Documentaries examining injustices against women and LGBTQ, Ukrainian citizens coping with the, and Indigenous communities fighting deforestation in the Amazon are just some of the features to be presented at the 2023 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, beginning Wednesday in New York and available nationwide via streaming.
Now in its 34th year, the festival’s 10 films will be shown in New York City from May 31 through June 8, and will also be available to stream anywhere in the United States from June 5-11, with closed captioning and audio descriptions available.
Screenings at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center at Lincoln Center, and at the IFC Center in Greenwich Village, will feature discussions with the filmmakers and their subjects, activists, and researchers from Human Rights Watch, an organization dedicated to exposing human rights abuses across the globe.
Descriptions and trailers for the films and ticketing information can be found below. (Not all films have been previewed by press time.)
“Seven Winters in Tehran” (U.S. premiere)
The opening night presentation, an award-winner from the Berlin Film Festival, is a story of grueling injustice against one woman, who was herself a victim of sexual assault. A young interior designer who defends herself against a rape attempt is charged with murdering a man who had powerful connections with the Iranian intelligence community. When she is convicted in 2007 and sentenced to death, Reyhaneh Jabbari finds herself at the mercy of the victim’s family, which has the right, under Islamic law, to demand blood revenge.
The yearslong ordeal Jabbari and her family endure fighting for her life is but a microcosm for the oppressions facing women in Iran today, as director Steffi Niederzoll examines the cruelty directed at victims of sexual abuse. Niederzoll employs secret recordings made by Jabbari, as well as dramatizations of her letters from prison, and models recreating the conditions under which she and her fellow prisoners were held for years, to capture the horrors of her case, which stirred an international outcry, to little effect. In Farsi with English subtitles. 97 mins.
To watch a trailer for “Seven Winters in Tehran” click on the video player below:
“Razing Liberty Square” (New York premiere)
The residents of Miami’s Liberty Square, a public-housing community erected as a segregated African American enclave in the 1930s, far from the beachfronts that were drawing wealthier Whites, were disadvantaged in many respects. But one advantage given them by their homes, perched on the highest elevation in the city, was a tendency to not flood — now an attractive attribute for a city reeling from the effects of rising sea levels and climate change. The land on which Liberty Square sits has recently been targeted for redevelopment, and advocates warn of a rising tide of racial injustice in the form of— making this desirable land unaffordable for the people who currently call it home — made worse by enacting bureaucratic red tape creating extreme difficulty for them to stay there.
Filmmaker Katja Esson (an Oscar-nominee for the short documentary “Ferry Tales”) examines how the incursion of developers brings a concomitant influx of community organizers trying to warn residents about lofty promises of affordable housing that are, for many, too good to be true. As climate change reshapes the boundaries of shorelines, the challenges of maintaining affordable housing in a swirling real estate market are increasingly more dire. Esson’s film shows how the optimism of some residents continues to flicker even as their housing complex awaits a wrecking ball. 86 mins.
“When Spring Came to Bucha” (U.S. premiere)
In March 2022, Russian troops were forced out of the Ukrainian city of, to which they’d laid siege in a monthlong onslaught. Directors Mila Teshaieva and Marcus Lenz capture the time after the Ukrainian Army won control, when residents reasserted their independence, anger and grief, as they cleaned up the debris and dead bodies left in the wake of Russian atrocities and set out to rebuild.
Despite the horrors inflicted upon civilians and the numbing chores of cataloguing the dead, the film’s subjects show a vibrant attitude of defiance. A woman cooks food outdoors, her kitchen destroyed. A young student attends class alone, her classmates evacuated. A couple gets married. They are survivors. And by surviving, they won. The film is a chronicle of hope in the aftermath of Moscow’s inhuman belligerence. 64 mins. In Ukrainian and Russian with English subtitles.
“The Etilaat Roz” (U.S. premiere)
Abbas Rezaie, a member of the staff of the Etilaat Roz newspaper in Kabul, witnessed the takeover ofby the Taliban in August 2021. His camera documents not only the fall of the capital, but also the fear and dangers facing the Etilaat Roz’s journalists, whose lives are now threatened by the new order. Winner, best first feature, at the 2022 International Documentary Film Festival. 92 mins. In Dari with English subtitles.
“Draw Me Egypt – Doaa El-Adl, A Stroke of Freedom” (world premiere)
Nada Riyadh’s portrait of award-winning Egyptian cartoonist Doaa El-Adl, one of the rare female cartoonists in the Arab world, explores her rebellious artistry as she takes on patriarchy, censorship, and gender inequality. 50 mins. In Arabic with English subtitles.
“Into My Name” (New York premiere)
Nicolò Bassetti’s intimate documentary follows four trans masculine friends from Italy, each embarking on a transition of gender identity while navigating the legal processes as well as the social boundaries imposed on them. Executive producer: Elliot Page. 93 mins. In Italian with English subtitles.
“Theatre of Violence” (U.S. premiere)
A victim as well as a perpetrator, Dominic Ongwen was the first former child soldier to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Abducted at age 9, Ongwen was indoctrinated into Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, a Ugandan rebel group, and taught to kill.
Directors Lukasz Konopa and Emil Langballe track the case through the ICC, and follow Ongwen’s attorney Krispus Ayena as he and his team address accountability for the horrors of violence in Uganda. 105 mins. In English, Acholi, Luo and French with English subtitles.
“We Are Guardians” (U.S. premiere)
Combatting illegal extraction of resources from the Amazon, Indigenous Brazilian forest guardian Marçal Guajajara and activist Puyr Tembé fight loggers, miners, and the political corruption that is supporting deforestation and threatening Indigenous communities. Directed by Indigenous activist Edivan Guajajara and environmental filmmakers Chelsea Greene and Rob Grobman. 82 mins. In English, Portuguese and Tupi with English subtitles.
“Koromousso, Big Sister” (U.S. premiere)
Every 10 seconds a girl under age 12 undergoes female genital mutilation, or FGM, a practice that has continued in 31 countries despite efforts to fight cultural traditions that have kept it in place. Directors Habibata Ouarme and Jim Donovan tell the stories of survivors of FGM, in Africa and living in an emigre community in Canada; the effects cutting had on their lives; confronting social taboos; and efforts to increase access to restorative surgery, so that woman can reclaim their dignity and sexuality. 75 mins. In English and French with English subtitles.
“Pay or Die” (New York premiere)
The festival’s closing night presentation, directed by Rachael Dyer and Scott Alexander Ruderman, is a bluntly-titled condemnation of the American health care system’s pricing of insulin, the expense of which has cost some struggling families their homes, and even their lives, while creating “medical refugees” — Americans forced to go elsewhere for affordable lifesaving drugs. 90 mins. (To be released theatrically later this year by MTV Documentary Films, followed by a streaming launch on Paramount+.)
For more information, visit the festival website at ff.hrw.org.
Source : Cbs News