Human Rights Watch Takes on Abuse through the Lens at Walter Reade
by Brian Brooks
While some in Washington, D.C. are making speeches to deflect responsibility and attention on issues of human rights abuse around the world, the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival is gearing up to spotlight the complicated issue. The 14-day event, co-presented with the Film Society of Lincoln Center at its Walter Reade Theater, will run June 11-24.
HRWIFF will host a screening of Sundance award-winner "Maria Full of Grace" by Joshua Marston on June 10th as a special benefit preceding the festival's launch. The film follows the story of a young Colombian girl's naive foray into the drug smuggling underworld in her attempt to escape a subsistent living working at a flower factory in a small town. HRWIFF will also present its annual "Irene Diamond Lifetime Achievement Award" to Peruvian filmmaker Francisco Lombardi during the benefit in recognition of his "lifelong commitment to human rights filmmaking." The director's latest film, "What the Eye Doesn't See," a fictitious five-story film set against the collapse of former controversial Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's fall from power will open the festival the following night.
Also being recognized at the event are filmmakers Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, who directed the Sundance 2004 award-winning doc about children born to prostitutes in Calcutta's red light district, "Born into Brothels." They will receive the fest's "Nestor Almendros Prize" for "courage and commitment in human rights filmmaking." Youth will also be the subject of other films in HRWIFF. "Juvies" spotlights the lives of young people serving long prison sentences through the lens of Leslie Neale's experience teaching video at an L.A. juvenile hall. From New York, the daily struggles of "at-risk" youth will screen in "Fighting to Learn and Learning to Fight" via a program by the Education Video Center (EVC), which gives youth access to video cameras to document their lives.
In other slated films, the death penalty will be the focus of Katy Chevigny and Kirsten Johnston's "Deadline," while civil rights issues related to the handling of thousands of immigrants of Arab or Muslim background after 9/11 is the subject of Alison Maclean and Tobias Perse's "Persons of Interest." Toronto 2003 fav "The Corporation," an analysis of the culture of the corporate institution is set to screen, and the story of a devoutly Catholic gay couple's determination to marry in their church will unfold in the doc, "Saints and Sinners."
"The Yes Men" will close the Human Rights Watch Film Festival June 24th. The comical Sundance doc follows the antics of two men who impersonate World Trade Organization officials at business conferences around the world, among other stunts. In all, the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival will screen 27 films and videos of which 23 are New York premieres.
[For more information, visit: http://www.hrw.org/iff/.]