The 23rd annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival – June 14 to 28


The 23rd annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns to New York from June 14 to 28 with a program of powerful human stories of oppression, injustice, and resilience from across the globe.

Sixteen documentary and fiction films from 12 countries will be screened, including 14 New York premieres. A co-presentation of Human Rights Watch and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the festival will be held at the Film Society’s Walter Reade Theater. Most of the screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers, and some by panel discussions with experts and film subjects.

The program this year is organized around five themes: health, development, and the environment; lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and migrants’ rights; personal testimony and witnessing; reporting in crises; and women’s rights.

“What is truly inspiring and hopeful about this year’s program is how many films showcase the powerful impact that individuals have on human rights issues on the world stage,” said John Biaggi, Human Rights Watch Film Festival director. “These films demonstrate that committed individuals can generate positive and lasting change.”

“For over 20 years, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival has provided a forum for the creative community to share stories that bear witness to the human condition,” added Rose Kuo, Film Society of Lincoln Center executive director. “We are proud to support their mission of bringing important issues to the screen.”

The festival will launch on June 14 with a fundraising Benefit Night for Human Rights Watch, featuring Kim Nguyen’s War Witch, an emotionally powerful drama about a 14-year-old girl abducted by a rebel army in sub-Saharan Africa. The main program will begin on June 15, with the Opening Night presentation of Alison Klayman’s festival favorite Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, an up-close look at renowned Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei and his ongoing battle with the Chinese government. The Closing Night screening on June 28 will be Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s Call Me Kuchu, which follows the bold efforts of Ugandan David Kato and a close-knit group of activists to repeal their country’s homophobic laws and liberate their fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens, or “kuchus.”

Health, Development, and the Environment
Three American-directed documentaries highlight the wide-ranging effects of corporate commoditization on human rights. Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke’s Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare skillfully examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo of a broken medical system—a system designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care. Micha X. Peled’s Bitter Seeds is a vibrant investigation into a suicide epidemic among India’s cotton farmers, deeply in debt after getting caught up in program that uses genetically modified seed program. Beth and George Gage’s Bidder 70 profiles courageous environmental activist Tim DeChristopher, who was sentenced to two years in federal prison in 2011 for deliberately sabotaging a much-protested Bureau of Land Management auction of oil and gas leases on pristine public lands in Utah.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) and Migrants’ Rights
While the closing night documentary Call Me Kuchu looks at the injustices facing the LGBT community in Uganda, two other festival titles highlight the issues and abuses faced by predominantly African migrants in Europe. In the emotionally charged documentary Special Flight, director Fernand Melgar gained intimate access to his subjects, rejected asylum seekers and unauthorized migrants in Switzerland’s Frambois detention center. German filmmaker Maggie Peren’s drama, Color of the Ocean, tells the moving story of a father and son, Congolese refugees whose paths collide with those of an altruistic tourist and a Canary Islands police officer—changing the course of all their lives.

Personal Testimony and Witnessing
Four films in this year’s program—including the narrative portrait War Witch and the documentary profile Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry—reveal the permanent and pervasive impact of human rights abuses on the lives of individuals. Annie Goldson’s powerful Brother Number One follows New Zealander Rob Hamill as he is given the chance to testify at the Cambodia War Crimes Tribunal against Comrade Duch, the man responsible for ordering the death of thousands of prisoners at the Khmer Rouge’s notorious S-21 prison, including Rob’s brother Kerry. Lieven Corthouts’ Little Heaven is a touchingportrait of 13-year-old Lydia, as she goes about her daily life in an Ethiopian orphanage for children living with HIV.

Reporting in Crises
Three documentaries offer insight into the work of courageous journalists the world over who, despite the many risks they face, refuse to stay quiet. Mexican-American filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz’s Reportero follows veteran reporter Sergio Haro and his colleagues at Zeta, a Tijuana-based newsweekly, as they boldly ply their trade in what has become one of the most deadly places in the world to be a journalist. Beate Arnestad’s Silenced Voices is told as a personal encounter with exiled journalists from Sri Lanka who have been “silenced” and almost killed in their home country because they exposed war crimes, corruption and massacres of civilians. Egyptian-American director Mai Iskander’s Words of Witness focuses on daringyoung Cairo-based internet reporter Heba Afify as she takes to the streets to report on an Egypt in turmoil.

