Curzon Home Cinema presents Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Staff Reporter | On 22, May 2020
This weekend, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is going online, with a 13-day event streaming on Curzon Home Cinema.
Co-presented by the Barbican, Curzon Soho and Regent Street Cinema, the festival presents nine essential films about urgent human rights issues, reminding cinemagoers that human rights are global.
The festival, which runs from 22nd May to 5th June, presents films from Germany, Austria, the USA, Armenia, Israel, Denmark and more. They expose and humanise crises related to women’s rights, inspiring leaders, the power of journalism, refugee and exiled individuals and families living with trauma, indigenous rights, the on-going struggle for disability rights and Bangladeshi women working in the fashion industry.
From filmmakers to film subjects to panelists, the festival strives to ensure diversity of viewpoints and identities, giving voices to those silenced or marginalised in the film industry or media. After being cancelled in March, due to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s turned to the web instead to bring audiences together to celebrate the interconnectedness of humanity.
Each film will be available on-demand throughout the festival, and each film will also be accompanied by a live-streaming Q&A. While each film is available exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema, the Q&As will be available worldwide for free on the festival website.
Here’s the line-up:
I AM NOT ALONE
Director: Garin Hovannisian
Q&A: Friday 22 May, 9.30pm
On Easter Sunday 2018, Nikol Pashinyan put on his backpack and started on a 120 mile walk across Armenia to protest President Serzh Sargsyan’s attempt to stay in power for a third term. Nikol’s solitary act of peaceful protest would mark the start of a 25-day revolution that inspired thousands of protesters across the country to peacefully join together with one clear demand: Serzh Sargsyan must go. With remarkable access to key players reaching the highest levels of government and with footage recorded by phone wielding protesters, I Am Not Alone captures the energy and hopefulness of grassroots protest and direct action. This emboldening “velvet revolution” started with one man who, standing firm in his belief that he was not alone, convinced a nation that it deserved more.
IN MY BLOOD IT RUNS
Director: Maya Newell
Q&A: Saturday 23 May, 12.00pm
“I was born a little Aboriginal kid,” explains 10-year-old Dujuan. “That means I had a memory – a memory about being Aboriginal.” Born in Mparntwe (Alice Springs), Australia, Dujuan has a strong connection to his culture, speaks three languages, and is regarded as a healer in his community. But within the colonised school system, his strength, gifts, and intellect go unnoticed, his culture ignored and deleted from school books, and he acts out, attracting attention from the police and child welfare system. At the time of filming, 100 per cent of the youth in Alice Springs detention centres were Aboriginal. In this powerful portrait, made in collaboration with Dujuan’s family, Maya Newell puts the beauty, resilience, and challenges of the Northern Territory’s Indigenous children in the spotlight.
Director: Hilla Medalia, Shosh Shlam
Q&A: Sunday 24 May, 8.30pm
In China, unmarried women over the age of 27 are deemed “sheng nu” or “leftover”. As an effect of the now-defunct one-child policy there are 30 million more men than women, leaving single women under immense social pressures to marry, and fast, or be rejected from society. Public dating contests, “marriage markets” where city sidewalks are lined with parents advertising their children’s attributes, and government-sponsored matchmaking festivals are just some of the humiliating ordeals that unwed women face. This eye-opening documentary follows three women in their gruelling quest to find a husband, weighing the cost of family and society’s approval against their own chances of happiness.
Director: Eva Mulvad
Q&A: Tuesday 26 May, 8.30pm
An intimately filmed, epic love story introduces Leila and Sahand at the start of a turbulent fiveyear period beginning with their escape from Iran where, while married to other people, they fell in love. Since adultery is punishable by death, and divorce forbidden, they run for their lives and start over again as a family in Turkey with their young son, Mani, who doesn’t yet know that Sahand is his biological father. Suddenly living together in a strange new land battling tightening asylum laws to find security after years in limbo, they are learning more about each other in the toughest of circumstances and facing hurdles that test the strength of their relationship.
BORN IN EVIN
Director: Maryam Zaree
Q&A: Friday 29 May, 8.30pm
When she was 12 years old, actress and filmmaker Maryam Zaree found out that she was one of a number of babies born inside Evin, Iran’s most notorious political prison. Maryam’s parents were imprisoned shortly after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, a period in which tens of thousands of political dissidents were arrested and tortured. With Born in Evin, Maryam confronts decades of silence in her family and embarks on an exploration into the circumstances of her birth. On this vulnerable, lyrical journey Maryam considers the impact of trauma on the bodies and souls of survivors and their children, leading her to question how her generation can relate to their own history while also respecting the people they love as they prefer to heal in silence.
Director: Juliana Fanjul
Q&A: Saturday 30 May, 8.30pm
To 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. When she is fired by a radio station in 2015 after revealing a scandal involving then-President Enrique Peña Nieto, Carmen – with her dedicated journalist colleagues – decides to build a separate news platform. Facing threats of violence in the wake of a prominent journalist’s vicious murder, they must overcome fear for their personal well-being to continue in a shared fight for democracy and justice.
FAR FROM THE TREE
Director: Rachel Dretzin
Q&A: Sunday 31 May, 8.30pm
This life-affirming documentary follows the lives of Jack, Jason, Loini, and Trevor, who don’t fit society’s narrow definition of “normal.” We meet them and their families and discuss how expectations placed on children, parents, and families have such power to turn “unconditional love” on its head by ways of extraordinary challenges. Fascinated with this idea, writer and film subject Andrew Solomon’s work on this issue stems from his own traumatic experience coming out as gay to his parents. Rejected and cast aside, he tried everything to regain his parents’ love and be “normal,” including conversion therapy. In a quest for understanding, this film encourages us to let go of our preconceptions – for example, about people with autism or dwarfism – and celebrate our loved ones for all that makes them uniquely themselves.
Director: Hassan Fazili
Q&A: Thursday 4 June, 8.30pm
In 2015, after Hassan Fazili’s documentary Peace aired on Afghan national television, the Taliban assassinated the film’s main subject and put a price on Hassan’s head. Hassan looked at his wife and his daughters, and he knew they had to flee their home. Over the course of their multi-year saga in search of safety, the family grasped onto the only means they had to assert control over their situation: their camera-phones. Hassan and his wife Fatima are both filmmakers, and they are educating their daughters and encouraging them to be artists. The whole family shot this autobiographical film, which began when they sought and were rejected for refugee protection and follows them along the notorious
Balkan smuggling route. As they experienced increasingly degrading circumstances, the family latched on to filmmaking as a way to not just survive, but retain their humanity. Midnight Traveler is a gripping vérité story made by a family on the run. Their unique access and artistic vision provide an intimate portrait of a loving family and the myriad fellow travellers they meet on their odyssey.
MADE IN BANGLADESH
Director: Rubaiyat Hossain
Q&A: Friday 5 June, 8.30pm
Shimu works gruelling hours for paltry pay in a clothing factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh. After a fire in the factory leaves a co-worker dead, Shimu is moved to start a union. Her attempts are met with resistance at every step, not just from her patriarchal employers but also her colleagues, who fear losing their jobs. In the face of threats from management and violent disapproval of her husband, Shimu discovers a wealth of courage and tenacity she didn’t know she had. Channelling real-life stories that Bangladeshi filmmaker Rubaiyat Hossain encountered as a women’s rights activist, this empowering, layered drama shines a light on an oppressive industry, and demands our attention.