The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is an annual event showcasing some of the most powerful and compelling film and documentary making in the world. The film festival addresses human rights abuses using storytelling to draw attention to them by screening over 500 films and videos spanning a wide range of countries and issues. Individually, these films are a compelling and detailed insight into the complexities of abuses and conflict as they affect individuals. But together they resound in a powerful challenge to the viewer – not just to empathise as passive onlookers, but to consider how we can take action to demand truth and justice and support those working to prevent atrocities from ever happening.
The film festival screens films and videos from international film makers, both new and those well established in their field. All take human rights violations as their foundation, and use the medium of film as a platform to reveal untold stories, document previously silenced perspectives and draw attention to abuses that happen in uncomfortably close proximity to our own lives. Whether this is the testimony of individuals searching through painful pasts for liberating truths in Peru, inspiring individuals challenging decades of violence in Colombia, or the discrimination experienced by migrants in a wealthy Swiss city, the film-makers ask us to consider what it means to be a witness to violence, abuse and injustice, whichever side of the lens you are on.
The films address a variety of issues from female rights, education and cultures of violence to exclusion, military dictatorships and corruption in politics. Not unsurprisingly, South America features as a common geographic focus, as does the Middle East. However, the inclusion of Switzerland makes an important statement about the European migrant experience and the damaging effects of inequality and exclusion anywhere. Perhaps most importantly, the films address the root causes of violence, show the depth of conflict and the complexity of abuse. Truly understanding these is the only way to prevent future abuses and build long-term peace – and Peace Direct’s work around the world echoes this very message.
The festival boasts quality venues like the Barbican, the Brixton Roxy, the Curzon Soho and the British Museum as screening hosts. Q & A sessions with some of the directors and professionals from the human rights field give the events an extra interactive edge and the chance to engage directly with the film makers. These films are not always an easy watch and they do not provide any simplistic answers. But they are compelling both artistically and in content and are arguably some of the most important films you can see this year.
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is running from now until the 27th. See the website for the full programme and more details.