John Biaggi talks about 2019 Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York


The Human Rights Watch Film Festival presents 13 films, from June 13-20, 2019, that shine a bright light on bravery and resilience in challenging times, with incisive perspectives on human rights issues affecting people around the world. As racism and xenophobia continue to rise within the highest echelons of power, this year’s festival presents cinematic works that expose and humanize cases of legalized and legitimized oppression of the disenfranchised that demand the world’s attention.

To learn more about 2019 Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York, Cinema Without Borders had the opportunity of interviewing John Biaggi , Director of the festival. Please watch the video of this interview:


Opening Night Film and Reception*
Rachel Leah Jones and Philippe Bellaiche, 2019, Documentary, 108 min., Arabic, Hebrew, fully subtitled in English

“I’m an Israeli occupier, no matter what I do. I ‘enjoy’ the fruits of occupation, both bitter and sweet … Who gave me the moral right to judge the people who resist my occupation… ? So, in that sense, if the act is intended to resist the occupation, as such, I’ll take [the case]on.” — Lea Tsemel, film subject, Advocate

The Jewish Israeli lawyer Lea Tsemel and her Palestinian colleagues have been working for decades representing their clients in an increasingly conservative Israel. We meet Tsemel and the team as they prepare for their youngest defendant yet – Ahmad, a 13-year-old boy implicated in a knife attack on the streets of Jerusalem. Together, they must counter legal and public opposition and prepare Ahmad who, like other Palestinians charged with serious crimes, will face a difficult trial in a country in which the government, court system and the media are stacked against him. To many, Tsemel is a traitor who defends the indefensible. For others, she’s more than an attorney – she’s a true ally. New York Premiere

“This is an important film — it raises questions about issues of fair trials, entrenched discrimination and the manner in which political and other considerations factor into cases involving Palestinians.” — Khulood Badawi, Consultant, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch

Official selection, Sundance Film Festival 2019

Thursday June 137:00 p.m.Film at Lincoln Center, Walter Reade Theater
*Please note the post-screening reception is open to all ticket holders

Closing Night Film
Bellingcat – Truth in a PostTruth World
Hans Pool, 2018, Documentary, 88 min., English, Dutch, German

“In citizen journalism … trust is generated not by the brand name or the glory of the institution, it’s generated through transparency.” — Jay Rosen, film subject, Bellingcat – Truth in a Post-Truth World

Bellingcat – Truth in a Post-Truth World follows the revolutionary rise of the “citizen investigative journalist” collective known as Bellingcat, dedicated to redefining breaking news by exploring the promise of open-source investigation. This highly skilled and controversial collective exposes the truth behind global news stories  from identifying the exact location of an Islamic State murder through analysis of a video distributed on YouTube to tracking the story behind the mysterious poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in the UK – Bellingcat hunts down answers using social media, reconstruction techniques and audio analysis. From his home in the English countryside, de facto leader Eliot Higgins and his team of volunteer truth-seekers put newspapers, networks and governments to the test, shedding light on the fight for journalistic integrity in the era of fake news and alternative facts. New York Premiere

Thursday June 20, 7:00 pm, IFC Center

Accept the Call
Eunice Lau, 2019, Documentary, 83 min., English, Somali

“They presume that not only are these boys guilty but the whole Somali community is guilty. They are on trial, but so is the Somali community. So is the black community. So is the Muslim community. So is the immigrant community.” — community activist, Accept the Call

Twenty-five years after Yusuf Abdurahman left Somalia as a refugee to begin his life anew in Minnesota, his worst fear is realized when his 19-year-old-son Zacharia is arrested in an FBI counterterrorism sting operation. Through the eyes of a father striving to understand why his young son would leave his American life behind to attempt to join a terrorist organization in a foreign country, Accept the Call explores racism and prejudice against immigrants, the rise of targeted recruitment by radicalized groups, and the struggles of Muslim youth growing up in the US today. This intimate film captures the story of this father and son attempting to mend their relationship after breaking each other’s hearts. World Premiere

“We don’t, as a society, look for the goodness in people. There’s always two sides to a story, if not more.” — Ikraan Abdurahman, film subject, Accept the Call

Saturday June 15, 6:00 pmFilm at Lincoln Center
Sunday June 16, 5:30 pm, Film at Lincoln Center

