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Preview: Human Rights Watch Film Festival

Putting The Message First

Above: From the "Youth Producing Change Program"

For the second time, the Museum of Photographic Arts is hosting the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (running January 20 through 23 at MoPA in Balboa Park).

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival has, as its name implies, a focus on human rights and it strives to create a forum for people on both sides of the lens to inspire and empower audiences with the notion that they can make a difference. That also means one should expect to find films that put their message first.

The only film I was able to screen in advance was "Granito: How to Nail a Dictator."

Filmmaker Pamela Yates revisits her earlier work, "When the Mountains Tremble," which might prove useful in the actual prosecution of war criminals in Guatemala. Yates goes into her new film with a stated agenda of wanting to see those responsible for genocide pay a price for their crimes. The film raises questions about a filmmaker's role. Yates does not profess to be an objective journalist but her active role in her own film raises questions about how the media can impact real events for either good or bad. In a sense she becomes the center of her own story and impacts the lives of those she is documenting. The film proves fascinating as she revisits the past through her own film.

The festival proves the power of film to shed light on issues and inspire people to initiate change.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs Friday through Monday at MoPA.

Human Rights Watch

Above: The Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs Friday through Monday at MoPA.

The following information and descriptions are taken from the festival schedule:

Friday, January 20, 7:00 pm

"Love Crimes of Kabul"

Followed by Q&A with Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, chair of Women Studies at SDSU and moderated by Lynn Hiestand, Heartland Alliance

Jailed for running away from home to escape abuse, for allegations of adultery, and other “moral crimes,” the women of Afghanistan’s Badum Bagh prison band together to fight for their freedom.

Saturday, January 21, 1:00 pm

"Granito: How to Nail a Dictator"

Followed by a Q&A session with the filmmakers and moderated by Milburn Line, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

Part political thriller, part memoir, Granito takes us through a haunting tale of genocide and justice that spans four decades, two films, and filmmaker Pamela Yates’s own career.

Saturday, January 21, 3:00 pm

"When the Mountains Tremble"

Followed by a Q&A session with Granito filmmakers and moderated by Milburn Line, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice.

In the early 1980s, death squads roamed the Guatemalan countryside in a war against the unarmed indigenous population that went largely unreported in the international media. Filmmakers Pamela Yates and Newton Thomas Sigel, threw themselves into the task of bringing the crisis to the world’s attention.

Saturday, January 21, 7:00 pm

"The Price of Sex"

Followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker Mimi Chakarova.

"The Price of Sex" is a feature-length documentary about young Eastern European women who have been drawn into a world of sex trafficking and abuse.

Sunday, January 22, 3:00 pm

"If a Tree Falls"

Followed by a Q&A session with Andrea Prasow, senior counsel, Human Rights Watch.

In December 2005 Daniel McGowan, a prominent New York City social justice organizer, was arrested by federal agents in a nationwide sweep of activists linked to crimes by the Earth Liberation Front (ELF)—a group the FBI has called America's "number one domestic terrorism threat." By providing a closer look at the group’s disillusionment with the strategies of non-violent protest – in which they suffer police abuse and public indifference – the film poses difficult questions about the possibility of effecting change from within the system and examines the raised stakes post 9/11 where the “terrorist” tag is broadly applied.

Sunday, January 22, 7:00 pm

"You Don't Like the Truth--4 Days Inside Guantanamo"

Followed by a Q&A session with Andrew Prasow, senior counsel, Human Rights Watch.

"You Don’t Like the Truth" is a shocking documentary based on security camera footage from an encounter in Guantanamo Bay between a team of Canadian intelligence agents and Canadian citizen Omar Khadr, then a 16-year-old detainee. Based on seven hours of video footage recently declassified by the Canadian courts, this documentary delves into the unfolding high-stakes game of cat and mouse between captor and captive over a four-day period.

Monday, January 23, 10:30 am

"Youth Producing Change"

Free for Title I Schools – Call 619.238.7559 X229 to reserve.

Followed by a Q&A session with Ethan van Thillo, executive director, Media Arts Center

Teen filmmakers turn the camera on their own struggles for human rights and invite audiences to experience the world as they do – as a Kenyan teenager living in Africa's second largest slum, as a 15-year-old girl in India who needs to choose between supporting her family or getting an education, or as a 14-year-old Afghan seeking asylum in the UK after fleeing the war-torn country where his father was killed. Youth Producing Change shares 11 powerful stories made by teens from across the globe as they share their vision of change.

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