Jun 10, 2015

Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2015

The Wanted 18 is a film about a herd of cows that provided "Infitada milk" for a West Bank town. (Photo courtesy of HRWFF.)

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival opens tomorrow in New York City, with a slate of 16 feature-length documentaries screening at the IFC and Walter Reade Theaters (http://ff.hrw.org/). From the deserts of Southern Sudan to the Gaza Strip and to our own domestic human rights issues, this year’s slate is outstanding. Among the best documentaries are Stanley Nelson’s The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, a comprehensive and balanced chronology of that political party, and Laurent Bécue-Renard’s Of Men and War, which follows veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as they participate in group therapy sessions at a residence for PTSD sufferers.

My interview with Bécue-Renard appears here: http://www.filmjournal.com/human-rights-watch-festival-men-and-war-examines-psychological-toll-returning-veterans. A review of "The Black Panthers" is here: http://www.filmjournal.com/asserting-power-new-doc-chronicles-history-black-panthers.

Hajooj Kuka’s Beats of the Antonov takes us to Southern Sudan, and depicts the Sudanese government’s racial cleansing campaign there—and the native people’s surprising response to it. Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan’s The Wanted 18, through interviews and stop motion animation sequences, tells the story of a herd of cows in Beit Sahour in the West Bank that were declared a threat to national security by the state of Israel. Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence (a follow-up to The Act of Killing) takes us to Indonesia, and follows an optometrist who confronts the men who killed his brother during the Indonesian genocide of 1965-1966.

Ayat Najafi’s No Land’s Song is about Sara Najifi’s efforts to stage a concert in Tehran with solo female singers; women vocalists are prevented from performing as solo artists by Iran’s clerics. Mr. Najafi is this year’s Nestor Almendros award winner, the festival’s cash prize named for one of the founders of HRWFF. My interview with him may be read here: http://www.filmjournal.com/finding-voice-%E2%80%98no-land%E2%80%99s-song%E2%80%99-protests-repression-female-singers-iran.