Human Rights Watch Film Festival brings the female experience to riveting reality
(WNN) New York, N.Y., UNITED STATES: Bringing some of the most riveting films on human rights and equal rights to the public, the 23rd year of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival will be showing 14 film premiers, in addition to other documentaries and film fiction, from 12 separate countries. The event, which is co-produced by the Film Society Lincoln Center, will be brought to the public in New York city June 14-18.
“The film festival brings to life human rights abuses through storytelling in a way that challenges each individual to empathize and demand justice for all people,” says Human Rights Watch.
“This year’s festival features several films about individuals whose personal testimony, witnessing or reporting has had an impact – be it an impact on a particular situation, on a broader issue or on a specific country,” said Andrea Holley, Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch Film Festival recently to WNN – Women News Network. “When we see the impact that one individual (or group of individuals) can have, we know that change is always possible,” she continued.
Some of the outstanding films chosen to be presented during the Festival include, “Salaam Dunk” by filmmaker David Fine. Salaam Dunk is a true picture of modern-day ‘girl power’ in Iraq. Through the immediacy and power of sports, young women are helped to forget the years of war and conflict in their country. Sending a message of survival with Iraqi pop music, young women play basketball to even the field as differences in religious and cultural ideology is pushed to the side to include Iraqi girl-team players who come from Kurdish, Arab, Turkmen and Christian backgrounds.
“I play to forget,” says one of the women team members as she describes her own personal survival, post Iraq/U.S. conflict. The stories of grit and accomplishment go hand-in-hand here.
In a searing film debut for “The Invisible War,” the ‘secret’ battles women in the military face each day are revealed as women face rape violence inside the military system. “Everything changed the day that I was raped,” said one woman service member with stilted emotion during the filming of this 2011 investigative documentary by Academy Awards nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick with documentary producer Amy Ziering.
“Military women are more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire,” outlines the film.
A staggering figure of 500,000, half a million, women have now been sexually assaulted sometime during their service in the U.S. military. This epidemic is brought to the screen as women share acts of violence against them that they still can not believed have happened. In spite of trying to expose the crimes, many cases have gone without prosecution or have been ‘under-prosecuted’ by the military. Numerous cases have also seemed to have been mysteriously swept ‘under the rug.’
“Only 8 percent of sexual assault cases are prosecuted in the military. Only 2 percent result in convictions” says the stark message of “The Invisible War.”
Another vitally important film that will be shown in the June presentation screenings for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival depicts women and men who are suffering under a different kind of silent danger. The 2012 documentary “Call Me Kuchu,” by women filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, follows the almost crushed but still active GLBTI movement in Uganda where gay hero and mentor David Kato worked to stop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda. The Bill, also known as the ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill calls for life imprisonment, or death, for those who are determined to be lesbian, gay, intersex or transgendered in the region.
“I wanted to die softly,” said one of the lesbians depicted in the film, as she shared her personal experience growing up as a sexual minority in Uganda, a region that has learned how to hate at a lethal level.
“Is she a creature? Is she a human being really?” shares one Ugandan lesbian in in the film during a description of comments she heard that were made about her in public.
After succeeding to stop the Bill in Uganda, David Kato was brutally killed in his home on January 16, 2011 only a few months following the October 2010 news exposure of Uganda’s “Top 100 Homosexuals,” a story that offered the Ugandan public a way to identify gays. Today the Bill that Kato fought so hard to stop is once again being pushed through Uganda’s legislation, but it is hoped by many activists that the Bill can be crushed and not continue to bring fear, intimidation and suffering to GLBTIs throughout the region.
Out of 31 million people living in Uganda today it is estimated that up to 500 thousand of them may be GLBTI, a number that has been quoted by gay activists, but has also been very hard to document officially due to the harsh discrimination against sexual minorities who are also asking for civil rights in the region.
From Oscar®- and Emmy®-nominated filmmaker Kirby Dick comes The Invisible War, a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of America’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military. The film paints a startling picture of the extent of the problem-today, a female soldier in combat zones is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire. The Department of Defense estimates there were a staggering 19,000 violent sex crimes in the military in 2010. The Invisible War exposes the epidemic, breaking open one of the most under-reported stories of our generation, to the nation and the world.
For more information on this topic:
- “Iraq: Women in War ,” ICRC – International Committee of the Red Cross in Iraq, March 2003;
- “Protecting the Human Rights of LGBT People in Uganda in the Wake of Uganda’s ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009′,” EILR – Emory International Law Review, Emory University School of Law, March 2012;
- “Deterioration of Iraqi Women’s Rights and Living Conditions Under Occupation,” Dr. Souad N. Al-Azzawi, The Brussells Tribunal, August 2010.
SEE the Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2012 schedule in New York or buy online tickets to specific screenings during the Festival. Screenings will be followed by Q&A sessions with filmmakers, along with some presentations, including a presentation by human rights advocates Equality Now, among others, who will be talking about the use of film and media as one of the strongest activating forces for human rights.
©2012 WNN – Women News Network
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