Women’s Rights
Three festival films address women’s rights issues, from the Middle East to the US. Director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering are the recipients of the festival’s annual Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking for their groundbreaking investigative documentary The Invisible War, which reveals the profound personal and social consequences of the rape epidemic in the US military. David Fine’s uplifting Salaam Dunk chronicles a year in the life of the women’s basketball team at the American University of Sulaimani, Iraq, where the sport offers the young women a release from the realities of a war-torn nation. Arab-American filmmaker Susan Youssef’s Habibi, the first fiction feature set in Gaza in over 15 years, challenges the stereotype of the oppressed Arab woman ina love story between two Palestinian students torn apart by the combined forces of Israel’s rigid political boundaries and Palestinian social conventions.

In conjunction with this year’s film program, the festival will present the photo exhibit Unreported Stories, South African photographer Brent Stirton’s visual investigation into abuses against people living near the Porgera gold mine of Papua New Guinea. Stirton and Human Rights Watch won a 2012 Peabody award for their investigative work in the mine. The exhibit will be featured in the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Walter Reade Theater for the duration of the festival.

All films are screened at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater, 165 West 65th Street, north side/upper level (between Broadway and Amsterdam Ave.)

TICKET INFORMATION: Ticket information for the 2012 Human Rights Watch Film Festival can be found at or in person at the Walter Reade Theater box office. Hours: Mon.-Fri. opens at 12:30pm, Sat./Sun. opens 1/2 hr before first public screening; closes 15 minutes after the start of the last show. The box office closes at 6pm when there are no public screenings. For more information visit, or call 212-875-5600 during operating hours. Experience the festival on the go with HRWFF’s mobile site: Visit from mobile devices to buy tickets, browse the film schedule, view trailers and listen to interviews with filmmakers. 

Benefit Film & Reception
Thursday, June 14, 6:30pm
Post-screening panel discussion: Featuring Jo Becker, Advocacy Director, Children’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch and Grace Akallo, former child soldier and co-author of “Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children.” Moderated by Carroll Bogert, Deputy Executive Director for External Relations, Human Rights Watch.

Individual ticket prices begin at $500
Tickets can be purchased online at

Kim Nguyen—Canada—2012—90m—drama
Produced by Pierre Even and Marie-Claude Poulin, Item 7
In French and Lingala with English subtitles
At 14, Komona has lived through horrors that eclipse an adult’s worst nightmares. In this mesmerizing, otherworldly drama, shot entirely in the Democratic Republic of Congo, comes a story of incredible human resilience. In a small isolated village, Komona lived peacefully with her parents until the day the rebels came. They captured Komona and forced her to commit an irreparable act: slay her parents. In the rebels’ camp, the training is merciless. Komona quickly learns to endure, to fight and above all, to survive. During a battle waged against the government army, only Komona is spared. The rebel chief sees this as a sign and declares she is the new sorceress. She is soon brought to Great Tiger, the supreme leader of all the rebels, who makes her his war witch. Only one person is willing to help and listen to Komona, a 15-year-old boy named Magician. As time passes, Magician and Komona fall in love and eventually marry. But Komona is soon recaptured and returned to the rebels as their war witch. She then becomes pregnant and escapes again. Komona wishes to forget the past, but her parents’ ghosts keep reappearing. She soon realizes that if she doesn’t want her parents’ ghosts to haunt her, she must journey back to her birthplace to lay her parents’ souls to rest. Silver Bear for Best Actress Rachel Mwanza, 2012 Berlin Film Festival. Winner, Best Narrative Feature, 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Opening Night Film & Reception
AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY (New York premiere)
Alison Klayman—China/US—2012—91m—doc
In English and Mandarin with English subtitles
Friday, June 15, 7:00pm
Post-screening panel discussion: Featuring Alison Klayman, Filmmaker; Sophie Richardson, China Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch; Tong Yi, former activist in China, licensed attorney in the US. Moderated by Minky Worden, Media Director, Communications Department, Human Rights Watch.
In this unprecedented look at Ai Weiwei and those close to him, filmmaker Alison Klayman captures the artist’s forthright and unequivocal stance against China’s oppression, painting a picture of the artist as an individual and as a powerful voice for human rights. Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry chronicles the complexities of Ai’s life for three years, beginning with his rise to public prominence via blog and Twitter after he questioned the deaths of more than 5,000 students in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Ai Weiwei always makes his opposition to silence and oppression public. His appearances on Twitter and the unsparing truths he airs in his blog often lead to police harassment. But even then he never gives up, and instead films his official minders with his video camera and publishes his footage on the web. Winner, Special Jury Award for US Documentary, 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Selects. US theatrical release July 27.

