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(London) – The 2021 Human Rights Watch Film Festival celebrates 25 years with a full digital edition available to stream across the UK, in partnership with Barbican Cinema and generously supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Still from the film "Unapologetic."

Featuring 10 powerful and uplifting new documentaries – each accompanied by a live, online discussion (free and live-captioned in English) with filmmakers, film participants, and Human Rights Watch researchers from around the world – the festival is presented exclusively on Barbican Cinema On Demand from March 18-26.

Celebrating campaigners, individuals, and journalists who shine a light on disruptive forces, this year’s empowering program highlights trailblazing women, activists’ resilience and resistance, education as an essential tool for change, and a special spotlight on Latin America. With films from Ireland, Germany, Kenya, Philippines, the United States and Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela, eight of this year’s line-up are directed or co-directed by women.

The Opening Night film, The 8th, shows a country forging a new path at a time when reproductive rights are threatened around the world. Shot over a three-year period, co-directors Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy and Maeve O’Boyle follow campaigners of Ireland’s reproductive rights movement Ailbhe Smyth and Andrea Horan, leading up to the historic 2018 referendum. Co-director Lucy Kennedy, film participants Ailbhe Smyth and Andrea Horan, and senior researcher in the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch Hillary Margolis, will join the live virtual discussion on Thursday, March 18, at 8:30 p.m.

The Closing Night film strikes an equally determined note from young Black, queer women in the US. Unapologetic director Ashley O’Shay introduces Janaé Bonsu and Bella Bahhs, two fierce activist leaders in the US seeking justice for the deaths of two Black Chicagoans at the hands of the police. Their journey illuminates the love underpinning their anger and frustration, and elevates those who are most often leading the way while being denied the spotlight. Director Ashley O’Shay and film participants Bella Bahhs and Janaé Bonsu will join the live virtual discussion on Friday, March 26, at 8:30 p.m.

“I am thrilled that these two important films – which celebrate inspirational women effecting crucial change in their communities – are bookending our 25th anniversary festival,” said John Biaggi, director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. “The full festival program, which audiences across the UK can enjoy, encapsulates the core work of Human Rights Watch to defend rights and secure justice. I look forward to our expert panelists exploring this and more in our in-depth online discussions throughout the festival.”

To celebrate this 25th edition, audiences also have an opportunity to watch 10 selected festival highlights from previous editions thanks to the continuing partnership with MUBI.

Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery: “I’m really pleased the film festival is able to go ahead online this year – it’s a hugely impactful way of engaging people in some of today’s issues. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery contributes to numerous programs with many charities alongside Human Rights Watch such as Amnesty International UK, working to protect people wherever human rights are denied. Together these organizations make a real difference in creating a more just world.”

Gali Gold, Head of Cinema, Barbican: I am proud that the Barbican is the exclusive London venue partner for Human Rights Watch Film Festival for its 25th edition and thrilled that we are able to host this year’s powerful line-up on Barbican’s Cinema On Demand, while our cinemas are still closed. The conviction of the storytellers in the festival's program is always inspiring to see, and it’s wonderful to know that audiences across the UK can join us this year.”

Bobby Allen, Co-Chair, HRW Film Benefit Committee and SVP Production, MUBI: “Cinema is an incredibly powerful way to educate people on the human rights issues that are impacting the world today. The work the Human Rights Watch Film Festival does is crucial to driving awareness of these issues and MUBI is proud to partner with the festival to bring this important collection of films online and make them available to audiences across the UK.” 

All festival films are available to stream throughout the festival dates. Free, live-captioned discussions will take place on Zoom, at times detailed below. Three caption screenings for Deaf or hard of hearing will take place throughout the festival, detailed below. Tickets go on sale February 18 and can be purchased via the Human Rights Watch Film Festival or Barbican Cinema On Demand.

You can find more info as well as the full list of titles here

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