War Crimes And Activism At Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2014
As written for Londonist
Now in its 18th year, this month’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival will once again bring much needed attention to injustices around the world – this time with a bold, yet relative focus on armed conflict – from war crimes to the personal sacrifices made behind the lines.
The festival kicks off on 18 March with a fundraising benefit for Jehane Noujaim’s Academy Award® nominated The Square, a documentary showing an inside look at Egyptian activists using solely their voices to make a difference. The film is followed by a reception and discussion with special guests.
Opening night unfolds two days later with the UK premiere of Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus, attended by its director Madeleine Sackler. With smuggled footage and uncensored interviews, Sackler gives audiences front row seats to watch The Belarus Free Theatre not only perform, but defy Europe’s last standing dictatorship as well.
Several additional highlights include the centrepiece screening for The E-Team, winner of the Excellence in Cinematography (Documentary) award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film shows what the Human Rights Watch team of specialists known as the Emergencies Division must do at the front lines in order to pass important information to influential policy makers, media and NGOs.
John Biaggi, Human Rights Watch Film Festival Director, further adds:
“This year’s programme demonstrates the risks filmmakers take to capture the stories behind the headlines, and our centrepiece film, The E-Team, reveals the tenacity and heroic efforts of human rights activists to bring war crimes to the world’s attention.”
First to Fall is another example of heroic activism: Rachel Beth Anderson and Tim Grucza’s film portrays a heartfelt story of two friends who leave Canada for their homeland Libya to join the fight in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi.
Abounaddara Collective Shorts From Syria is also not to be missed: a collection of short films shot once a week from April 2011 attempt to provide an honest depiction of Syrian society. A panel discussion proceeds the screening.
Additional themes in the festival include LGBT, migrant, women and children rights. The UK premiere of For Those Who Can Tell No Tales heads up the list, following one Australian woman who discovers a former rape camp in Bosnia Herzegovina. Mano Khalil’s The Beekeeper must also be mentioned for its powerful human story of one Kurdish beekeeper who is forced to make a difficult new start in Switzerland after he is robbed of everything in southeast Turkey.
The festival concludes on 28 March at the Brixton Ritzy with the UK premiere of Return to Homs, winner of the World Cinema Jury Prize (Documentary) at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Its close-up camera work takes the viewer into the heart of the western Syrian city Homs, where a group of revolutionaries switch from peaceful protesting to brutal fighting.
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is screening a total of 20 films, and takes place from March 18-28 at Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho, Brixton Ritzy and for the first time, Barbican. Ticket prices vary – check the website for details.