Alison Klayman's Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
What began as Helsinki Watch in 1978, a group pledging to monitor government compliance with the Helsinki Accords in the Soviet bloc, has since expanded into a worldwide organization seeking justice and security for all people. Human Rights Watch brings awareness of world-wide human rights violations to the attention of millions with their year-round efforts, one part of which is the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York City. Film Society of Lincoln Center is proud to co-sponsor this courageous event.
Part of that courage comes in the form of eyewitnesses and personal testimonials to injustices seen, heard and experienced throughout the world. No matter where you turn, there's a story to be found. It may be your neighbor, your cab driver or someone you follow on Twitter—look no further than this year's Opening Night film for just such a story. Here are six stories, from six different countries, that have inspired not-to-be-missed films at this year's festival.
China: Opening Night! On Friday, June 15 check out Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, a critical darling at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Follow Chinese artist and social media activist Ai Weiwei as he opposes, questions and publishes footage of atrocious actions (or lack of action) by the Chinese government on his blog and Twitter for more than three years. Filmmaker Alison Klayman in person.
Cambodia: Come back on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday (June 19 – 21) for Brother Number One. Rob Hamill’s brother went missing more than 30 years ago while sailing from Australia to Southeast Asia. Upon discovering that the Khmer Rouge attacked Kerry Hamill’s boat, killing his friend and sending him to the infamous S21 school-turned-prison in Phnom Penh, Rob returns to testify against Comrade Duch, the man who tortured and killed his brother. Although the focus is on Rob’s struggle to come to terms with what happened to his brother, a myriad of stories unfold as he meets survivors and searches for meaning in a meaningless situation. Filmmaker Annie Goldson and film subject Rob Hamill in person at all three screenings.
Lieven Corthouts' Little Heaven
Mexico: A journalist should only have to fear the wrath of an editor, not live in constant trepidation of physical attack or death for simply reporting the news. At Zeta, a Tijuana weekly, two editors have been murdered and its founder attacked since its inception in 1980. Reportero follows veteran reporter Sergio Haro as he finds the stories of fellow citizens affected by drugs, poverty and the cartel. Filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz in person at all screenings. Film subject Sergio Haro in person at June 22 and June 23 screenings.
Egypt: Not only is 22-year-old Heba Afify a journalist in a country where freedom of the press is still being shaped, but she's a female in a country where a woman's freedom to even move around the city can be restricted and subject to harassment. Words of Witness follows Heba, who uses Twitter, Facebook and a little bit of moxie to capture the world around her and end disillusionment of what the move toward democracy means on the streets. Filmmaker Mai Iskander in person at all three screenings.
Ethiopia: Little Heaven is a very personal and striking story of 13-year-old Lydia, whose biggest challenge isn’t just being an orphan, but being an orphan who is HIV-positive. In unimaginable circumstances, the kids of Little Heaven orphanage make up an expressive family with a lot to share through their daily routines and conversations, making for a remarkably hopeful story. Filmmaker Lieven Corthouts in person at all three screenings.
Sri Lanka: Film subject Sonali Samarasinghe lost her newlywed husband, Lasantha, to eight gunmen who killed him in broad daylight for his acts as editor-in-chief of The Morning Leader. Silenced Voices tells the story of this fierce widow, also a lawyer and journalist, who was forced out of her country after her husband’s death. Although Silenced Voices focuses on the plight of journalists during a very recent civil war in Sri Lanka, it stands for much more: the power and importance of journalism in times of oppression, cover-up and death. Filmmaker Beate Arnestad and film subject Sonali Samarasinghe in person at all three screenings.
As acts of attrition, each of these remarkable films gives power to the oppressed and, hopefully, pause to their oppressors. Don’t miss all of this year's incredible lineup and save when you buy one ticket each to three different films with our Human Rights Watch Package!