3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets
The lineup has been announced for the 26th Human Rights Watch Film Festival, featuring 16 films from across the globe that celebrate the power of individuals and communities to effect change.
This year’s festival is organized around three themes: Art Versus Oppression, Changemakers, and Justice and Peace. The festival also features a series of special programs, including a discussion around the ethics of image-making in documenting human rights abuses, a master class on international crisis reporting and digital storytelling, and a multimedia project on the women activists of the Arab Spring. In addition, the festival will have master classes dedicated to raising awareness and fostering discussion about the role of the filmmaker in the social justice world.
In conjunction with this year’s film program, the festival will present “Turkana,” an exhibition by the photographer Brent Stirton that documents the challenges that the Turkana people of Kenya face in accessing their rights to water, health, and livelihood. It will be on display in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater for the duration of the festival.
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival takes place at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the IFC Center. Tickets go on sale May 21, with a pre-sale for Film Society and IFC Center members starting May 19. Tickets to screenings at the IFC Center can only be purchased through their website and box office.
Film Society Lineup & Schedule:
3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets
Marc Silver, USA, 2015, 98m
In November 2012 in Jacksonville, Florida, four unarmed African-American teenagers stopped at a gas station to buy gum and cigarettes. When a middle-aged white man parked beside them, an altercation began over the volume of rap music playing in the teens’ car. In a matter of moments, Michael Dunn fired 10 bullets into their car, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis instantly. Directed by Marc Silver (Who Is Dayani Cristal?), 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets is a seamlessly constructed, riveting documentary that explores the danger and subjectivity of Florida's Stand Your Ground self-defense laws. The film weaves Dunn's trial with Jordan Davis's parents' wrenching experiences in and out of the courtroom. The result is a powerful story about the devastating effects of racial bias and the search for justice within the U.S. legal system. As the deaths of Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner galvanize the public and begin to shape national dialogue and policy, the intimate and moving 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets brings the conversation back home—to the impact felt by families across the country for whom reform can’t come fast enough. A Participant Media release.
Friday June 12, 7:00pm (Panel with Marc Silver, Executive Producer Orlando Bagwell, and Maria McFarland Sánchez-Moreno, Co-Director, U.S. Program, Human Rights Watch; Moderated by Khalil Gibran Muhammad, Director, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture)
Beats of the Antonov
Hajooj Kuka, Sudan/South Africa, 2014, 68m
Over two years, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka lived alongside farmers, herders, and rebels displaced to the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions, filming their lives within hillside hideouts and refugee camps. Destructive air raids are but occasional moments in an unexpected film, which instead focuses on the vibrant musical heritage of the region: a pulsing lifeblood of cultural resilience in the face of everyday conflict. After a raid, it is not unusual to hear the sound of laughter and music signaling that a strike is over. Young women exert a powerful agency through “Girls’ Music,” and improvised compositions become a wry commentary on the daily injustices of war. Winner of the People’s Choice Award at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Beats of the Antonov is a celebration of defiant cultural expression and a unique perspective on the complex realities of a divided Sudan.
Sunday, June 14, 8:45pm (Q&A with Hajooj Kuka)
Burden of Peace
Joey Boink, Guatemala/Netherlands, 2015, 76m
Burden of Peace follows Guatemala’s first female attorney general, Claudia Paz y Paz. After taking office, Paz y Paz obtains spectacular results, including the arrest of a former head of state charged with committing genocide. But her determined efforts encounter strong resistance from powerful elites that have typically felt above the law. With extraordinary access to Paz y Paz from the beginning of her term, we witness her battle to bring to justice powerful criminals and corrupt politicians. Burden of Peace is an epic tale of personal sacrifice, hard-fought change, and hope.
