Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2020
Welcome to the 31st edition of the New York Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Tickets are now on sale and virtual screenings begin on June 11.
There has rarely been a time when individuals around the world have lived such shared human experiences as right now. Our interdependence is clear: what impacts one individual, family, society affects us all — and yet basic human rights, including pathways to medical and economic survival, are felt most severely by those already impacted by stark inequalities. The world needs to hear powerful and uplifting stories of those demanding justice, equality, and safety for themselves, their communities, and future generations.
And so, for the first time ever, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival presents a full digital edition of emboldening new films that will be available nationwide, and which will feature in-depth online discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, and Human Rights Watch researchers.
The 11 films in this year’s festival are truly global in scope, and present an overriding message of hope, from reform of the criminal justice system in the US, to the fight for reproductive rights in Ireland, and the reframing of long-suppressed yet ever-powerful indigenous voices in Peru and North America. We are excited to share films that reflect a resounding, global, rallying cry: the will of the people shall not be ignored. Echoing Human Rights Watch’s own guiding principle of Investigate, Expose, and Change, our 2020 program reflects the many steps in ensuring human rights for all.
Investigate: In Opening Night’s Belly of the Beast, brave and tenacious women from inside the California women’s penal system work tirelessly with women on the outside to uncover systematic forced sterilization of countless prisoners. Coded Bias highlights how one woman’s in-depth investigation uncovers the racial and gender biases built into Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and its far-reaching ramifications. Mexican journalists in Radio Silence encounter threats and very real acts of violence, overcoming fear to ensure audiences receive vital information and access to truth, despite their government’s attempts to muzzle them. And in Down a Dark Stairwell, filmmaker Ursula Liang peels back layers of accountability in the police system through a single criminal case, and its destructive impact on the Chinese-American and African-American communities.
Expose: Four films reveal wider social realities through the lens of individual experience. Beautifully understated and intimately filmed, I Am Samuel shares journeys of personal and political pressures, persecution, and pride within a tight-knit group of gay men in Kenya. Sensitive and nuanced, From Here captures four stories of individuals defining what it means to “belong” in societies that are increasingly hostile to their existence. Reunited tells a story of love across borders, and the compromises a family must make when it is torn apart by circumstances beyond its control. And in the stunning Welcome to Chechnya, brave Chechnyan and Russian activists risk their lives to help ferry at-risk members of the closeted LGBT Chechnyan community to safety in Europe.
Change: Strong women are the trailblazing force of the global human rights movement. The 8th accompanies the leaders of Ireland’s decades-long movements as they organize and raise their voices to end one of the world’s most restrictive abortion laws. In Maxima, we meet the remarkable Máxima Acuña, who stares down one of the world’s largest mining corporations to defend her farm in Peru. Our Closing Night film Gather celebrates the fruits of the indigenous food sovereignty movement, profiling innovative changemakers in Native American tribes across North America; from a master chef opening a restaurant serving ancestral dishes on his reservation, to the master forager teaching hunting and gathering traditions to her granddaughter, and a father and daughter bringing back the buffalo to the plains, this film focuses on humans reconnecting with their past and their environment as a form of resistance and survival.
A very special thanks this year to our wonderful cinema partners, Film at Lincoln Center and IFC Center, who are co-presenting this online edition. We are looking forward to our return to their dynamic cinema spaces for the 2021 New York edition!
We hope you will continue to join us in supporting and celebrating human rights achievements in film!
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival team
Belly of the Beast
Watch now! · Opening NightThis shocking legal drama captured over seven years features extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated women, demanding our attention to a shameful and ongoing legacy of eugenics and reproductive injustice in the United States.
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 12Coded Bias asks two key questions: what is the impact of Artificial Intelligence’s increasing role in governing our liberties? And what are the consequences for people stuck in the crosshairs due to their race, color, and gender?
Down a Dark Stairwell
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 17When a Chinese-American police officer kills an innocent, unarmed black man in an unlit stairwell of a New York City housing project on November 20, 2014, communities across the city erupt with demands for legal accountability.
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 14Spanning a decade in two of the world’s largest centers of immigration, this sensitive and nuanced documentary captures their journeys to define what it means to “belong” in societies that are increasingly hostile to their existence.
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 20 · Closing NightGather celebrates the fruits of the indigenous food sovereignty movement, profiling innovative changemakers in Native American tribes across North America reclaiming their identities after centuries of physical and cultural genocide.
I Am Samuel
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 14Filmed over five years, I Am Samuel is an intimate portrait of a Kenyan man balancing pressures of family loyalty, love, and safety and questioning the concept of conflicting identities.
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 16Maxima tells the incredible story of 2016 environmental Goldman Prize winner Máxima Acuña and her family, who own a small, remote plot in the Peruvian Highlands. Standing ever mighty, Máxima sings of her love of the land in the face of widespread oppression of indigenous people, and relentless attempts to destroy environmental resources that the world relies on.
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 13To millions of people in Mexico, the incorruptible journalist and news anchor Carmen Aristegui is regarded as the trusted alternative voice to official government spin, fighting daily against deliberate disinformation spread through news sources, government corruption, and the related drugs trade.
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 20This is a story of love across borders, and the compromises a family must make when it is torn apart by circumstances beyond its control. When Rana and Muhkles are forced to flee the war in Syria in a desperate search for stable and secure futures for their family, they are separated from their children.
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 19Capturing a crucial moment for women’s rights, The 8th tells the incredible story of how Ireland overturned one of the world’s most restrictive laws on abortion. Led by the fiercely passionate Ailbhe Smyth, Ireland’s pro-choice movement must radically shift tactics to carry a traditionally conservative electorate over the line.
Welcome to Chechnya
Watch now! · Live Q&A on June 13This searing documentary, directed by acclaimed writer and Oscar-nominated director David France (How to Survive a Plague, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson), shadows a group of brave activists risking their lives to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ campaign in the Russian republic of Chechnya.
Tickets are now on sale! See more and pre-order here and start viewing on June 11.
$70 Festival Pass – See all 11 films and save $29.
FLC Members save $1.00 on HRWFF tickets (orig. $9.00). If you are a Member, your discount code will be provided in the next exclusive member newsletter on 5/18.
Not a member? Take advantage of discounted tickets, early access periods, complimentary offers year-round, and more by becoming one today! Join here.
We do not want the cost of entry to these films to be a barrier for participation in these events. If the price of buying a ticket to this film would prevent you from participating, please email the following address ([email protected]) + we will send you a free ticket code. We have set aside a set # of tickets per film on a first come first-served basis. Once the free tickets are no longer available, the code will no longer work. For anyone that purchases a ticket, we appreciate your support. Your ticket purchase enables us to make tickets free for those who might otherwise be unable to watch. This also allows the festival to support the filmmakers for sharing their work in our festival and for the festival to cover the cost of hosting the films online.
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