Film still from “Muhi – Generally Temporarily.” Photograph courtesy of The Human Rights Watch.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival  taking place in New York City from June 9 – 18th, will be focusing on many issues this year. Films in the festival this year include exposure on police brutality, a legal battle about domestic abuse in America, sexual assault and misogyny in Asia, the Syrian crisis and fight with ISIS, and many more topics amongst the 21 films being screened.

Sarah with a bullet, a film still from “Nowhere to Hide.” Photograph courtesy of The Human Rights Watch.

The opening film of the festival is called “Nowhere to Hide,” which follows an Iraqi nurse and his family after American troops left Iraq in 2011. Director Zaradasht Amed gave a nurse, Nori Sharif, a camera, taught him how to use it and asked Nori to capture his life in his community and the hospital where he worked. For the next five years, Nori filmed as the population started to flee and conflict ensued. Nori faces a conflict himself; whether he should he stay to help those in the hospital or leave to protect himself and his family.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump answers questions from reporters in “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press.” Photograph by  Mark Humphrey, courtesy of The Human Rights Watch.

The closing film of the festival is called “Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press,” which uses examples of celebrities, the rich, and politicians that use money and power to silence the press, which poses threats to the public’s view of the truth. One example is when tabloid Gawker posted a sex tape of professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, which created a legal battle that asked important questions about the free press in America. The film will be launched on Netflix on June 23rd and also in select theaters.

Ríos Montt and Attorneys from “500 Years: Life in Resistance.” Photograph by Daniel Hernandez Salazar, courtesy of The Human Rights Watch.

The Film Festival is also featuring a trilogy of films by Pamela Yates that are collectively called “The Resistance Saga.” The films follow the indigenous people of Guatemala against intimidating challenges they face, like authoritarianism and demagogues.  Over the past 35 years, all three films from the trilogy have been premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. “When the Mountains Tremble” was released in 1982 and follows indigenous rights leader Rigoberta Menchú as the storyteller during a brutal armed conflict. The film has been screen worldwide and translated in 10 languages. Ten years after the film was released, Menchú was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The sequel, “Granito: How to Nail a Dictator,” was released in 2011 and focuses on the building of a genocide case against Guatemala General Efraín Ríos Montt. The third film is called “500 Years: Life in Resistance,” which is the newest edition to the sequel. It provides an inside perspective on the first trial in the history of the Americas to prosecute the genocide of indigenous people.

For about 40 years, the Human Rights Watch has been an avid defender of people at risk of abuse. It is an independent and international organization that strives to uphold human dignity and human rights for everyone. When choosing the films for screening, Human Rights Watch makes sure what they present is factual, accurate, and ethical in fact finding. Their researchers examine situations in about 90 countries from all over the world and function as investigators, journalists, and advocates. When selecting films to screen for their festival, Human Rights Watch do not avoid impartial films, but the films chose films free of inaccuracy and overstatement.

The Film Festival will be screened at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the IFC Center. Tickets are being sold here for the Film Society location and here for the IFC Center location, as well as at their respective box offices.

2017 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New York trailer from Human Rights Watch on Vimeo.

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