Thursday, June 18, 8:45pm (Q&A with Joey Boink)
The Dream of Shahrazad
Francois Verster, South Africa/Egypt/Jordan/France/Netherlands, 2014, 107m
Filmmaker Francois Verster explores how music and storytelling can serve as an outlet for citizens to process political upheaval. Using the metaphor of Shahrazad—the princess in the classic tale of The 1001 (Arabian) Nights who saves lives by telling stories to the murderous Sultan Shahriyar—and filmed before, during, and after the so-called Arab Spring, the film weaves together a web of music, politics, and storytelling to explore the ways in which creativity and politics coincide in response to oppression. A series of unforgettable characters all draw their inspiration from The 1001 (Arabian) Nights, including a conductor who uses Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade suite as a tool for Istanbul political education, a young female Lebanese internet activist, a visual artist who finds his own “dream of Shahrazad,” and a Cairo theater troupe who turn the testimonies of mothers of the Egyptian revolution martyrs into storytelling performances. This richly kaleidoscopic film is at once observational documentary, concert film, political meditation, and visual translation of an ever-popular symphonic and literary classic.
Friday, June 19, 9:00pm (Q&A with Francois Verster)
Life Is Sacred
Life Is Sacred
Andreas Dalsgaard, Denmark, 2014,104m
Violence is part of everyday life in Colombia, where the military, guerrillas, paramilitaries, and drug cartels have been fighting for decades, and hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. But the unorthodox presidential candidate Antanas Mockus and his enthusiastic young activist supporters attempt to reverse the vicious cycle with an imaginative and positive election campaign. As mayor of Bogotá, dressed in a Superman costume and with an indomitable trust in the good of his fellow citizens, he took on towering crime rates and people’s bad traffic habits. But his idealism is both his strength and his weakness in an aggressive political system in which he struggles to restore citizen’s faith in being able to make a difference. Can good ideas and an idealistic drive alone change a political culture where violence is rampant? This is the portrait of an inspiring man and a powerful youth movement, whose stories are relevant far beyond Colombia’s borders.
Saturday, June 20, 9:00pm (Q&A with Andreas Dalsgaard)
No Land’s Song
Ayat Najafi, France/Germany/Iran, 2014, 93m
The Islamic revolution of 1979 banned female singers from appearing in public in Iran. They are no longer allowed to perform solo, except to all-woman audiences. Recordings of former icons can only be bought on the black market. But Sara Najafi is determined to refresh the cultural memory by roaming Tehran in the footsteps of famous singers of the 1920s and 1960s. She is about to revive the female presence as she courageously plans an evening of Iranian and French soloists to rebuild shattered cultural bridges—a concert that is not allowed to take place. For two-and-a-half years, director Ayat Najafi follows the preparations between Tehran and Paris that are always touch and go. What's still possible? What goes too far? Sara’s regular meetings with the Ministry of Culture shed light on the system’s logic and arbitrariness, though officials there can only be heard and not seen. Can intercultural solidarity and the revolutionary power of music triumph? A political thriller and a musical journey, No Land’s Song never loses sight of its real center: the female voice. U.S. Premiere
Saturday, June 13, 9:00pm (Q&A with Ayat Najafi and Sara Najafi)
Of Men and War
Laurent Bécue-Renard, France/Switzerland, 2014, 142m
A secret battle consumes a dozen combat veterans long after their return from the front. The warriors in Of Men and War have come safely home to the United States after serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they are unable to escape the battlefield that rages in their own minds. Ghosts and echoes of the war fill their lives. Threats seem to spring out from everywhere. Wives, children, and parents bear the brunt of their fractured spirits, struggling to help their loved ones regain their lives. At The Pathway Home, a first-of-its-kind PTSD therapy center, the film's protagonists resolve to end the ongoing destruction. Their therapist helps the young men forge meaning from their trauma. Over years of therapy, Of Men and War explores their grueling paths to recovery, as they attempt to make peace with themselves, their past, and their families.
Saturday, June 20, 5:30pm (Q&A with Laurent Bécue-Renard)
This Is My Land
Tamara Erde, France, 2014, 93m
If change happens one person at a time, by opening minds and replacing hatred with understanding, what will the future hold for the next generation of Israeli and Palestinian children? Attending school each day, reciting their national anthem, and memorizing the history that lead their people to the reality they currently face—the possibility for peace in the future begins in the classroom today. This Is My Land follows several Israeli and Palestinian teachers as they help their students understand the complicated, segregated, and often violent world around them, filtered through the state-approved curriculum. Tending to the needs of each student, and sifting through decades of personal pain, loss, and struggle, the decisions of the teachers and school administrators leave a lasting and profound impact on these impressionable young minds and the generations to come. Will society continue to embrace hatred, pain, and division, or somehow find a way to impart the tools for reconciliation, tolerance, and acceptance? This Is My Land poses powerful questions about the subjectivity of history and how society can lay the groundwork for a peaceful future.
