Thursday, June 13, 2013 , Posted by LATINO EVENTS Y TESPIS MAGAZINE at 3:13 PM

Is that time of the year for some of us to smell the coffee. To get real. The Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2013 is back in New York with 20 provocative films calling for justice and social change. 
Are traditional values and human rights on opposite sides? This year, the festival focuses in the struggle to make sense of this uneasy relationship between the individual quest for freedom and progress and the call - the pressure - to remain the same, even when doing so means the perpetuation of a system of prejudice, discrimination and inequality.  The festival also centers its attention in the power of an individual to take control and make a difference while dealing with his/her reality.

Outstanding bodies of work such as The Undocumented, a close and revealing look at the human cost of a misguided immigration policy by the US and the failure of both Mexico and the USA to provide their citizens with such basic human rights as the right to live and the right to work. 

Marco Williams puts 'el dedo en la llaga' with this honest and deeply felt documentary. Now that immigration reform is rolling in the Senate, watching The Undocumented will make sure we keep the focus on the important issue: a fellow human. Migration is about a son looking for his father; a father looking to go back to his family, an abuela with her nieto looking for a daugter and a mother, a sister and his little brother looking for their mother. Everyone looking to contribute and make it all better. Many of them never make it and died in the middle of nowhere. Hundreds of bodies are recovered: The Recovered Migrants. Many more are still waiting somewhere in the Sonora Desert as are their families on both sides of the border. We can help to stop this nonsense by demanding an honest and comprehensive Immigration Reform!. Please act now.

Outstanding Anita, that centers the discussion on what have been achieved so far and the ongoing fight against gender inequality. Anita Hill's ordeal is still changing the country for good. 

More women in congress make it possible to question that kind of behavior as witnessed recently when the senate called upon the top brass of our military to address rape and sexual violence in the military. Nevertheless, one just have to remember how, not long ago, another senate panel composed exclusively of old white men was convened to discuss women reproductive rights, to understand that the job continues.
Tall as a Baobab Tree is another remarkable doc where the power of the individual propels change and where education is at the center of the conflict: Educarme o no Educarme; Cambiar o seguir siendo el mismo; Ser o No Ser?. 

One thing is for sure, and Tall as a Baobab Tree is a beautiful remainder of it:  Education is one of the most important agents of change we have. And we must keep it a the center of it all.

My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone and Camp 14 – Total Control Zone bring us into hidden worlds. Hidden to us but a reality to many of our fellow humans: Life for ordinary people recorded by themselves in Afghanistan's Helmand province. Lives caught in between one side and the other; children, women and men trapped by the chaos and the social morons and still, keeping a gleamer of hope for a better future.
How can a regime like the one in North Korea be accepted among us? 

Why some human beings will do this to their fellow humans? Camp 14 – Total Control Zone will make you sick with disgust, for sure. Hopefully, you will redouble your commitment to stop these atrocities for happening again. Marc Wiese, its director, is the recipient of the festival’s annual Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking for his film.
Whats wrong with Humanitarian Aid and Aid Assistance around the world? It is not a secret that humanitarian aid has become the focus of attention and criticism mainly because the way is implemented and its lack of transparency. In Africa, Asia and the Americas, NGO, governments and the global capital seem to be pursuing their own agendas which do not relate to the needs of the people they are suppose to be aiding. 

Fatal Assistance will drive the point home. The Reconstruction of Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake has become a sad example of improvisation and a showcase for all that is wrong with the way we use Humanitarian Aid. Hasta cuando?.

And these are only the films I already watched!. There is more, of course. Look for the doc about the 99% and OWS, and Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer, Salma, Born This Way, The New Black, The Parade, deepsouth, to mention a few others.

These are the four themes for this year’s festival: Traditional values and human rights— incorporating women’s rights, disability rights and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights; Crises and Migration; Focus on Asia; and Human Rights in the United States

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs June 13-23 at Lincoln Center and at IFC Center. For more information, visit

Here is a rundown of the main films:

The festival will launch on June 13 with a fundraising Benefit Night for Human Rights Watch featuring the HBO documentary Which Way Is the Front Line From Here? The Life and Time of Tim Hetherington. The film is Sebastian Junger’s moving tribute to his lost friend and Restrepo co-director, the photojournalist and filmmaker Tim Hetherington, who was killed while covering the Libyan civil war in 2011.

The main program starts on June 14 with the Opening Night presentation of Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Mock’s ANITA, in which Anita Hill looks back at the powerful testimony she gave against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and its impact on the broader discussion of gender inequality in America. The Closing Night screening on June 23 will be Jeremy Teicher’s award-winning drama Tall As the Baobab Tree, the touching story of a teenage girl who tries to rescue her younger sister from an arranged marriage in rural Senegal.

