitions. Then development can take place because everybody’s living peacefully and they’re able to go about their normal businesses fully.”
    HALIMAT JIBRIL
    Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations in Nigeria (FOMWAN)
    Nigeria

  • “We have seen the rise of many youth-led movements around the world, and these young protesters are speaking out and standing up not just on the issue of environmental crisis, but also on land rights, on democracy. All of them are using the internet as a tool not just for communication but also for organizing and mobilizing these campaigns.  One concrete way we can support youth-led movements is to make sure that these internet tools remain accessible, safe, and truly empowering.”
    RAYMOND “MONG” PALATINO
    Global Voices
    The Philippines

  • “The Palestinian people, just like all people around the world, are seeking the preservation of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And when that is undermined in one part of the world, it is undermined everywhere. I feel like the Palestinian situation is just a microcosm of global injustice. If we can solve one, we can solve the other. But big problems require collective minds.”
    WESAM AHMAD
    Al-Haq
    Palestine

  • “Every time that we’ve had significant change in our country, religion has been at the heart of it. It’s been part of what motivates people. It speaks to our values. To neglect religion in thinking about human rights would be to neglect a huge part of the resources that we have in taking on the injustices we face.”
    COLLEEN WESSEL-MCCOY
    Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice
    United States

  • “Solidarity is not about ‘me’; it’s about ‘we.’ It’s about just being there – not being ahead of somebody or behind somebody, but standing with them.”
    STACEY HOPKINS
    Activist
    United States

  • “The relationship we build between people is the greatest wealth we can have. It is beyond money. It goes beyond what you have in your bank account. When you have a good relationship with the people – your friends, your family, your colleagues – that is a good foundation to build a country.”
    HALIDOU NGAPNA
    Carter Center Human Rights House
    Democratic Republic of Congo

  • “In 1996, we embedded human rights into our three-year program. Immediately, we started seeing change. It was like a revolution. Community members started coming out and promoting their own rights, started talking about their responsibilities. This was possible because we talked about all the aspects of human rights – economic rights, cultural rights, political rights, and civil rights. After people understood human rights, we started seeing changes in deeply rooted cultural practices, including female genital cutting and child marriage. They started having dialogues around gender-based violence against women and girls. Women started taking political positions, because they now understood they have the right to vote, and the right to be elected. Things started changing.”
    GODFREY OCHIENG OKUMU
    Tostan International
    Senegal

  • “If you’re not indifferent, the world will be different. Challenging our own indifferences is extremely important.”
    RAMESH SHARMA
    Ekta Parishad
    India

  • “In 2015, our lives began to change completely. We lost our jobs; we lost our homes; we lost our country; we lost our dignity. But we did not lose hope, and we will never lose hope.”
    MUNA LUQMAN
    Food4Humanity
    Yemen

  • “The motto of our organization is taken from John 17:21, which says, ‘That all of them may be one.’ If all should be one, there should be no violence, there should be no quarrel, there should be no killing. For all of us to be one, there must be love. There must be peace. There must be unity. And there must be togetherness.”
    VICTORIA BOLANLE IHESIULOR
    Christian Association of Nigeria, Women’s Wing
    Nigeria

    https://www.cartercenter.org/news/features/p/human_rights/hrdf-in-their-own-words.html

Oleg Sentsov received the Magnitsky Human Rights Award in person

November 18, 2019

On 14 November 2019 Ukraine’s film maker Oleg Sentsov received the Magnitsky Human Rights Award in person [for more this award: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/sergei-magnitsky-human-rights-awards]. The prize was awarded last October, but Sentsov was in jail in Russia. The award was presented in London by Meghan McCain, the daughter of 2008 presidential candidate and U.S. Senator John McCain. Her father was also posthumously given the award in 2018.

https://112.international/video/ukraines-oleg-sentsov-gets-magnitsky-human-rights-award-1332-1332.html

https://www.unian.info/society/10756338-sentsov-gets-magnitsky-human-rights-award-in-person-photo-video.html

Meet Marisa Hutchinson of the Association EQUALS in Barbados

November 10, 2019

On 22 October 2019 ISHR published this interview with Marisa Hutchinson, Board member of the Association EQUALS in Barbados

Kenya: human rights defenders active in outreach during October 2019

November 2, 2019

The Asma Jahangir legacy

October 22, 2019

Asma Jahangir is rightly considered one of the foremost human rights defenders of our time [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/11/asma-jahangir-one-of-the-worlds-most-outstanding-human-rights-defenders-dies-at-age-66/]. So, the two-day ‘Asma Jahangir Conference 2019Roadmap for Human Rights’ which concluded in Lahore, Pakistan on 20 October 2019 is fully justified. The News carries a long report on the meeting in which some 120 jurists, politicians, human rights defenders and media people acted as panellists from Pakistan, England, America, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Sweden and Afghanistan. Thousands of students, attended the sessions. They all resolved to carry forward the legacy of Asma Jahangir, who fought relentlessly against dictatorial forces and always sought due process of law, equality for women and protection of minorities in the country.