Closing Night Film & Reception
CALL ME KUCHU (New York premiere)
Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall—US—2012—87m—doc
In English and Luganda with English subtitles
Thursday, June 28, 7:00pm
Post-screening panel discussion: Featuring Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, filmmakers; Longjones Wambere, film subject. Moderated by Boris O. Dittrich, Advocacy Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Program, Human Rights Watch.
In an office on the outskirts of Kampala, veteran activist David Kato labors to repeal Uganda’s homophobic laws and liberate his fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, or “kuchus.” But David’s formidable task just became more difficult. A new “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” proposes the death penalty for HIV-positive gay men and prison for anyone who fails to turn in a known homosexual. David is one of the few who dare to publicly protest the country’s government and press. Working with a dedicated group of fellow activists, he fights for Kampala’s kuchus on Ugandan television, at the United Nations, and in the courts. Because, he insists, “if we keep on hiding, they will say we are not here.” With unprecedented access, Call Me Kuchu examines the astounding courage and determination required to battle an oppressive government, a vicious media and a powerful church in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Winner, Best International Feature, 2012 Hot Docs Film Festival.

BIDDER 70 (New York premiere)
Beth and George Gage—US—2011—74m—doc
Tuesday, June 19, 6:30pm (Q&A) / Wednesday, June 20, 9:15pm (Q&A) / Friday, June 22, 4:00pm (Q&A)
Bidder 70 tells the story of Tim DeChristopher and his stunning act of civil disobedience in a time of global climate chaos. On December 19, 2008, DeChristopher, as Bidder #70, derailed the Bush administration’s last minute, widely disputed federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Oil and Gas lease auction, acting to safeguard thousands of acres of Utah land. Bidding $1.7 million, Tim won 22,000 acres of land with no intention to pay or drill. For his disruption of the auction, DeChristopher was indicted on two federal charges. Tim’s civil disobedience has drawn national attention to America’s energy policy and criticism to the BLM’s management of public lands. Refusing to compromise his principles and rejecting numerous plea offers by the prosecution, Tim is willing to sacrifice his own future to bring this vitally important issue to global attention. Bidder 70 is Tim’s story: his actions, his trial and his possible prison sentence. It is also the story of the scientists, activists, writers, and movements that influence and support his actions.

BITTER SEEDS (New York premiere)
Micha X. Peled—India/US—2011—87m—doc
In English and Hindi with English subtitles
Thursday, June 21, 9:15pm (Q&A) / Friday, June 22, 6:30pm (Panel)
Manjusha Amberwar, a young journalist, examines the causes of an epidemic of farmer suicides in India—one every 30 minutes—that includes her own father. She hopes that by drawing attention to their plight, she can bring an end to this tragedy. But it won’t be easy. In 2004 an American company introduced its genetically modified seeds to the Indian market, promising higher yields. Farmers tell her that the seeds require expensive pesticides and chemical fertilizers. And the sterile seeds, unlike the conventional seeds previously used by farmers, have to be purchased again each year. Manjusha follows one farmer through the disappointing season, praying for rain, discovering parasite infestation, and finally selling his meager yield achieved through backbreaking labor. We see the vicious cycle: annual loans from usurious moneylenders, desperate debt and the inability of farmers to provide dowries for their daughters—making the symbolism of their suicide by drinking expensive pesticides all but inescapable.

Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke—US—2012—98m—doc
Sunday, June 24, 6:30pm (Panel) / Monday, June 25, 6:30pm (Q&A) / Wednesday, June 27, 4:00pm (Q&A) *Film subject Dr. Erin Martin present on June 24
Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: how can the United States save its badly broken healthcare system? American healthcare costs are rising so rapidly that they could reach $4.2 trillion annually within 10 years. Patients pay more, yet health outcomes are worse. Thus it is no surprise that healthcare is a top concern in the United States and at the center of an intense political debate. The current battle over cost and access does not ultimately address the root of the problem though: the US has a “disease-care” system, not a healthcare system. After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into a high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground. With consummate skill, filmmakers Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke interweave dramatic personal stories with the efforts of leaders battling to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the US military.

Maggie Peren—Spain—2011—95m—drama
In French, German and Spanish with English subtitles
Saturday, June 23, 8:30pm / Sunday, June 24, 4:00pm
Color of the Ocean tells the story of two refugees whose paths collide with those of an altruistic tourist and a Canary Island police officer—changing the course of all their lives. After years working as a border patrolman, José (Alex González) is cynical about his work. His skepticism is tested when he encounters Nathalie (Sabine Timoteo), a German tourist assisting a boatload of refugees she discovers landing on the Canary shores. One of those refugees, a Congolese man named Zola (Hubert Koundé), is placed in an internment camp. Nathalie tries to help him, despite her husband’s objections. But Zola and his son Mamadou quickly find themselves in yet another precarious situation, where they are dependent on nefarious smugglers. Questions of responsibility repeatedly arise and haunt all concerned as they grapple with the knowledge they cannot know for certain if their actions will make matters better or worse.

SPECIAL FLIGHT (New York premiere)
Fernand Melgar—Switzerland—2011—100m—doc
In French with English subtitles
Saturday, June 16, 6:30pm (Q&A) / Sunday, June 17, 4:00pm (Q&A) / Tuesday, June 19, 4:00pm
Fernand Melgar’s intimate and emotionally charged portrait of the rejected asylum seekers and illegal migrants in Switzerland’s Frambois detention centre reveals a world that few know from the inside. With amazing access to his subjects, Melgar introduces us to a community of men who share friendships, fears, and a similar fate. There are three possibilities for every resident: to leave free with asylum granted, to leave the country by choice on a regular flight, or to leave in custody on a so-called ‘special flight’ back to their country of origin. As planes come and go in the background, the staff—who are caretakers, counselors, and friends to the men there— have heart-felt dialogues about the well-being of residents. In the end though, the staff reflect society’s attitudes towards migrants, and are also recipients of the residents’ resentment—making them simultaneously friend and foe. And that fact is most evident when staff must prepare one of the men to leave on a special flight. Winner, Grand Jury Prize, 2012 Full Frame Documentary Festival.

BROTHER NUMBER ONE  (New York premiere)
Annie Goldson—New Zealand—2011—99m—doc
In English and Khmer with English subtitles
Tuesday, June 19, 8:45pm (Q&A) / Wednesday, June 20, 4:00pm (Q&A) / Thursday, June 21, 6:30pm (Q&A)
Through New Zealander Rob Hamill’s story of his brother’s death at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Brother Number One explores how the regime and its followers killed nearly 2 million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. In 1978, Kerry Hamill and two friends disappeared without a trace while sailing from Australia to Southeast Asia. Rob discovers that a Khmer Rouge cell attacked the boat. One sailor, Canadian Stuart Glass, was shot immediately, but Kerry and Englishman John Dewhirst were taken to the notorious S-21 Prison in Phnom Penh, held for several months, tortured, and killed. Thirty years later, Kerry’s youngest brother Rob has a rare chance to take the stand as a witness at the Cambodia War Crimes Tribunal and face Comrade Duch, the man who gave the final orders for Kerry and thousands of others to be tortured and killed. As Rob retraces his brother’s final days, he meets survivors who tell the story of the S-21 prison and of what countless families across Cambodia experienced at the hands of the Khmer Rouge. In this spirit, Brother Number One grapples with the trauma that grips all Cambodia: the struggle to forgive in the face of immeasurable anger.

