A famous Chinese political dissident artist, rapes in the military, battered reporters in Tijuana narco-war zone, a crimes against humanity trial in Cambodia, child soldiers in Sub-Saharan Africa are few of the subjects in this year's Human Rights Watch Film Festival which will be held at Film Society of Lincoln Center in NYC, 6/14-28. These films are real eye openers, shedding a light on the injustices either hidden or neglected all over the world.
Here are previews for five outstanding documentaries I was able to see:
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry | Screens June 15th, 7:00pm at FSLC
Engrossing portrait of a fiercely political artist in the internet age. AWW became famous denouncing Beijing Olympics as the party propaganda even though he designed 'Bird's Nest' stadium for the games. Well regarded and very popular among young people as the beacon of free speech fight/representative of everyman, AWW's confrontational works has won him no friends at the ruling party. He was assaulted and hospitalized by police and arrested and has been detained and tortured until recently. AWW embodies the paradoxical nature of communist/capitalist China.
Brother Number One | Screens June 19th, 8:45pm, 20th, 4pm, 21st, 6:30pm at FSLC
In Brother Number One, a Kiwi athlete, Rob Hamill, gets a rare opportunity to speak as a witness at the war crime trial against one of the Pol Pot's henchmen, now a born again Christian, Commander Duch. In 1978, Hamill's older brother was captured by Khmer Rouge when his sail boat went off course, accused of spying, sent to the infamous S-21 Prison camp in Cambodia. There he was tortured and killed along with the countless others. An unofficial death toll under Pol Pot regime is estimated at 2 million. Filled with first hand interviews, testimonies, the documentary is a gut wrenching experience to say the least.
Reportero | Screens June June 21st, 4pm, 22nd, 9:30pm, 23rd, 3:30pm at FSLC
In Mexico's narco-traffic war, the horrendous acts of violence are inflicted on the criminals and ordinary citizens alike. Kidnappings, drive-by shootings and beheadings are common occurrences. It's no exception for the journalists. A Tijuana based weekly Zeta have been running independently without influences from the government or corporations for the last 30 years. Then as they start reporting on drug-wars, they've become a target as well. These are truly brave individuals.
The Invisible War | Screens June 18th, 8:45pm, 20th, 6:30pm at FSLC
The Invisible war tells the staggering number of rapes and the systematic coverup in the US military. The governments pathetic response in the training video is "Hey, wait 'til she is sober." What's more heartbreaking is most of the service woman featured in Invisible War were true believers of military system, thinking they could serve the country best being soldiers, but fell victim to forever masculine culture.
Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare | Screens June 24th, 25th, 6:30, 27th, 4pm at FSLC
Another searing doc about American Healthcare. Yes we need to change our eating habits, yes it should be 'health' care not 'disease' care. Yes the system is still totally screwed up. Pay per visit system means shorter visit time and less doctor/patient face time. There is no money in being primary care physician. Escape Fire spells out the obvious problems for us. It's also about time someone crystalizing that healthcare is a human rights issue. Oddly, the recent Public Option debate in the Healthcare Overhaul is absent in this documentary.
For tickets and more information, please visit Human Rights Watch Film Festival website