Human Rights Watch announces London titles

Campaigning festival celebrates 20th year.

by Amber Wilkinson

Sonita - if 18-year-old Sonita had a say, Michael Jackson and Rihanna would be her parents and she'd be a rapper who tells the story of Afghan women and their fate as child brides. She finds out that her family plans to sell her to an unknown husband for $9,000.
Sonita - if 18-year-old Sonita had a say, Michael Jackson and Rihanna would be her parents and she'd be a rapper who tells the story of Afghan women and their fate as child brides. She finds out that her family plans to sell her to an unknown husband for $9,000. Photo: Behrouz Badrouj
The 20th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival will run in London from March 9 to 18, featuring 16 documentaries and dramas. The films include George Amponsah’s The Hard Stop about Mark Duggan and the Tottenham riots, Sundance World Documentary Grand Jury and Audience award winner Sonita, and Dalibor Matanić’s Cannes Film Festival winner The High Sun.

To celebrate this 20th anniversary edition the festival also includes four additional special programmes combining visual media with in-depth discussions about filmmaking and human rights between Human Rights Watch experts and independent human rights advocates including Charif Kiwan, spokesman for a Syrian film collective, the filmmakers Kim Longinotto, and James Brabazon, and photographers Giles Duley and Zalmaï.

Creative director John Biaggi said: “We are proud and excited to be celebrating our 20th anniversary in London this year with a programme that looks at some of the most urgent human rights issues facing the world today.

“The stand out themes this year are censorship and freedom in China; migration and the refugee crisis; artists as agitators; as well as LGBT, children and women’s rights – and weaving throughout is empowered personal filmmaking that it is as much about the journeys made by the filmmakers themselves as the struggles faced by their subjects that make human rights storytelling so powerful.”

The fund-raising Benefit Gala on Wednesday, March 9 at the British Museum will be the UK premiere of the award-winning Among The Believers, an exploration of the Red Mosque Islamic schools in Pakistan - which, according to the film, number tens of thousands across the country - that train young children to devote their lives to jihad.

The Opening Night film on Thursday 10 March at the Curzon Soho is the UK premiere of Hooligan Sparrow, which highlights the cost of defending human rights in China today.

The Closing Night film on 18 March at Picturehouse Central is Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Academy Award nominated debut drama Mustang.

Throughout the festival many filmmakers and Human Rights Watch experts will take part in in-depth post-screening Q&A discussions.

During the special programme discussion of Desperate Journey: Europe’s Refugee Crisis, the Human Rights Watch emergencies director, Peter Bouckaert, and Afghan-born photographer Zalmaï will share their insights and images, and discuss how governments can effectively respond to the refugee crisis.

A panel discussion, A Right to The Image, with Giles Duley, Kim Longinotto and Chiraf Kiwan will explore the importance of protecting the dignity of subjects, as well as the integrity of the journalists, filmmakers, photographers, and researchers who work in these situations.

The Risk, Security and Storytelling workshop with James Brabazon and the Human Rights Watch security director, Matt Timblin, will explore how to operate safely in a conflict zone and return with material that succeeds on both an editorial and an ethical level.

Nadim Houry, the Human Rights Watch deputy Middle East and North Africa director, and Andrea Holley, strategic director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival will discuss the investigative techniques used to assemble the Human Rights Watch report If The Dead Could Speak, which revealed the human stories behind a set of 53,275 photographs that were smuggled out of Syria by a military defector in August 2013. The final report, which took nine months of research, included at least 6,786 images of people who had died in government custody.

For full details of the festival, including guests and to buy tickets, visit the official site.

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