LITTLE HEAVEN (New York premiere)
Lieven Corthouts—Belgium—2011—70m—doc
In Amharic with English subtitles
Monday, June 25, 4:00pm (Q&A) / Tuesday, June 26, 6:30pm (Q&A) / Wednesday, June 27, 9:00pm (Q&A)
“HIV is like somebody living in my body without paying rent. I don’t know him and I don’t like him.” —Lydia, 13, Little Heaven Orphanage, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Lydia is at a turning point in her life. We experience life through Lydia’s expressive face and reflective diary entries, her daily routines at the Little Heaven orphanage for children living with HIV, her conversations with other children there, her doctors’ appointments, and her exercise, study, and prayer. Despite being abandoned by their families or left alone when their parents died, the children form a new family, together with their caretakers. Their HIV status is always in the background, but small victories show us a life that is full of hope , not despair.

REPORTERO (New York premiere)
Bernardo Ruiz—Mexico/US—2011—72m—doc
In English and Spanish with English subtitles
Thursday, June 21, 4:00pm (Q&A) / Friday, June 22, 9:30pm (Q&A) / Saturday, June 23, 3:30pm (Panel) *Film subjects Sergio Haro and Adela Navarro present on June 22 and 23
Reportero follows veteran reporter Sergio Haro and his colleagues at Zeta, a Tijuana, Mexico-based weekly, as they dauntingly ply their trade in what has become one of the most deadly places in the world to be a journalist. Since the paper’s founding in 1980, two of the paper’s editors have been murdered and the founder viciously attacked. “Impunity reigns in Mexico, especially here along the northern border,” explains Adela Navarro, Sergio’s boss and Zeta’s co-director. Despite the attacks, the paper has continued its singular brand of aggressive investigative reporting, frequently tackling dangerous subjects that other publications avoid, such as cartels’ infiltration of political circles and security forces. As a veteran member of Zeta’s editorial team, Sergio contributes to the investigative crime pieces that are the paper’s bread and butter, but at this stage of his career, he is also after what he calls the “deeper story” of the region—the human stories that tend to fall between the cracks.

SILENCED VOICES (New York premiere)
Beate Arnestad—Norway—2012—60m—doc
In English and Swedish and Tamil with English subtitles
Monday, June 25, 9:15pm (Q&A) / Tuesday, June 26, 4:00pm (Q&A) / Wednesday, June 27, 7:00pm (Q&A) *Film subject Sonali Samarasinghe present for all screenings.
Journalists in Sri Lanka risk life and limb to practice their profession. Lasantha Wickrematunge was one of these champions. He was gunned down by eight men in broad daylight in the capital, Colombo. His newly wed and now widowed wife, Sonali Samarasinghe, had to arrange her bridegroom’s funeral only a few days after the wedding. Besides being editor-in-chief of the critical newspaper The Morning Leader, Wickrematunge was also a fierce opponent of the Sri Lankan government. As a lawyer and journalist, his wife worked closely with him; the government forced her to leave the country not long after his killing. Since that time, Samarasinghe has been fighting for justice from her base in New York. Sri Lanka is one of the most perilous countries in the world for journalists. According to official sources, nearly 25 journalists have been killed there since 1992, at least 10 of whom were deliberately targeted by suspected government or opposition Tamil Tiger forces. Director Beate Arnestad tells the story of the civil war in Sri Lanka based on the stories of journalists living in exile. She seeks out various reporters who risk their lives over and over to highlight the human rights violations taking place in their homeland.

