For 40 years, Human Rights Watch has defended people at risk of human rights violations. They practice a powerful, proven methodology: investigate abuses scrupulously, expose the facts widely, and relentlessly press those in power for change that respects rights. In a year where women collectively raised their voices against discrimination and abuse, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is proud to present 15 outstanding films offering fresh perspectives and critical insights on human rights concerns affecting people around the world, 12 of which were directed or co-directed by women. As always, audiences are invited to support and celebrate human rights achievements in film by watching movies, meeting courageous filmmakers and activists at each screening, and engaging with topics impacting the world today.
Opening Night • New York Premiere • Q&A with Alexandria Bombach and Murad IsmaelA survivor of the 2014 atrocities against the Yezidi in northern Iraq, Nadia escaped sexual slavery at the hands of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) and witnessed the murder of those closest to her. With the love of her people propelling her forward, Nadia is determined to turn her pain into international action.
U.S. Premiere • Q&A with Neary Adeline HayKhonsaly Hay returns to his lush, serene village in Cambodia after over 40 years living in France and comes face-to-face with his former Khmer Rouge persecutors. Directed by Khonsaly’s daughter, this deeply immersive film juxtaposes past and present to tenderly reveal unreconciled traumas haunting Cambodians today.
New York Premiere • Q&A with Matthieu Rytz & Marcos OrellanaThe idyllic Pacific nation of Kiribati will be submerged within decades due to climate change. Set against the backdrop of international climate negotiations and the fight to recognize climate displacement as an urgent human rights issue, Anote’s Ark presents personal stories that serve as cautionary tales for the entire world.
Q&A with Marilyn Ness, Alex Long, Andre Lambertson, Justin George, & John RaphlingDuring three years of unparalleled violence in Baltimore, Maryland, award-winning filmmaker Marilyn Ness takes viewers beyond the headlines and into the lives of community members, police, and government officials as they attempt to reclaim the future of their city.
New York Premiere • Q&A with Hans Block, Moritz Riesewieck & Sarah T. RobertsWelcome to a hidden industry of digital cleaning, where content determined as inappropriate is deleted from the Internet. This fascinating documentary follows five “cleaners” in the Philippines, hired by social media giants including Facebook and Twitter, to undertake the highly sensitive work of viewing and removing millions of images and videos from online platforms every day.
New York Premiere • Q&A with Simon Lereng Wilmont & Rachel DenberThe life of a 10-year-old includes a healthy dose of curiosity and adventure. But the days of Oleg, who lives in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine—just minutes from where Ukrainian and pro-Russian forces are at war—are often interrupted by echoes of anti-aircraft fire and missile strikes.
New York Premiere • Q&A with Sedika Mojadidi & Shakila EbrahimkhelAfghan-American filmmaker Sedika Mojadidi joins two awe-inspiring women on the front lines of Afghanistan, as the Taliban regains its hold and the stability of the country's fragile democracy is unclear.
New York Premiere • Q&A with Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar & Chato GalantA 1977 amnesty law in Spain known as "the pact of forgetting" prohibits legal action related to the oppression, torture, and murder of an estimated 100,000 people during Franco’s 40-year dictatorship. But for much of the population, there is no peace in silence. This powerful film, from executive producer Pedro Almodóvar, is about a country still divided four decades into democracy.
U.S. Premiere • Q&A with Sahra Mani, Mahfuza Folad & Heather BarrWhen Khatera, a 23-year-old Afghan woman, forces her father to stand trial after a lifetime of sexual abuse, she risks her family, freedom, and personal safety to expose a judicial system that incriminates the very women who seek protection.
New York Premiere • Q&A with Gabriel Silverman, Fiona Dawson, US Army Corporal Laila Villanueva, and Joshua BlockTransMilitary documents four brave men and women who risk their families’ livelihoods by coming out as transgender to the Pentagon’s top brass in the hope of attaining the equal right to serve. Winner of the Audience Award for Documentary at the 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival.
New York Premiere • Q&A with Kim HopkinsWith the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba in flux, Mariela, a mother of four young children who lives in a tiny, remote Cuban fishing village, is afraid that her window to escape to the U.S. will soon close.
New York Premiere • Q&A with Iram Haq & Sagaree JainAt home with her conservative Pakistani family, 16-year-old Nisha is the perfect, compliant daughter. But when out with her friends, she is a typical Norwegian teenager—partying and exploring relationships. When her father discovers her deception, Nisha’s two worlds brutally collide.
New York Premiere • Q&A with Margarita Cadenas & Tamara Taraciuk BronerEmbodying strength and stoicism, five Venezuelan women from diverse backgrounds draw a portrait of their country as it suffers under the worst crisis in its history amid extreme food and medicine shortages, a broken justice system, and widespread fear.
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