Traditional Values and Human Rights: Women’s Rights

Traditional values are often cited as an excuse to undermine human rights. In addition to Tall As the Baobab Tree, five documentaries in this year’s festival consider the impact on women. Veteran documentarian Kim Longinotto’s Salma is the remarkable story of a South Indian Muslim woman who endured a 25-year confinement and forced marriage by her own family before achieving national renown as the most famous female poet in the Tamil language. Jehane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief’s Rafea: Solar Mama profiles an illiterate Bedouin woman from Jordan who gets the chance to be educated in solar engineering but has to overcome her husband's resistance. In Karima Zoubir’s intimately observed Camera/Woman, a Moroccan divorcée supports her family by documenting wedding parties while navigating her own series of heartaches. It will be shown with Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s Going Up the Stairs, a charming portrait of a traditional Iranian grandmother who discovers her love of painting late in life and is invited to exhibit her work in Paris. Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin’s candid HBO documentary Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer centers on the women of the radical-feminist punk group, two of whom are currently serving time in a Russian prison for their acts of defiance against the government.

Traditional Values and Human Rights: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights

Three films in the program remind viewers that, despite recent strides toward equality, LGBT communities around the world still struggle for acceptance. Shaun Kadlec and Deb Tullmann’s Born This Way is an intimate look at the lives of four young gay men and lesbians in Cameroon, where there are more arrests for homosexuality than in any other country in the world. Yoruba Richen’s The New Black uncovers the complicated and often combative intersection of the African-American and LGBT civil rights movements, with a particular focus on homophobia in the black church. In Srdjan Dragojevic’s drama The Parade, a fight by activists to stage a Gay Pride parade in Belgrade leads to an unlikely alliance in a black-humored look at contemporary Serbia.

Traditional Values and Human Rights: Disability Rights

Harry Freeland’s In the Shadow of the Sun is an unforgettable study in courage, telling the story of two albino men who attempt to follow their dreams in the face of prejudice and fear in Tanzania.

Crises and Migration

Three documentaries highlight the issues of humanitarian aid, conflict and migration. In the Festival Centerpiece, Fatal Assistance, the acclaimed director Raoul Peck, Haiti's former culture minister, takes us on a two-year journey following the 2010 earthquake and looks at the damage done by international aid agencies whose well-meaning but ignorant assumptions turned a nightmare into an unsolvable tragedy. Danish journalist Nagieb Khaja’s My Afghanistan – Life in the Forbidden Zone shows ordinary Afghans in war-torn Helmand who were provided with hi-res camera phones to record their daily lives, giving a voice to those frequently ignored by the Western media. Marco Williams’ The Undocumented is an unvarnished account of the thousands of Mexican migrants who have died in recent years while trying to cross Arizona’s unforgiving Sonora Desert in search of a better life in the United States.

Focus on Asia

The festival will screen two important documentaries from Asia. In Joshua Oppenheimer’s chilling and inventive The Act of Killing, the unrepentant former members of Indonesian death squads are challenged to reenact some of their many murders in the style of the American movies they love. Marc Wiese’s Camp 14 – Total Control Zone tells the powerful story of Shin Dong-Huyk, who spent the first two decades of his life behind the barbed wire of a North Korean labor camp before his dramatic escape led him into an outside world he had never known. Wiese is the recipient of the festival’s annual Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking for his film.

Human Rights in the United States

Four American documentaries — including festival opener ANITA — highlight human rights issues in our own back yard. 99% – The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Film goes behind the scenes of the 2011 movement, digging into big-picture issues as organizers, participants and critics reveal what happened and why. Al Reinert’s An Unreal Dream: The Michael Morton Story tells the story of a Texas man who was wrongfully convicted of his wife’s murder and was exonerated by new DNA evidence after nearly 25 years behind bars. Lisa Biagiotti’s deepsouth is an evocative exploration of the rise in HIV in the rural American south, a region where poverty, a broken health system and a culture of denial force those affected to create their own solutions to survive.

In conjunction with this year’s film program, the festival will present the photo exhibit Dowry: Child and Forced Marriage in South Sudan. The exhibit is Getty photographer Brent Stirton’s visual investigation into the devastating impact the tradition of child marriage has on girls in this East African nation. It will be featured in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater for the duration of the festival.
Most of the screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers, and some by panel discussions with experts and film subjects.
For more information:
Photos courtesy of the HRW Film Festival.

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