WORDS OF WITNESS (New York premiere)
Mai Iskander—Egypt/US—2012—68m—doc
In English and Arabic with English subtitles
Saturday, June 23, 6:00pm (Q&A) / Sunday, June 24, 1:30pm (Q&A) / Tuesday, June 26, 8:45pm (Q&A)
Defying cultural norms and family expectations, 22-year-old Heba Afify takes to the streets to report on an Egypt in turmoil, using tweets, texts and Facebook posts. Every time Heba heads out to cover the historical events shaping her country’s future, her mother is compelled to remind her, “I know you are a journalist, but you’re still a girl!” Her coming of age, political awakening and the disillusionment that follows, mirrors that of a nation seeking the freedom to shape its own destiny, dignity and democracy.  Heba’s words bear witness to the heady optimism of a country on a path to self-determination, the toppling of a dictator, the difficult transition toward democracy, the courageous challenge to the ruling military who cracks down on the opposition, and the celebration of a cultural shift where a younger generation inspired a country to “lead themselves.”

HABIBI (New York premiere)
Susan Youssef—Palestine—2011—78m—drama
In Arabic with English subtitles
Saturday, June 16, 9:15pm (Q&A) / Sunday, June 17, 1:30pm (Q&A) / Monday, June 18, 6:30pm (Q&A)
“We have a right to love… We have a right to be happy even if people around us go hungry and are dying. To lose these things would be to completely give in to the occupation.” — Layla, Khan Yunis, Gaza Strip, Occupied Palestinian Territories
Young lovers Qays (Kais Nashef) and Layla (Maisa Abd Elhadi) are university students in the West Bank who hail from Khan Yunis in Gaza. He is pursuing a degree in literature and she in engineering, but they are forced to return home before com pleting their courses. In the more religious and traditional environment of Khan Yunis, their love story can continue only by marrying. Yet Qays, who is a construction worker living in a refugee camp, is too poor to con vince Layla’s father that he can provide for his beloved daughter. As the couple struggles to be together, Qays paints verses from the classical poem Majnun Layla all over Khan Yunis, a rebellious act that angers Layla’s father and the local self-appointed moral police. Lyrical and passionate, Habibi depicts a reality where personal happiness must be weighed against society’s opinions, and a choice sometimes made between one’s people and one’s heart.

SALAAM DUNK (New York premiere)
David Fine—Iraq/US—2011—82m—doc
In Arabic and Kurdish with English subtitles
Saturday, June 16, 4:00pm (Q&A) / Sunday, June 17, 6:45pm (Q&A) / Monday, June 18, 4:00pm
With plenty of pop music and ‘girl power,’ Salaam Dunk delivers a tale of hope and inspiration, courtesy of one winning group of Iraqi women basketball players at the American University in Sulaimani, Iraq. The women come from all over the country to attend this prestigious university, but many cannot tell family back home that they go to an ‘American’ college. The team itself is a ‘mini Iraq’—comprised of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and Christians. Through interviews and personal video diaries, we learn about the women, their families and their experiences since the US invasion in 2003. Their narratives provide a rare look at recent events in Iraq with stories of loss and choices that have to be made. Education is the difference between the past and the future for these women and basketball becomes a key part of that education. Their team is like a family and the game is like life. And as their coach Ryan says: sports teaches fight and resilience, but who knows fight and resilience better than these women?

THE INVISIBLE WAR (New York premiere)
Directed by Kirby Dick, Produced by Amy Ziering—US—2011—95m—doc
Monday, June 18, 8:45pm (Q&A)  / Wednesday, June 20, 6:30pm (Panel)
*Film subjects Kori Cioca, Ariana Klay and Ben Klay present on June 20
The Invisible War is a groundbreaking investigative documentary about the shameful and underreported epidemic of rape within the US military. With stark clarity and escalating revelations, The Invisible War exposes the rape epidemic in the armed forces, investigating the institutions that perpetuate it as well as its profound personal and social consequences. We meet characters who embraced their military service with pride and professionalism, only to have their idealism crushed. Focusing on the emotionally charged stories of survivors, 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 Invisible War features hard-hitting interviews with high-ranking military officers and members of Congress that reveal the perfect storm conditions that exist for rape in the military, its history of cover-up, and what can be done to bring about much needed change. Winner, Audience Award for US Documentary, 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Cinedigm Entertainment and Docurama Films. US theatrical release June 22.

