SundanceNow Doc Club partners with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (June 11-21) to present eight acclaimed documentaries, all focused on worldwide human issues, that subscribers can stream beginning today, June 10. You can access the program here.
5 BROKEN CAMERAS Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s critically-acclaimed 5 BROKEN CAMERAS is a deeply personal, first-hand account of life and non-violent resistance in Bil’in, a West Bank village surrounded by Israeli settlements. As the years pass in front of the camera of a Palestinian farmer, we witness his son grow from a newborn baby into a young boy who observes the world unfolding around him with the astute powers of perception that only children possess.
AFGHAN STAR In Afghanistan a group of brave individuals risk their life to sing. After thirty years of war and five devastating years of Taliban rule, pop culture returns to the country and millions tune in to a wildly popular American Idol-style series called Afghan Star. But things turn sour when the show’s fans threaten to go to extreme lengths to support their favorite singers. By observing the Afghani people’s relationship to pop culture, Havana Marking’s AFGHAN STAR offers a window into a country’s tenuous, ongoing struggle for modernity.
AFTER TILLER This film intimately explores the highly controversial subject of third-trimester abortions in the wake of the 2009 assassination of practitioner Dr. George Tiller. The procedure is now performed by only four doctors in the United States, all former colleagues of Dr. Tiller, who risk their lives every day in the name of their unwavering commitment toward their patients. Directors Martha Shane and Lana Wilson have created a moving and unique look at one of the most incendiary topics of our time, and they’ve done so in an informative, thought-provoking, and compassionate way.
AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY Ai Weiwei is China’s most famous international artist, and its most outspoken domestic critic. Against a backdrop of strict censorship and an unresponsive legal system, Ai expresses himself and organizes people through art and social media. In response, Chinese authorities have shut down his blog, beat him up, bulldozed his newly built studio, and held him in secret detention. First-time director Alison Klayman gains unprecedented access to Ai while working as a journalist in China. Her detailed portrait provides a nuanced exploration of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures.
BURMA VJ: REPORTING FROM A CLOSED COUNTRY While 100,000 people (including 1,000s of Buddhist monks) took to the streets to protest the country’s repressive regime that has held them hostage for over 40 years, foreign news crews were banned to enter and the Internet was shut down. The Democratic Voice of Burma, a collective of 30 anonymous and underground video journalists (VJs) recorded these historic and dramatic events on handycams and smuggled the footage out of the country, where it was broadcast worldwide via satellite. Risking torture and life imprisonment, the VJs vividly document the brutal clashes with the military and undercover police in Anders Ostergaard’s powerful documentary.
INTO THE ABYSS In his fascinating exploration of a triple homicide case in Conroe, Texas, Werner Herzog probes the human psyche to explore why people kill—and why a state kills. In intimate conversations with those involved, including 28-year-old death row inmate Michael Perry (scheduled to die within eight days of appearing on-screen), Herzog achieves what he describes as “a gaze into the abyss of the human soul.” Herzog’s inquiries also extend to the families of the victims and perpetrators as well as a state executioner and pastor who’ve been with death row prisoners as they’ve taken their final breaths. As he’s so often done before, Herzog’s investigation unveils layers of humanity, making an enlightening trip out of ominous territory.
THE INVISIBLE WAR This documentary is Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering Kofman’s groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of our country’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within our US military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire with the number of assaults in the last decade alone in the hundreds of thousands. Focusing on the powerfully emotional stories of several young women, the film reveals the systemic cover up of the crimes against them and follows their struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice.
THE OATH From the director of the Oscar-winning CITIZENFOUR, Laura Poitras’s THE OATH is a spectacularly gripping documentary that unspools like a great political thriller. Abu Jandal is a taxi driver in Sana’a, Yemen; his brother-in-law Salim Hamdan is a Guantanamo prisoner and the first man to face the controversial military tribunals. Jandal and Hamdan’s intertwined personal trajectories—how they became bin Laden’s bodyguard and driver respectively—act as prisms that serve to explore and contextualize a world which has confounded Western media. As Hamdan’s trial progresses, his military lawyers challenge fundamental flaws in the court system. The charismatic Jandal dialogues with his young son, Muslim students and journalists, and chillingly unveils the complex evolution of his belief system post- 9/11. Winner of Best Documentary Cinematography at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, THE OATH offers a rare window into a hidden realm—and the international impact of the U.S. War on Terror.