2017 Human Rights Watch Film Festival Announces Lineup

The 28th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is set to take place in New York from June 9-18 and today the full lineup of films has been announced. This year 21 feature documentaries will be presented, tackling a variety of important topics ranging from police brutality in the States, to Syrian journalists, to cyber espionage.

Take a look below for more details about each film along with showtimes and for more, please visit the official website at ff.hrw.org.

Opening Night Film
Nowhere to Hide
Zaradasht Ahmed, 2016, 86 min., Arabic

Nowhere to Hide is an immersive and uncompromising first-hand reflection of the resilience and fortitude of a male nurse working and raising his children in Jalawla, Iraq, an increasingly dangerous and inaccessible part of the world. After US troops left Iraq in 2011, director Zaradasht Ahmed gave Nori Sharif a camera and taught him how to use it, asking him to capture the reality of life in his community and the hospital where he worked. Over the next few years Sharif filmed his patients, but the population—including most of the hospital staff—flees when the Iraqi army pulls out in 2013. Sharif is one of the few who remain. When the Islamic State advances on Jalawla in 2014 and finally takes over the city, Sharif continues to film. However, he now faces a vital decision: stay and dedicate himself to treating those he vowed to help, or leave and protect his family—in the process becoming one of thousands of internally displaced people in Iraq. New York Premiere

2016 IDFA Winner for Best Feature-Length Documentary

The Festival is pleased to present filmmaker Zaradasht Ahmed and Nori Sharif with its 2017 Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking. 

Friday, June 9, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with director Zaradasht Ahmed; producer and editor Mette Cheng Munthe-Kaas; and Belkis Wille, senior Iraq researcher, HRW. Moderated by Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Executive Director, HRW)

Closing Night Film
Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press
Brian Knappenberger, 2017, 95 min.

When online tabloid Gawker posted a sex tape of former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, a high-stakes legal battle pitting privacy rights against the First Amendment ensued. The staggering settlement Hogan ultimately received not only bankrupted Gawker, but also exposed a controversial, behind-the-scenes drama. Nobody Speak uses this case and others to illustrate a growing, sinister trend at odds with the concept of a free press: billionaires and politicians tipping the balance against the public’s access to information, posing threats to our relationship to the truth. New York Premiere

Sunday, June 18, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with director Brian Knappenberger and special guests)

Special Event – Discussion Panel
From Audience to Activist 

Today, people have the tools to hold power structures to account. Cellphone videos and live distribution channels are being used as evidence for advocacy in cases of police and military accountability, protests, and hate crimes. But, in a troubling trend, those involved in capturing and distributing the footage face serious repercussions. Join us for a discussion exploring how publicly sourced media is being utilized for impact, and the issues that civilians encounter when recording and distributing information, as our panel of filmmakers, journalists and activists share best practices on how to hold powerful institutions accountable safely and effectively. (90 min. program)

Thursday, June 15, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center

Special Event
The Resistance Saga 

The Resistance Saga is a cinematic project designed to galvanize audiences to fight back when society is faced with authoritarianism and demagogues, and celebrate the role that the arts can play in creating, strengthening, and communicating narratives of nonviolent resistance. In so many ways, indigenous peoples throughout the Americas have set the example of long-term courageous and strategic resistance against daunting odds, with a powerful example being the saga of the Mayan people as depicted in director Pamela Yates’ films When the Mountains Tremble, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator and the latest installment, 500 Years: Life in Resistance.

All three films of the Guatemalan trilogy have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival during the past 35 years. When the Mountains Tremble (1984) introduced indigenous rights leader Rigoberta Menchú as the storyteller in her role to expose repression during Guatemala’s brutal armed conflict. Winner of the Special Jury Award at Sundance, the film was seen worldwide and translated into 10 languages. It helped put Menchú on the world stage and 10 years later she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yates’ sequel, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2011) is a political thriller detailing international efforts to build a genocide case against Guatemalan General Efraín Ríos Montt. The case included outtakes from When the Mountains Tremble as forensic evidence in the prosecution of Montt. The third film, 500 Years: Life in Resistance (2017), picks up where Granitoleaves off, providing inside access to the first trial in the history of the Americas to prosecute the genocide of indigenous people. Driven by universal themes of justice, power, and corruption, the film provides a platform for the majority indigenous Mayan population, which is now poised to reimagine their society.

