Human Rights Watch Fest To Showcase Israeli/Palestinian Films and Other Tales of Conflict
by Christopher Henderson
The 14th-annual Human Rights Watch International Film Festival will feature tales of war, reconciliation, and activism during its stay at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center from June 13 – 26. Of the 28 narratives and documentaries from 18 countries being screened, 15 will be New York premieres. In addition, the festival will host the 3rd annual Media That Matters online festival in computer instillations in the gallery outside the theater.
Five of the festival’s films focus on the Israeli/Palestine conflict. Award-winning Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad will screen two films, “Rana’s Wedding” and “Ford Transit.” “Rana’s Wedding” is a narrative feature about a young Palestinian who elopes with her boyfriend hours before she is forced to marry another man. “Ford Transit” documents a taxi driver’s journey through Jerusalem and Ramallah and the conversations of his passengers regarding the conflict.
Other films about the conflict include Israeli filmmaker Yulie Cohen Gerstal’s “My Terrorist,” a chronicle of her personal search for the Palestinian man who injured her in a 1978 attack, and “Hadassah Hospital,” which looks at the people who work at the Jerusalem hospital where the victims and perpetrators of suicide attacks are treated side-by-side.
The aftermath of the war in Rwanda is the subject of two of the festival’s films. “Gacaca, Living Together in Rwanda” documents the citizen-based tribunals set up to reunify the central African nation that lost more than 500,000 people in 100 days of genocide in 1994. “The Last Just Man” looks at the war through the eyes of U.N. General Romeo Dallaire.
The festival will also offer a few films about non-violent struggles. Girish Kasaravalli’s “Dweepa” tells the story of an local Indian priest who fights against the government’s construction of a dam and “Balseros” documents the difficulties Cuban raft refugees face once they arrive in the United States.
In the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery outside the theater, MediaRights.org will set up several computer installations so that festival attendees can see the films selected for the Media That Matters Festival. The 15 films, which include narritives and documentaries about the environment, prison rape, racial profiling and September 11th, will simutaniously be available on the Internet at the the festival’s website (www.mediathatmattersfest.org) for a year starting June 13.
Aside from the films, the website will link visitors to more than 850,000 humanitarian organzations while urging viewers to volunteer, sign petitions, and write their government officials. Wes Kim’s satrical short “Vision Test” about race and gender won this year’s Jury Prize.