Born in Evin
Maryam Zaree, 2019, Documentary, 98 min., German, English, French, Farsi

When she was 12 years old, the actress and filmmaker Maryam Zaree found out that she was one of a number of babies born inside Evin, Iran’s most notorious political prison. Zaree’s parents were imprisoned shortly after Ayatollah Khomeini came to power in 1979, a period in which tens of thousands of political dissidents were arrested and tortured. With Born in Evin, she confronts decades of silence in her family and embarks on an exploration into the circumstances of her birth. On this vulnerable, lyrical journey Zaree considers the impact of trauma on the bodies and souls of survivors and their children, leading her to question how her generation can relate to their own history while also respecting the people they love who prefer to heal in silence. U.SPremiere

Winner Best Film, Perspektive Deutsches Kino Programme, Berlinale 2019

“This is a personal story yet it touches on the broader struggles of the community for recognition of the pain they went through, and their right to know the truth.” — Tara Sepehri Far, researcher, Middle East and North Africa Division, Human Rights Watch

Tuesday June 18, 8:45 pmFilm at Lincoln Center
Wednesday June 19, 6:15 pmFilm at Lincoln Center

Está Todo Bien – It’s All Good
Tuki Jencquel, 2018, Documentary, 70 min., Spanish, fully subtitled in English

“A country’s collapse is dramatic and, in hindsight, seems inevitable, but when it’s experienced gradually, on a day-by-day basis, it can almost pass unnoticed, like looking in the mirror each morning and not seeing how you age.” — Tuki Jencquel, director, Está Todo Bien

Venezuela is a country rich in natural resources that, for decades, has prided itself on having one of the best public health systems in the entire region. Today, the near-total collapse of Venezuela’s health system is resulting in severe medicine shortages, a dramatic increase in infant mortality, the reappearance of once-eradicated diseases like diphtheria, and a mass exodus of doctors to hospitals overseas. In Está Todo Bien, Caracas-born Tuki Jencquel asks a pharmacist, trauma surgeon, activist and two patients to confront the same questions millions of Venezuelans are facing: protest or acquiesce, emigrate or remain, lose all hope or hang on to faith? New York Premiere

Wednesday June 19, 8:45 pm, IFC Center
Thursday June 206:15 pm, Film at Lincoln Center

Everything Must Fall
Rehad Desai, 2018, Documentary, 85 min., English, Closed Captioning available

“We have a responsibility not just to come here to study, but to go back into our communities and make sure that we are uplifting and empowering them.” — Shaeera Kalla, film subject, Everything Must Fall

When South Africa’s universities raised their fees, a wave of students took to the streets in opposition. Quickly gaining momentum and scope, the battle cry #FeesMustFall burst on to the political landscape and became a national conversation, bringing attention to the exclusion of poorer black South Africans from higher education, ultimately calling for the decolonization of the entire education system. Everything Must Fall features student leaders and their opposition as they unpack how a moment evolved into a mass movement. Demanding that governments be held accountable while also challenging deeper racial, gender, class and sexual identity discrimination, this group of inspiring young people demonstrate the power that comes from collective organizing that embraces intersectionality in order to create lasting change. U.S.Premiere

Monday June 17, 8:30 pmFilm at Lincoln Center
Tuesday June 18, 8:45 pm, IFC Center

In Search
Beryl Magoko, 2018, Documentary, 90 min., German, English, Kikuria, Swahili, fully subtitled in English

Winner of the 2019 Human Rights Watch Film Festival Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking.

Director Beryl Magoko is embarking on a personal journey to courageously face her past, to accept and love herself and her own body. When Magokolearns of an opportunity for reconstructive surgery for the female genital mutilation she and her friends underwent as young girls, she has a growing community of women to consult, but ultimately, the decision is hers. Hosting frank and raw discussions with women — from friends and family in her rural birthplace in Kenya to new friends in cities around Europe — together they uncover the beauty of collective strength and insight, examine the importance of female pleasure and shed the societally imposed shame around women’s bodies. U.S. Premiere

“When you cut the roots of a tree, it will never blossom. It will wither. That is what happens when you chop off the genitals of a woman. You silence her. You suppress her.” — Beryl Magoko, director, In Search…

