On June 13, the doors will open on the 30th New York Human Rights Watch Film Festival (HRWFF), running until June 20.
Founded in 1988, the first festival was organized to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, the festival reaches over 30,000 people in 26 cities around the world and is the longest-running human rights film festival.
The festival’s program features stories from the frontlines of human rights, as well as panels that shine a light on cases of oppression and human resilience, aiming to connect audiences with these issues through the power of film. The program includes fiction, documentary, and animated films, with this year’s focus being on the personal documentary – where the filmmaker is the film’s subject.
In “Born in Evin,” actress and filmmaker Maryam Zaree shares her story of resilience in the face of dictators. At age 12, she discovered she was one of many babies born inside Iran’s most notorious political prison during Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule in the 1980s. In “When We Walk,” filmmaker Jason DaSilva, who has multiple sclerosis, navigates the restrictions of the US healthcare system and its impacts on his relationship with his son.
The films celebrate diversity in all its forms. More than half of the selected films were made by filmmakers with roots in the region they work in, half were directed or co-directed by women, and the majority were directed by filmmakers of color.
In “Screwdriver,” Palestinian director Bassam Jarbawi captures a man’s struggle with reintegrating into a world he barely recognizes after 15 years in an Israeli prison. The film was shot entirely on location in the West Bank with a largely Palestinian crew.
In her film “In Search,” director Beryl Magoko shares the story of her decision whether to pursue reconstructive surgery for the female genital mutilation she underwent as a young girl. From friends in her rural hometown in Kenya to cities across Europe, Magoko consults a community of women to help her make her choice.
For 30 years, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival has recognized the rising importance of cinema as a force for raising awareness and galvanizing action. Year after year, the festival continues to challenge each of us to empathize, take action, and demand justice for all people.