Renowned cinematographer and filmmaker Nestor Almendros (1930–1992) was a founder of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, actively involved in the selection of films and the promotion of human rights filmmaking. Even while deeply immersed in his own projects, he took the time to call the Festival team to mention a strong documentary or promote a work-in-progress. Believing in the power of human rights filmmaking, Nestor devoted himself to becoming a mentor to many young filmmakers. It is in the Festival’s loving memory of Nestor and our desire to celebrate his vision that we proudly bestow this award to filmmakers for their exceptional commitment to human rights.
The Festival is delighted to present Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering—filmmakers of The Invisible War—with our 2012 Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking.

Photography by Brent Stirton
June 14-28, 2012 at the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery, Walter Reade Theater
Deep within dense forests and high up in isolated mountains, human rights stories are unfolding without anyone watching. South African photographer Brent Stirton teamed up with Human Rights Watch investigators to uncover two of these stories hidden from all but the most intrepid observers.
We traveled to a gold mine in Porgera, a remote part of Papua New Guinea’s central highlands, to investigate and document reports of horrific abuse. On the mine’s sprawling dumps of waste rock, security personnel were alleged to have carried out a wide range of brutal crimes, including gang rapes and beatings. While rumors of abuses had long been associated with the mine, Barrick Gold—the Canadian corporation that owns the mine and is the world’s largest gold mining company—had denied these claims as unfounded. When confronted with our findings, Barrick acknowledged for the first time that the allegations had substance and has since taken steps to rein in the abuses we uncovered.

In the guarded forests of Mt. Elgon, in Kenya’s Rift Valley, we journeyed to report on the struggle of a collective of widows waiting for justice and fighting the truth. The plight of these women, whose husbands were forcibly disappeared or were killed during the 2006-2008 clashes between the insurgent Sabaot Land Defence Force and the Kenyan government, represents the heart of the story human rights abuse buried in Mt. Elgon. In October 2011, we sent our findings to members of the US Senate, and in November, they passed a bill imposing conditions on military assistance to Kenya until the government establishes thorough and credible investigations of alleged crimes by the Kenyan military in Mt. Elgon in March 2008.

By broadcasting these unreported stories to policymakers and the media, we became a loudspeaker for issues that may have gone ignored. Armed with photographs, video, testimony and in-depth and long-term investigative work, we were able to shine a light on stories that matter and deserve to be reported.

Brent Stirton, senior staff photographer for Reportage by Getty Images, specializes in documentary work and is published by international titles and news organizations including: National Geographic Magazine, The New York Times, The London Sunday Times Magazine, Geo, The Discovery Channel, Smithsonian Magazine and CNN.  Brent has received awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Frontline Club, the Deadline Club, Days Japan, The Pictures of the Year competition, China International Photo Awards, the Lead Awards Germany, Graphis USA, American Photography, American Photo and the American Society of Publication Designers as well as the London Association of Photographers.

In April 2012, Brent Stirton and Human Rights Watch won a Peabody Award for our investigative work in the Porgera gold mine.

Thursday, June 14
Benefit Film and Reception
6:30             WAR WITCH (Canada, 90m)
Panel with special guests + reception to follow
9:00             Reception

Friday, June 15
Opening Night Screening and Reception
7:00              AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY (China/US, 91m)
Panel with filmmaker Alison Klayman and special guests + reception to follow

Saturday, June 16
4:00            SALAAM DUNK (Iraq/US, 82m)
Q&A with filmmaker David Fine to follow
6:30            SPECIAL FLIGHT (Switzerland, 100m)
Q&A with filmmaker Fernand Melgar to follow
9:15            HABIBI (Palestine, 78m)
Q&A with filmmaker Susan Youssef to follow

