11th Human Rights Watch International Film Festival March 21-30
It seems now more than ever human rights issues and political injustice dominate our press. For the 11th year running, The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival (HRWIFF) goes behind these stories to reveal their appalling human and economic realities. FilmExposed’s Holly Grigg-Spall pinpoints a few films which demand our attention…
Hollywood’s got issues. Not just the kind you take to rehab. Issues of injustice. Not just the injustice of being refused a table at Mr Chow, but the injustice of millions of people around the world being refused their basic human rights. The most talked about film of the Berlin Film Festival was Bordertown, with a plot based on the actual murder of more than fifty factory-working women in a Mexican border town, and starring Jennifer Lopez. The audience booed at the premiere, and the film was critically crushed for its political soapbox pretensions and heavy-handed ignorance.
A conscience is the new fashion accessory in Los Angeles, with Angelina Jolie leading the crusade. But it’s money, not morals that powers the Hollywood film business. The cashing in on this post-Iraq awareness of others less than comfortable lives should be regarded with suspicion. A bad movie about a good cause is still a bad movie, and a potentially damaging one at that. To really take advantage of this newly formed audience who pack their Fairtrade goods in a Sainsbury’s shopper, we need informed, provocative and watchable films to be out in cinemas where people can see them.
The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival will be presenting to this waiting audience an impressive programme of films that are motivated by compassion and a passion for exposing the cruel political, economic and social realities of the lives of the majority of the world. The winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award, The Lives of Others, and two of the nominated, Water and Days of Glory are just a few of the acclaimed works to be screened.
The festival will run from March 21st to 30th across seven cinemas in London, with the Ritzy cinema in Brixton acting as the hub. Its 11th year will see showings of 22 films from 20 countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Costa Rica and Mexico. Many of the filmmakers will be present for Q&A sessions and debates around the issues raised.
An increasingly important movie in the build up to the US Presidential elections is When the Levees Broke (pictured). The documentary, made by Spike Lee, contains interviews with over one hundred people connected to the Hurricane Katrina disaster and gives a critical view of the emergency and recovery effort, which in its indifferent ineptitude, has played such a pivotal role in the slow downfall of George Bush. Two other remarkable movies make up the interesting trilogy, Why We Fight, by Eugene Jarecki, and Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, directed by Rory Kennedy, daughter of Robert Kennedy.
Why We Fight won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival with its investigations into the workings of the American war machine. The film develops on what has occurred since Eisenhower put a name to the future of the American economic and social makeup, ‘military industrial complex’ using personal stories alongside interviews with members of the military and the government. It goes to show that saving the world is going to be about much more than adopting some children from Africa, Jarecki is talking a total overhaul of values.
John F Kennedy won the race against Eisenhower and helped to push the button on the machine, escalating the Vietnam War. The Iraq war has been compared to Vietnam in its motivation and public reception. Ghosts of Abu Ghraib looks at the damage done to American credibility as a consequence of the torture of prisoners in the Iraqi prison. The film includes interviews with the victims themselves, providing a rare insight, and it is hoped that Rory Kennedy will be attending. The Festival is host to some UK firsts including Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, as well as a number of London premieres, including Camden 28, Carla’s List and The City of Photographers.
Jennifer Lopez is unlikely to attend, although she did win an Artists for Amnesty Award, presented by Amnesty International. Hollywood is feeling bad, but the HRWIFF provides a bigger picture through the cinema screen. With movies like Blood Diamond, PAN'S LABYRINTH and AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH making it big this year, it seems the right time for these Festival films to be making a real difference. Whether it is that the movie stars are waking in the night in their palatial homes with guilt-ridden cold sweats, or filmmakers are running out of imaginative ideas, real life is getting a revival.
For full programme line-up, more info and booking details, visit: www.hrw.org/iff/