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May 26, 2005 2:00 AM
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"Omagh" to Kick-Off Human Rights Watch Fest, "Baraka" To Close Event

"Omagh" to Kick-Off Human Rights Watch Fest, "Baraka" To Close Event

by Vanessa Romo



A scene from "Omagh," opening the 2005 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.


The devastation of war, before, during and after, the continuing struggle for children's rights, and the inextinguishable human spirit are a few of the themes highlighted in the 16th Annual Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York City from June 10-23.

Co-presented by Human Rights Watch and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the two-week festival will be launched on June 9 with a benefit screening of this year's BAFTA Award winner, "Omagh." Directed by Pete Travis, "Omagh" is about a small Irish town of the same name nearly destroyed by an IRA-bomb blast. In all, 26 films and videos from 20 countries, including 22 New York premieres will be screened.

This year's Nestor Almendros Prize for courage and commitment in human rights filmmaking will be presented to Katarina Rejger and Eric van den Broek for their directorial work on "Videoletters." Long after the killing ended in the former Yugoslavia, estranged friends and neighbors hope to rekindle lost friendships, in this 20 film series, which will be partially screened at the festival from June 19-23.

Echoing similar themes of war-caused wreckage are three documentaries set in Iraq. Directed by Margaret Loescher, "Pulled From the Rubble" is Gil Loescher's tale as the lone survivor of a bomb attack on the UN headquarters in Baghdad. BBC documentarian Sean McAllister focuses on the experiences of a hotel piano bar musician, Samir Peter, once the Iraq's most famous pianist, in "The Liberace of Iraq" depicting a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq. And in "Occupation: Dreamland," filmmakers Garrett Scott and Ian Olds follow a squad of American soldiers deployed in Falluja, during winter of 2004.

Tackling issues children across the globe confront daily, director Duco Tellegen's "Living Rights," examines the problems facing three adolescents on three continents: A 16-year-old Japanese boy with autism who yearns for the experience of attending a regular school; a 14-year-old Maasai girl chooses to run away from home rather than be forced into an arranged marriage; and an 11-year-old Russian girl must choose between living with a foster mother near a nuclear reactor or an Italian family who has offered to adopt and restore her health.

"The Education of Shelby Knox" chronicles the transformation of a small town "good girl" from Lubbock, Texas into a fierce advocate for sex education and gay rights.

"The Boys of Baraka," about four African-American boys from Baltimore who leave the inner-city to attend a special school for at-risk youth in Kenya, is the closing night selection.

[ For a full line up and other festival details, please visit: http://www.hrw.org/iff.

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