Preview: Human Rights Watch Film Festival

'Salma'/ Photo provided by Human Rights Watch Film Festival

With current news focusing on women’s rights, particularly in the Middle East, as well as discrimination against disabilities and minorities and the continued violence in war-torn countries, the 17th annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival  (taking place 13-22 March), promises to once again bring attention to these hotly debated topics.

The festival begins today with Kim Nguyen’s London premiere of ‘War Witch’. Nominated for this year’s Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and winner of Best Actress at last year’s Berlin Film Festival, the drama centrers around a 14-year-old child soldier who is pregnant in the Congo. The programme continues with four additional feature-length dramas and 14 documentaries, eight of these being UK premieres.

London-based filmmaker Kim Longintto’s film ‘Salma’, will receive its exclusive premiere on Thursday, telling the story of one women’s fight for change in southern India, where arranged marriages are commonplace for young girls starting from puberty.

Already featured at Sundance and the Berlin Film Festival, Kim further adds, “I’m really excited about this festival. The film is perfect as Salma represents hope and inspiration: she gives a voice to millions of secluded girls all over the world.”

Additional highlights are Serbian filmmaker Srdjan Dragojevic’s UK premiere ‘The Parade’, following one group’s determination to hold a gay parade in Belgrade; Nagieb Khaja’s ‘My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone’, depicting Afghans’ struggle to live in a constant state of violence; award-winning director Raoul Peck’s film ‘Fatal Assistance’, taking the audience through post earthquake Haiti, and Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief’s UK premiere of ‘Rafea: Solar Mama’ about a poor, Jordanian woman who is selected to teach illiterate women to train and become solar engineers.

The festival concludes on Friday 22 March with Haifaa Al Mansour’s film ‘Wadjda’, said to be the first feature film entirely shot in Saudi Arabia. Centrering around a 10-year-old girl’s dream to own a bike, the film explores a society where sporting activity is deemed unacceptable for a young woman’s virtue.

As part of Human Rights Watch, the festival clearly treads safely yet assuredly around issues that are important for the public to know. Most screenings are followed by a Q&A with filmmakers and cast, and can be seen at Curzon Soho, ICA and Ritzy cinemas. Tickets are £11, concessions £10.

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