Sunday June 16, 3:00 pm, Film at Lincoln Center
Monday June 17, 6:30 pm, IFC Center

No Box for Me. An Intersex Story (Ni d’Ève ni d’Adam. Une histoire intersexe), Floriane Devigne, 2018, Documentary, 58 min., French, fully subtitled in English

Deborah, 25, and M, 27, are living in bodies that Western medicine — and often society — deems taboo. Like an estimated 1.7 percent of people, they were born with variations in their sex characteristics that were different from classical understandings of male or female. For M, growing up intersex has also meant grappling with the fact that she underwent medically unnecessary surgeries to “normalize” her body as a very young child. But when M finds Deborah online, she is introduced to new voices, language, and representations that allow her to expand her understanding of who she is beyond medical terms. This beautifully crafted, poetic documentary joins brave young people as they seek to reappropriate their bodies and explore their identities, revealing both the limits of binary visions of sex and gender, and the irreversible physical and psychological impact of non-consensual surgeries on intersex infants. U.S.Premiere

No Box for Me. An Intersex Story is a gem. It is engaging and smart, and treads lightly, too, which makes it all the more powerful.” — Graeme Reid, director, LGBT Division, Human Rights Watch

Wednesday June 19, 6:30 pm, IFC Center
Thursday June 20, 8:30 pm, Film at Lincoln Center

Both screenings will have an extended Q&A.

On the Presidents Orders
James Jones and Olivier Sarbil, 2019, Documentary, 72 min., English, Tagalog, fully subtitled in English

In 2016, President Rodrigo Duterte announced a “war on drugs” in the Philippines, setting off a wave of violence and murder targeting thousands of suspected drug dealers and users. With unprecedented, intimate access both to police officials implicated in the killings and the families destroyed as the result of Duterte’s deadly campaign, On the President’s Orders is a shocking and revelatory investigation into the extrajudicial murders that continue to this day. Entering a murky world of crime, drugs and politics, the filmmakers have managed to capture the clear trajectory of what depths those who wield excessive power can reach, when attacking those who have the very least. U.S. Premiere

On the President’s Orders is an unflinching exploration of President Duterte’s brutal “drug war” and its devastating impact on thousands of mostly poor Filipinos.” — Carlos Conde, Philippines researcher, Human Rights Watch

Saturday June 15, 8:30 pm, Film at Lincoln Center
Monday June 176:15 pm, Film at Lincoln Center

One Child Nation
Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang, 2019, Documentary, 85 min., English, Mandarin

“We are fighting a population war” was a common slogan used by the government during the One-child Policy. China started a war against population growth, but it became a real war against its own people.” — Nanfu Wang, director, One Child Nation

From Academy Award-nominated documentarian Nanfu Wang, Hooligan Sparrow (HRWFF, 2017) and Jialing Zhang, One Child Nation explores China’s One Child Policy, which made it illegal in most circumstances for couples to have more than one child. Nanfu digs fearlessly into her own life, using her experience as a new mother and first-hand accounts of her family members, along with archival propaganda material and testimony from victims and law-enforcers alike, composing a revelatory record of China’s drastic approach to population-control. The severe law that led to forced sterilizations and abortions, abandoned newborns, and government abductions may have ended in 2015, but the process of dealing with the impact of its enforcement is only just beginning.

One Child Nation is an intimate, honest and courageous look into an unprecedented social experiment by the Chinese Communist Party that has traumatized countless Chinese citizens and will shape generations to come.” — Yaqiu Wang, China researcher, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch

US Grand Jury Prize: Documentary, Sundance Film Festival 2019
Grand Jury Award, Full Frame 2019

Friday June 14, 9:00 pm, Film at Lincoln Center
Saturday June 15, 3:30 pm, Film at Lincoln Center

Screwdriver (Mafak)
Bassam Jarbawi, 2018, Drama, 108 min., Arabic, Hebrew, fully subtitled in English