Sunday, June 17
1:30            HABIBI (Palestine, 78m)
Q&A with filmmaker Susan Youssef to follow
4:00            SPECIAL FLIGHT (Switzerland, 100m)
Q&A with filmmaker Fernand Melgar to follow
6:45            SALAAM DUNK (Iraq/US, 82m)
Q&A with filmmaker David Fine to follow

Monday, June 18
4:00            SALAAM DUNK (Iraq/US, 82m)
6:30            HABIBI (Palestine, 78m)
Q&A with filmmaker Susan Youssef to follow
8:45            THE INVISIBLE WAR (US, 95m)
Q&A with filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering to follow

Tuesday, June 19
4:00            SPECIAL FLIGHT (Switzerland, 100m)
6:30            BIDDER 70 (US, 74m)
Q&A with filmmakers Beth and George Gage to follow
8:45            BROTHER NUMBER ONE (New Zealand, 99m)
Q&A with filmmaker Annie Goldson to follow

Wednesday, June 20
4:00            BROTHER NUMBER ONE (New Zealand, 99m)
Q&A with filmmaker Annie Goldson to follow
6:30            THE INVISIBLE WAR (US, 95m)
Panel with filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering and film subjects Kori Cioca, Ariana Klay and Ben Klay to follow
9:15            BIDDER 70 (US, 74m)
Q&A with filmmakers Beth and George Gage to follow

Thursday, June 21
4:00            REPORTERO (Mexico/US, 72m)
Q&A with filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz to follow
6:30            BROTHER NUMBER ONE (New Zealand, 99m)
Q&A with filmmaker Annie Goldson to follow
9:15            BITTER SEEDS (India/US, 87m)
Q&A with filmmaker Micha X. Peled to follow

Friday, June 22
4:00            BIDDER 70 (US, 74m)
Q&A with filmmakers Beth and George Gage to follow
6:30            BITTER SEEDS (India/US, 87m)
Panel with filmmaker Micha X. Peled to follow
9:30            REPORTERO (Mexico/US, 72m)
Q&A with filmmakers Bernardo Ruiz and film subjects Sergio Haro and Adela Navarro to follow

Saturday, June 23
3:30            REPORTERO (Mexico/US, 72m)
Panel with filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz and film subjects Sergio Haro and Adela Navarro and special guests to follow
6:00            WORDS OF WITNESS (Egypt/US, 68m)
Q&A with filmmaker Mai Iskander to follow
8:30            COLOR OF THE OCEAN (Spain, 95m)

Sunday, June 24
1:30            WORDS OF WITNESS (Egypt/US, 68m)
Q&A with filmmaker Mai Iskander to follow
4:00            COLOR OF THE OCEAN (Spain, 95m)
Panel with filmmakers Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke and film subject Dr. Erin Martin to follow

Monday, June 25
4:00            LITTLE HEAVEN (Belgium, 70m)
Q&A with filmmaker Lieven Corthouts to follow
Q&A with filmmakers Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke to follow
9:15            SILENCED VOICES (Norway, 60m)
Q&A with filmmaker Beate Arnestad and film subject Sonali Samarasinghe to follow

Tuesday, June 26
4:00            SILENCED VOICES (Norway, 60m)
Q&A with filmmaker Beate Arnestad and film subject Sonali Samarasinghe to follow
6:30            LITTLE HEAVEN (Belgium, 70m)
Q&A with filmmaker Lieven Corthouts to follow
8:45            WORDS OF WITNESS (Egypt/US, 68m)
Q&A with filmmaker Mai Iskander to follow

Wednesday, June 27
Q&A with filmmaker Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke to follow
7:00            SILENCED VOICES (Norway, 60m)
Q&A with filmmaker Beate Arnestad and film subject Sonali Samarasinghe to follow
9:00            LITTLE HEAVEN (Belgium, 70m)
Q&A with filmmaker Lieven Corthouts to follow

Thursday, June 28
Closing Night and Reception
7:00              CALL ME KUCHU (US, 87m)
Panel with filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall and film subject Wambere Longjones + reception to follow


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