When the Mountains Tremble
Pamela Yates and Thomas Newton Sigel, 1984, 83 min., Spanish

Granito: How to Nail a Dictator
Pamela Yates, 2011, 104 min., Spanish

500 Years: Life in Resistance
Pamela Yates, 2017, 108 min.
English, Spanish, Mayan languages. New York Premiere
*500 Years also showing on Tuesday, June 13, 9:00 pm – IFC Center (Q&A with director Pamela Yates)

The Resistance Saga is a day-long immersive gathering that includes the screening of all three films and will take place at the Walter Reade Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center on Sunday, June 11 beginning at 1:30 pm. There will be 15 min. intermissions after the first and second films, and a discussion after the third film on long-term movement building with the Mayan women protagonists. The screenings will be followed by a discussion with director Pamela Yates, editor Peter Kinoy and film subjects Andrea Ixchíu and Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj. FSLC discussion moderated by Maria McFarland Sanchez-Moreno, co-director US Program, HRW. A reception and concert by Mayan singer/songwriter Sara Curruchich singing her inspiring songs of resistance will begin at 8:30 pm in the Furman Gallery, Film Society of Lincoln Center.

The Apology
Tiffany Hsiung, 2016, 104 min., Bisaya, Mandarin, English, Japanese, Korean

Grandma Gil in South Korea, Grandma Cao in China, and Grandma Adela in the Philippines were amongst thousands of girls and young women who were sexually exploited by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, many through kidnapping, coercion and sexual slavery. Some 70 years after their imprisonment, and after decades living in silence and shame about their past, the wounds are still fresh for these three former, now elderly, “comfort women.” Despite multiple formal apologies from the Japanese government issued since the early 1990s, there has been little justice; the courageous resolve of these women moves them to fight and seize their last chance to share first-hand accounts of the truth with their families and the world to ensure this horrific chapter of history is neither repeated nor forgotten. US Premiere

Saturday, June 10, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with director Tiffany Hsiung and Sarah Taylor, Advocate, Women’s Rights division, HRW)
Sunday, June 11, 8:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with director Tiffany Hsiung and Sarah Taylor, Advocate, Women’s Rights division, HRW)

Bill Nye: Science Guy
David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg, 2017, 101 min.

A famous television personality struggles to restore science to its rightful place in a world hostile to evidence and reason. Bill Nye is retiring his kid show act in a bid to become more like his late professor, astronomer Carl Sagan. Sagan dreamed of launching a spacecraft that could change interplanetary exploration. Bill sets out to accomplish Sagan’s space mission, but he is pulled away when challenged by evolution and climate change deniers to defend scientific evidence. As climate change becomes a growing factor in global disasters of displacement, resource shortages and war, it is clear this debate is taking a major human toll. With the increased push to dismantle environmental protections in the United States, Bill Nye takes a stand to show the world why science matters in a political culture increasingly indifferent to evidence. New York Premiere

Friday, June 9, 9:30 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with special guests)
Saturday, June 10, 6:00 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with directors David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg)

Black Code 
Nicholas de Pencier, 2016, 88 min.

Nicholas de Pencier’s gripping Black Code follows “internet sleuths”—or cyber stewards—from the Toronto-based group Citizen Lab, who travel the world to expose unprecedented levels of global digital espionage. Based on Ronald Deibert’s book of the same name, the film reveals exiled Tibetan monks attempting to circumvent China’s surveillance apparatus; Syrian citizens tortured for Facebook posts; Brazilian activists who use social media to livestream police abuses; and Pakistani opponents of online violence campaigns against women. As this battle for control of cyberspace is waged, our ideas of citizenship, privacy, and democracy are challenged to the very core. New York Premiere

Wednesday, June 14, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with director Nicholas de Pencier and special guests)
Thursday, June 15, 8:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with director Nicholas de Pencier and special guests)

The Blood Is at the Doorstep
Erik Ljung, 2017, 90 min.