Monday, June 15, 6:15pm (Q&A with Tamara Erde)
The Wanted 18
The Trials of Spring
Gini Reticker, Egypt, 2015, 76m
Three courageous women in post-2011 Egypt fight for the original goals of the Arab Spring—“Bread, Freedom and Social Justice” for all. The battles they wage each day reflect the country and its women at an uncertain crossroads. A formerly veiled widow provides guidance for revolutionaries 40 years her junior. A young women’s rights activist demands an end to sexual harassment. A human rights defender from a rural military family is arrested and tortured in 2011, setting off a personal quest for justice that mirrors the trajectory of Egypt’s uprisings. Directed by the Academy Award–nominated Gini Reticker (Pray the Devil Back to Hell, Asylum, and A Decade Under the Influence), The Trials of Spring reveals the vital and under-reported role of women in the region. World Premiere
Sunday, June 14, 6:00pm (Q&A with Gini Reticker)
Monday, June 15, 8:45pm (Q&A with Gini Reticker)
The Unravelling: Human Rights Reporting and Digital Storytelling
During this unique masterclass event, Human Rights Watch Emergencies director Peter Bouckaert and leading photojournalist Marcus Bleasdale will discuss the essentials of international crisis reporting—from on-the-ground investigation methods to techniques for ensuring stories reach the broadest audience possible. In November 2013, Bouckaert and Bleasdale began a journey to draw attention to a humanitarian crisis in a country that few people in the world even knew existed. The aim was to document the war crimes and horrific bloodshed that was taking place in the little-known country of the Central African Republic. Culminating in the multimedia project The Unravelling, their investigations have become the most important source of information on a crisis that continues today. This program includes documentary footage from The Unravelling as well as discussions on how the project was produced and disseminated. We will learn how Bouckaert and Bleasdale used every tool available to put the story on the map and the methods they used to capture photographs, videos, and satellite imagery. We will also learn how they crafted their material into a compelling narrative for the public and policy-makers. Special thanks to The Frank Karel Grant for Multimedia Reporting.
Thursday, June 18, 6:30pm
The Wanted 18
Amer Shomali & Paul Cowan, Canada/Palestine/France, 2014, 75m
Through a clever mix of stop-motion animation and interviews, The Wanted 18 re-creates an astonishing true story: the Israeli army’s pursuit of 18 cows, whose independent milk production on a Palestinian collective farm was declared “a threat to the national security of the state of Israel.” In response to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, a group of people from the town of Beit Sahour decide to buy 18 cows and produce their own milk as a cooperative. Their venture is so successful that the collective farm becomes a landmark, and the cows local celebrities—until the Israeli army takes note and declares the farm an illegal security threat. Consequently, the dairy is forced to go underground, the cows continuing to produce their “Intifada milk” with the Israeli army in relentless pursuit. Relating the story of the “wanted 18” from the perspectives of the Beit Sahour activists, Israeli military officials, and the cows, Palestinian artist Amer Shomali and veteran Canadian director Paul Cowan create an enchanting, inspirational tribute to the ingenuity and power of grassroots activism. A Kino Lorber release.
Saturday, June 13, 6:30pm (Panel with Amer Shomali & Paul Cowan and special guests)
What Tomorrow Brings (Work-in-Progress Screening)
Beth Murphy, Afghanistan, 2015, 85m
What Tomorrow Brings is the story of the first all-girls school in a remote Afghan village. The film traces the interconnected tales of students, teachers, village elders, parents, and tenacious school founder Razia Jan who teaches a nation, a community, and the students themselves that females also count. While the girls learn to read and write, their education goes far beyond the classroom to become lessons about tradition and time. They discover their school is the one place they can turn to understand the differences between the lives they were born into and the lives they dream of leading.
Friday, June 19, 6:30pm (Q&A with Beth Murphy)