The 27th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival includes inspiring, topical, and provocative feature documentaries and dramas, as well as special interactive programs that grapple with the challenges of defending human rights around the world today.
The standout theme in this year’s lineup is presented through outstanding documentaries from around the globe that explore a variety of women’s-rights issues: our Opening Night film, Hooligan Sparrow, in which intrepid young Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows the trail of bold activist Ye Haiyan as she becomes a fugitive of the state; Jackson, a riveting look at the dire state of abortion access in Mississippi; Starless Dreams, an intimate portrait of 18-year-old girls in a Tehran rehabilitation prison; Tempestad, award-winning filmmaker Tatiana Huezo’s latest work that beautifully renders the difficult life paths of two women amid the chaos and impunity in today’s Mexico; and The Uncondemned, a gripping portrayal of a group of young lawyers and activists who fought in a seminal 1997 trial in Rwanda to have rape recognized as a war crime.
An additional theme in this year’s program incorporates films that revolve around the fight for LGBT rights. Growing Up Coy, is a sensitive portrayal of the struggles of a Colorado family who take on a highly publicized legal battle to fight for their 6-year-old transgender daughter’s rights, while Inside the Chinese Closet pulls the curtain back on the difficulties young gay men and women in China face within their society and traditional families.
As always, the majority of the filmmakers will join us to present their work and participate in discussions following screenings. In certain cases, directors will be joined by Human Rights Watch researchers or special guests who have worked on the issues addressed in the film, giving audiences an opportunity to engage deeper with the movies’ topics. This year we have expanded a new element of the festival by introducing three programs that combine visual media with in-depth discussions about current issues in the fields of audience engagement and human rights.
We are excited to bring these films and special programs to you, and hope that you will join us in celebrating 27 years of human rights in film.
Additional screenings take place at the IFC Center.
Now in its 27th year, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns with inspiring, topical, and provocative feature documentaries and dramas, as well as special interactive programs that grapple with the challenges of defending human rights around the world today.
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Q&A with Nanfu Wang
Traversing southern China, a group of activists led by Ye Haiyan (aka Hooligan Sparrow) protest a scandalous incident where six schoolgirls were allegedly sexually abused by their principal. Sparrow becomes an enemy of the state, but detentions, interrogations, and evictions can’t stop her human-rights efforts from going viral.
Pre-reception open to all ticketholders! · Q&A with Michael Collins, producer Marty Syjuco, and film subjects Tom Voss, Anthony Anderson, and Holly Anderson
Two young veterans, haunted by their combat experiences, take a 2,700-mile trek on foot across America seeking redemption, acceptance, and a way to close the moral chasm opened by war. This intimate, vérité film documents their journey and the healing lessons they learn along the way.
Q&A with Jamal Joseph, lead actor Daniel Beatty, and producers Cheryl Hill and Jonathan Singer
After serving eight years in prison, reformed gang leader S. Lance Ingram re-enters society and struggles to adapt to a changed Harlem. Living under the tough supervision of a parole officer in a halfway house, he is forced to deal with racism, gang violence, and the gentrification of the historic New York City neighborhood in which he was raised.
U.S. Premiere · Q&A with George Kurian
The Crossing takes us along on one of the most dangerous journeys of our time with a group of Syrians fleeing war and persecution, crossing a sea, two continents, and five countries—and shows us the lengths to which people go to find safety and forge their own destiny. Screening with Malak (Dovana Films, 5m) and Mustapha (Dovana Films, 5m).
Q&A with Craig Atkinson
Winner of Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, Do Not Resist depicts an array of stories that collectively detail the disturbing realities of American police culture.
World Premiere · Q&A with Eric Juhola
Growing Up Coy follows a landmark civil-rights case in Colorado, where a 6-year-old transgender girl named Coy has been banned from the girls’ bathroom at school. Coy’s parents hire a lawyer to fight against discrimination, and the family is thrust into the international media spotlight, causing their lives to be changed forever.
Q&A with Sophia Luvarà
Inside the Chinese Closet lays bare the challenges that confront gay people in China today as they struggle to satisfy social and familial expectations of heterosexual unions. Andy devotes his days and nights to looking for a lesbian wife of convenience who could bear his child; Cherry has already married a gay man, but the quest for a baby proves to be a far more challenging.
Q&A with Maisie Crow, producer Jamie Boyle, and film subject Shannon Brewer
What is life like in a place where the anti-abortion movement has made access to legal abortion almost impossible? Set against the backdrop of the fight over the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, Maisie Crow’s Jackson takes a close look inside the issues surrounding the right to choose.
Q&A with Danae Elon
Danae Elon, daughter of Israeli intellectual and writer Amos Elon, weaves a deeply personal documentary from her family’s decision to return to Jerusalem in search of a place they can call “home” and exposes a complex and painful portrait of the city today.
Q&A with Kristi Jacobson
Solitary tells the stories of several inmates sent to Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison, one of over 40 supermax prisons in the U.S., which holds inmates in 8-by-10-foot solitary confinement cells, 23 hours a day. Profoundly intimate, this immersive film weaves through corridors and cells, capturing the chilling sounds and haunting atmosphere of the prison.
Skype Q&A with Mehrdad Oskouei
After fighting the Iranian authorities for seven years, director Mehrdad Oskouei was finally granted permission to film an imprisoned population, otherwise hidden from the public eye. The result is an incredibly personal documentary about the dreams, nightmares, and hopes of the 18-year-olds in this all-female rehabilitation center for juvenile delinquents in Tehran. Starless Dreams won prizes at the Berlinale, Full Frame, and the True/False Film Fest.
U.S. Premiere · Q&A with Tatiana Huezo
Two women, their voices echoing over the landscape and highways of Mexico from North to South, tell how official corruption and injustice allowed violence to take control of their lives.
Q&A with Michele Mitchell and film subjects Sara Darehshori and Pierre Prosper
The award-winning The Uncondemned tells the gripping and world-changing story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought in Rwanda to have rape recognized as a war crime, and the women who came forward to testify and win justice where there had been none.
Q&A with Heidi Brandenburg
Set against the backdrop of a global recession and climate crisis, When Two Worlds Collide, winner of a World Cinema Documentary special jury prize for Best Debut Feature at Sundance, reveals the human side to the battle of conflicting visions and political wills working to shape the future of the Amazon Rainforest, and of an already debilitated global ecosystem.
Virtual Reality (VR) is an expanding arena for immersive and interactive content. Creators are exploring ways to use a variety of technologies to project participants into new worlds and experiences. Join us for a panel discussion with creators, journalists, and human-rights experts to discuss this exciting and evolving intersection of VR and human rights.
Free virtual reality installation
Right now, more than 80,000 people are in solitary confinement in the U.S.—locked in tiny concrete boxes where every element of their environment is controlled. This powerful VR piece invites you to experience first-hand what life is like in solitary confinement.
Free photo exhibit
Over the past year, photographer Zalmaï accompanied teams of Human Rights Watch researchers carrying out on-the-ground investigations in multiple countries and documented Europe’s refugee crisis as it was unfolding.
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See more and save with our 3+ Film Package: Minimum of 3 films required. Tickets just $8 Members / $9 Students & Seniors / $11 General Public.
Don’t miss two free exhibitions in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery throughout the festival: virtual reality installation 6×9: An Immersive Experience of Solitary Confinement and photo exhibit Desperate Journey: Europe’s Refugee Crisis.
To purchase tickets to individual films, please click on the “Films” or “Schedule” tabs at the top of this page and then click on your desired films or showtimes.
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