On April 30, 2014, Dontre Hamilton, a 31-year-old unarmed black man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was shot 14 times and killed by a Milwaukee police officer in a popular downtown park. His death sparked months of unrest and galvanized his family to activism. Filmed over three years in the direct aftermath of Dontre’s death, this intimate verité documentary follows his family as they struggle to find answers and challenge a criminal justice system stacked against them. With Dontre’s mother, Maria, and brother, Nate, as our guides, we take a painful look inside a movement born of personal tragedy and injustice. This explosive documentary takes a behind the scenes look at one of America’s most pressing human rights struggles, and asks the audience: what would you do, if this violence found its way to your doorstep? New York Premiere

Friday, June 9, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with director Erik Ljung, Maria and Nate Hamilton, and Dameion Perkins)
Saturday, June 10, 8:45 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with director Erik Ljung, Maria and Nate Hamilton, and Dameion Perkins)

City of Ghosts
Matthew Heineman, 2017, 91 min., Arabic, English

With deeply personal access, this is the untold story of a brave group of citizen journalists forced to live undercover, on the run, and in exile—risking their lives to stand up against one of the most violent movements in the world today. City of Ghosts follows the efforts of anonymous activists in Syria who banded together to form a group named “Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently” (RBSS) after their homeland was taken over by the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014. Finding safety is no easy task either, as growing anti-refugee sentiment in Europe greets them with anger and rejection and ISIS pledges to target them wherever they go. Terror, trauma, and guilt similarly follow the men at the center of the film, having left loved ones behind to expose the horrors happening in their town. The strength and brotherhood that bonds the men is clear: the film is full of affecting intimacy and humanity in a situation where little else can be found.

Tuesday, June 13, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with director Matthew Heineman and Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa Executive Director, HRW)

Complicit
Heather White and Lynn Zhang, 2016, 90 min., Mandarin

Shot under-the-radar, Complicit follows the journey of Chinese Foxconn factory migrant worker-turned-activist Yi Yeting, who takes his fight against the global smartphone industry from his hospital bed to the international stage. While struggling to survive his own work-induced leukemia, Yi Yeting teaches himself labor law in order to prepare a legal challenge against his former employers. But the struggle to defend the lives of millions of Chinese people from becoming terminally ill due to working conditions necessitates confrontation with some of the world’s largest brands, including Apple and Samsung. Unfortunately, neither powerful businesses nor the government are willing to have such scandals exposed. US Premiere

Monday, June 12, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with director Heather White and special guests)
Saturday, June 17, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with director Heather White)

The Force
Peter Nicks, 2017, 93 min.

The Force presents a deep look inside the long-troubled Oakland Police Department in California as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, civil unrest in the wake of the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and layers of inefficiency and corruption. A young police chief, hailed as a reformer, is brought in to complete the turnaround at the very moment the #BlackLivesMatter movement emerges to demand police accountability and racial justice in Oakland and across the nation. Despite growing public distrust, the Oakland Police Department is garnering national attention as a model of police reform. But just as the department is on the verge of a breakthrough, the man charged with turning the department around faces the greatest challenge of his career—one that could not only threaten progress already made, but the very authority of the institution itself.