Young Ziad is the star of the Al-Amari Refugee Camp basketball team in the outskirts of Ramallah, Palestine. When his best friend is shot and killed in crossfire, his teammates seek revenge, with results that will affect Ziad for the rest of his life. Shot entirely on location in the West Bank with a largely Palestinian crew, award-winning director Bassam Jarbawi’s debut feature follows Ziad as he returns home after 15 years in an Israeli prison. Hailed as a hero, with high expectations to settle back quickly into work and love, he is lost in a world he barely recognizes. Effectively capturing this unsettling inability to distinguish reality from hallucination and the haunting of memory, Screwdriver immerses us in a distinctly Palestinian story while addressing the universal trauma of reintegration after incarceration. New York Premiere

“‘Solitary prisoners’ reliance on fantasy as a technique for survival captured my attention, and largely influenced the story of Screwdriver. This stagnant everwaiting hopelessness pervades [the]Palestinian psyche. The result is an inability to define self without occupier, to organize and feel life without restriction.” — Bassam Jarbawi, director, Screwdriver (Mafak)

Official Selection, Giornate Degli Autori 2018
Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2018

Sunday June 16, 8:00 pm, Film at Lincoln Center
Monday June 178:45 pm, IFC Center

The Sweet Requiem (Kyoyang Ngarmo)
Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, 2018, Drama, 91 min., Tibetan, fully subtitled in English

At age eight, Dolkar and her father fled their home in Tibet, escaping Chinese armed forces in an arduous journey across the Himalayas. Now 26, she lives in a Tibetan refugee colony in Delhi, India, where an unexpected encounter with a man from her past reveals long-suppressed memories, propelling Dolkar on an obsessive search for the truth. With stunning cinematography and skillfully subdued tension, The Sweet Requiem, from the filmmaking team behind Dreaming Lhasa (HRWFF, 2006) and The Sun Behind the Clouds: Tibet’s Struggle for Freedom (HRWFF, 2010), is an unforgettable reflection on an ongoing but too often forgotten refugee crisis. New York Premiere

The Sweet Requiem shows carefully and respectfully the pain of Tibetan exiles and the pressures they’re under.” — Sophie Richardson, China director, Human Rights Watch

Official Selection, Toronto International Film Festival 2018

Tuesday June 186:15 pmFilm at Lincoln Center
Following the discussion, please join us for a reception celebrating our 30th Anniversary. Open to all ticket holders.
Wednesday June 19, 8:45 pmFilm at Lincoln Center

When We Walk
Jason DaSilva, 2019, Documentary, 78 min., English, Closed Captioning available

New Yorker Jason DaSilva is facing the life-changing decision of whether to relocate to Austin, Texas, to be closer to his young son who has moved in with his mother following their recent divorce. Facing a rapidly progressing form of multiple sclerosis and experiencing a swift decline in his motor skills, DaSilva soon learns that the harsh restrictions of the U.S. Medicaid system would prevent him from accessing the services he needs to live life as fully as possible and from being the dad he wants to be for his young son. Left with this heartbreaking choice, When We Walk, the follow-up to DaSilva’s Emmy Award-winning film When I Walk, reflects on Jason’s own childhood and relationship with his father, making his fight to keep his son resonate even more powerfully. New York Premiere

“As an authentic, first-hand experience of a person with a disability, When We Walk is a refreshing, essential perspective that achieves what we strive for in our own research and advocacy.” — Jane Buchanan, deputy director, Disability Rights Division, Human Rights Watch

Friday June 14, 6:30 pmFilm at Lincoln Center
Tuesday June 18, 6:30 pm, IFC Center

TICKET INFORMATION: Ticket OnSale Date: May 17. Tickets will be available on the festival website at, or directly on the venue websites at for Film at Lincoln Center screenings and for IFC Center screenings. Tickets can also be purchased in-person at the venue box offices. Film at Lincoln Center: $15 General Public, $12 Seniors, Students & People with Disabilities, $10 FLC Members & HRW Subscribers. IFC Center: $16 General Public, $13 Seniors and Patrons with the MTA reduced-fare MetroCard for people with disabilities, $11 IFC Center Members. A 3+ film discount package is also available for Film at Lincoln Center screenings. For more information, visit and the respective venue websites. For discounted tickets and festival updates, sign up for the mailing list at Follow the festival on Twitter and Instagram @hrwfilmfestival.

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Cinema Without Borders' reporters from around the globe search and find international cinema content for our audience. when an outside source is used, we provide you with a link to the original source at the end of the article

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