Forgive the phrasing, but there’s no silver bullet for human rights abuses. Being vigilant is the key, especially when governments and religious leaders seem so wilfully to turn a blind eye to the abuses and persecution of their own citizens and the habitats they live in. Putting a glaring spotlight on such violations is the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, now in its 19th season, which takes place at venues across London between 18-27 March.
The festival features 11 UK premieres and kicks off with two big-hitting first showings that tackle the topic of climate change. The first is The Salt of the Earth, an Oscar-nominated story by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado about a photographer charting the impact of poor environmental policies across the world. It’s being screened as part of a fundraising gala at the British Museum on 18 March. Following that there’s the first night proper with the premiere of The Yes Men Are Revolting, in which the notorious activists grapple with both climate change and their mid-life crises. The closing night film also sees a comedian getting serious with Jon Stewart’s directorial debut Rosewater, about the journalist Maziar Bahari (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) who was imprisoned in Iran in 2009.
Aside from these big events, the festival's films are split into four themes: Arts Versus Oppression, Changemakers, Family History and Human Rights, and Home and ‘Security’. They include entries from Europe, Egypt, Turkey and Lebanon, Iran, Palestine, Sudan and Zimbabwe, Afghanistan and China’s Uyghur minority and especially Latin America with films made in Chile, Columbia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru. There are also masterclasses and also special music strand, which you can read more about here.
Another interesting work
According to John Biaggi, the festival director: “Nearly every film in this year's festival celebrates the power of individuals and communities to challenge and interrupt the status quo, whether societal taboos or family truths. Particularly heartening is how young people from all around the world are demanding change and transparency whether it's through the democratic process or, on a more personal level, by knowing and challenging difficult family truths and taboos.”