2017 Sundance Winner of US Documentary Directing Award

Friday, June 16, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with director Peter Nicks)

The Good Postman
Tonislav Hristov, 2016, 80 min., Bulgarian

A quiet Bulgarian community on the Turkish border finds itself in the middle of a European crisis. This otherwise unremarkable village has become an important loophole for asylum seekers making their way through Europe. But Ivan, the local postman, has a vision. He decides to run for mayor and campaigns to bring life to the aging and increasingly deserted village by welcoming the refugees and their families. While some of his neighbors support the idea, it meets with resistance from others, who want to make sure the border stays shut. With surprising warmth, humor, and humanity, The Good Postman provides valuable insight into the root of this timely and internationally relevant discussion. New York Premiere

Sunday, June 11, 8:45 pm – IFC Center
(Skype Q&A with director Tonislav Hristov)
Wednesday, June 14, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Skype Q&A with director Tonislav Hristov)

The Grown-Ups 
Maite Alberdi, 2016, 82 min., Spanish

For almost their entire lives a group of forty-something classmates have grown up together and are reaching the age of 50 with varying degrees of frustration. Anita, Rita, Ricardo and Andrés feel that the school they attend for people with Down syndrome is confining; they long for new challenges, greater independence, and more personal space. Director Maite Alberdi’s observational approach is warm and compassionate, allowing the characters to voice their innermost longings and aspirations. It also perfectly captures the tragic state of limbo in which they are stuck: mature enough to want the pressures and privileges of independent adulthood, yet emotionally and financially ill-equipped to pursue them alone—and ultimately failed by a system that treats them as homogeneously disabled rather than as individuals. Their engaging story is a mixture of heartache and humor, and hope for greater understanding of people with Down syndrome, or anyone whose perceptions and abilities are different from “the norm.” New York Premiere

Monday, June 12, 7:00 pm – IFC Center 
(Skype Q&A with director Maite Alberdi and on stage will be Emina Cerimovic, researcher, Disability Rights division, HRW)
Wednesday, June 14, 8:45 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Skype Q&A with director Maite Alberdi and on stage guest)

Home Truth
April Hayes and Katia Maguire, 2017, 70 min.

Shot over the course of nine years, Home Truth chronicles one family’s incredible pursuit of justice, shedding light on how our society responds to domestic violence and how the trauma from domestic violence can linger through generations. In 1999, Colorado mother Jessica Gonzales experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when her three young daughters were killed after being abducted by their father in violation of a domestic violence restraining order. Devastated, Jessica sued her local police department for failing to adequately enforce her restraining order despite her repeated calls for help that night. Determined to make sure her daughters did not die in vain, Jessica pursues her case to the US Supreme Court and an international human rights tribunal, seeking to strengthen legal rights for domestic violence victims. Meanwhile, her relationship with her one surviving child, her son Jessie, suffers, as he struggles with the tragedy in his own way. World Premiere

Sunday, June 11, 6:30 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with directors April Hayes and Katia Maguire; film subject Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales); Carrie Bettinger-Lopez, former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women; and Lenora Lapidus, Director, ACLU Women’s Rights Project. Moderated by Amanda Klasing, Senior Researcher, Women’s Rights Division, HRW)
Monday, June 12, 8:45 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with directors April Hayes and Katia Maguire; film subject Jessica Lenahan (formerly Gonzales); Carrie Bettinger-Lopez, former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women; and Lenora Lapidus, Director, ACLU Women’s Rights Project. Moderated by Amanda Klasing, Senior Researcher, Women’s Rights Division, HRW)

Lindy Lou, Juror Number 2
Florent Vassault, 2017, 85 min.

For 20 years, Lindy has lived with an unbearable feeling of guilt. Committed to fulfilling her civic duty, Lindy sat on a jury with 11 other jurors that handed down the death penalty to a Mississippi man convicted in a double homicide. When Bobby Wilcher was executed in 2006, Lindy had been his only visitor in 15 years. Determined to understand the overwhelming regret that she has been grappling with for years, Lindy takes off on a road trip across Mississippi to track down and learn more about her fellow jurors tasked with deciding the fate of a man’s life all those years earlier. Lindy, a conservative, religious woman from the South manages to tackle this oft-politicized topic with humor, an open mind and sincere curiosity. New York Premiere