(Former) Politicians dominated the panels but other speakers at the sessions paid tribute to Asma Jahangir and appreciated her commitment to human rights with a resolve to uphold the rule of law and struggle for women’s rights. Munaza Hassan spoke of women’s right to inheritance. Daughter of Asma Jahangir and journalist Munizae Jahangir, who conducted the session, said: “It is a rare moment when all political parties are seen on the same platform.” She said that politicians conveniently forget to protect fundamental rights and right to expression when in they assume power. She said: “We are convinced that without freedom of the media, the rule of law and guarantees of security to human rights defenders, neither democracy nor justice, is possible. The main challenge to development of Pakistan and the rights of its citizens is a national security state. Until the national security is subservient, no other initiative in economy, health, education and rule of law can find success.

The day began with a short film on Asma Jahangir receiving the Right Livelihood Award, produced by True Heroes Films, where she spoke of growing expectations of citizens as far as what the governments should deliver. And governments falling ever further behind, internationally this gap of creative impulses of society on one side and governments dragging their feet on the other, has been the key engine of human rights challenges. Despite threats to her life, she spoke of never leaving Pakistan as it is a place where she has received most love and affection.

As a continuation of the discussion on ‘Art inspires politics’, Munizae Jahangir conducted a panel discussion on ‘How women can build bridges for peace in South Asia’. Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Afghan politician Fawzia Koofi, human rights lawyer from Sri Lanka Bhavani Fonseka, Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Johansson and former Afghan ambassador to Pakistan Omar Zakhilwal opined that peace in South Asia was a prerequisite to securing women’s fundamental rights and the resources should be directed towards socio-economic areas rather than the military. Human Rights Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, H. E. Dr Bahia Tahzib-Lie, Award-winning novelist Mohammad Hanif, Christian Caryl of the Washington Post, Wusat Ullah Khan, Ms Aisha Sarwari and Iqbal Khattak participated in the discussion on the role of social media.

Dr Bahia talked about the centrality of human rights in a thriving democratic society, and also the role of her government in supporting human rights initiatives all-over the world, including Pakistan. Aisha Sarwari talked about how women are systematically excluded from law-making process and, therefore, law-making concerning social media. She said it is essential for the social and economic development of all countries for women to be able to use the media as disruptive technology and end permission culture. Wusat Ullah Khan mentioned that the social media gives space to freedom, but also makes people extremely vulnerable. He said freedom of speech is part of a bouquet – you cannot talk about freedom of speech without talking about right to life and education and freedom of religion.

Iqbal Khattak, country representative of Reporters without Borders (RSF), spoke about the need for digital safety training and how one should protect oneself by disengaging with trolls. He particularly highlighted threats, accusations of blasphemy as threats that should be taken very seriously. He strongly encouraged use of PICA laws for individuals to seek online protection. He also highlighted Pakistan’s considerable investment in controlling social media spaces and vigilance on part of civil society. The Government of Pakistan should take social media as fundamental right.

On fighting the culture of shame and silence, woman rights activist Uzma Noorani, British professor of human rights Ms Siobhan Mullally, provincial Ombudsperson Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Rukshanda Naz, Pakistan People’s Party leader Nafisa Shah, former chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women Fouzia Viqar said that there should be universality of rights, for all excluded communities including women and marginalised remote communities.

..

On ‘Silencing civil society’, Ms Fareeda Shahid moderated the session of Knut Ostby, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Pakistan. Ms Zohra Yusuf, human rights activist and council member of HRCP, Mohammad Tehsin, convener of Pakistan Civil Society National Forum, law expert Asad Jamal said registered civil society organisations should be allowed to function, 2013 policy of banning CSOs should be challenged. Mass communication needed to change narratives.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/544102-thousands-resolve-to-carry-forward-asma-jahangir-legacy

Documentary on Discovery series explores ‘Why We Hate’

October 18, 2019

A counter-protester gives a white supremacist the middle finger. The white supremacists responds with a Nazi salute. Charlottesville August 12, 2017.

A counter-protester gives a white supremacist the middle finger. The white supremacists responds with a Nazi salute. Charlottesville August 12, 2017. (Photo: Evan Nesterak)

writes in Citizen Truth of 17 new documentary series titled “Why We Hate” which premiered Sunday on the Discovery Channel and explores “one of humanity’s most primal and destructive emotions – hate.” Directed by Sam Pollard and Geeta Gandbhir and produced by Hollywood veteran Steven Spielberg, the six-part docuseries aims to help people understand their own minds to prevent hatred from spreading.

Pollard made no bones about the subject matter’s relation to America today, telling NPR: “If you think about where we are in the United States with Trump as president, the idea that he demonizes people from other countries, specifically Mexico — that’s another way to sort of separate us from them.” He then went on to compare it to the worst outcomes for such divisiveness: genocide, as with the Holocaust in Germany during World War II, and Cambodia.

The isolation of disadvantaged persons and groups can also lead to extremism, Pollard believes — referencing skinheads and gang members who are seeking a family to belong to. This appeals to the tribal nature of humans, which in turn leads to contempt towards outsiders.

Co-director Gandbhir insists that hate “is something that we all have in common. It is not unique to one society or one group of people.” “Why We Hate” manages to show a wide variety of how hate is manifested, such as: a campaign in Colombia to reunify a bitterly divided country from the decades of war between government forces and FARC guerrillas; a de-radicalized white American man who now works to reform white supremacists; pro- and anti-Trump activists; the Israeli and Palestinian conflict; easily angered soccer hooligans and survivors of the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar….Surely in our culturally and politically divisive times, this is a timely subject to tackle and learn more about.

Timely New Documentary Series Explores ‘Why We Hate’