Friday, June 16, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with director Florent Vassault and film subject Lindy Lou Isonhood)
Saturday, June 17, 9:00 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with director Florent Vassault and film subject Lindy Lou Isonhood)

Lost in Lebanon
Sophia and Georgia Scott, 2016, 80 min., Arabic, English

As the Syrian war continues to leave entire generations without education, health care, or a state, Lost in Lebanon closely follows four Syrians during their relocation process. The resilience of this Syrian community, which currently makes up one fifth of the population in Lebanon, is astoundingly clear as its members work hard to collaborate, share resources, and advocate for themselves in a new land. With the Syrian conflict continuing to push across borders, lives are becoming increasingly desperate due to the devastating consequences of new visa laws that the Lebanese government has implemented, leaving families at risk of arrest, detention, and deportation. Despite these obstacles, the film encourages us to look beyond the staggering statistics of displaced refugees and focus on the individuals themselves. US Premiere

Thursday, June 15, 9:15 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with directors Sophia and Georgia Scott)
Saturday, June 17, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with directors Sophia and Georgia Scott)

Muhi – Generally Temporary
Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander and Tamir Elterman, 2017, 87 min., Arabic, Hebrew

For the past seven years Muhi, a young boy from Gaza, has been trapped in an Israeli hospital. Rushed there in his infancy with a life-threatening immune disorder, he and his doting grandfather, Abu Naim, wound up caught in an immigration limbo that made it impossible for them to leave. With Muhi’s citizenship unclear, and Abu Naim denied a work permit or visa, the pair resides solely within the constraints of the hospital walls. Caught between two states in perpetual war, Muhi is being cared for by the very same people whose government forbids his family to visit, and for him or his grandfather to travel back. Made by two filmmakers from Jerusalem, this documentary lays out the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in human terms, documenting the impact these paradoxical circumstances have on individual lives. New York Premiere

Saturday, June 10, 9:30 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with directors Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander and Tamir Elterman and Eric Goldstein, Deputy Director, Middle East and North Africa division, HRW)
Tuesday, June 13, 9:00 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(Q&A with directors Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander and Tamir Elterman)

No Dress Code Required 
Cristina Herrera Bórquez, 2016, 91 min., Spanish

Víctor and Fernando, a devoted, unassuming couple from Mexicali, Mexico, find themselves in the center of a legal firestorm over their desire to get married. Weighing all their options, the pair opts to stay in their hometown of Mexicali and fight for their legal rights. With the help of two committed attorneys, Víctor and Fernando withstand a seemingly interminable series of bizarre hurdles and bureaucratic nitpicking with grace and dignity. No Dress Code Required is a rallying cry for equality, a testament to the power of ordinary people to become agents of change, and above all, an unforgettable love story that touches the heart and stirs the conscience. New York Premiere

Tuesday, June 13, 6:45 pm – IFC Center
(panel discussion)
Friday, June 16, 9:00 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
(panel discussion)

The Workers Cup
Adam Sobel, 2017, 89 min., English, Hindi, Gha, Tui, Nepali, Malayalam, Arabic

In 2022, Qatar will host the world’s biggest sporting event, the FIFA World Cup. This documentary gives voice to one group from the 1.6 million migrant workers laboring to build sport’s grandest stage as they compete in a football tournament of their own: The Workers Cup. With unprecedented access to the most controversial construction site, this film follows the men in their enthusiastic preparation for the games, while exposing their long work hours for scant salaries, limited freedom of movement, and harsh living conditions in isolated labor camps. The Workers Cup explores universal themes of ambition, aspiration, and masculinity, as we see our protagonists wrangle hope, meaning, and opportunity out of extremely difficult circumstances. New York Premiere

Thursday, June 15, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with director Adam Sobel and Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives, HRW)
Friday, June 16, 9:15 pm – IFC Center
(Q&A with director Adam Sobel and Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives, HRW)