Posts Tagged ‘HUMAN RIGHTS’

Tacheles – The Heart of the Matter (2021) Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2022

Dir.: Jana Matthes, Andrea Schramm; Documentary with Yaar Harell, Elisies Zavadsky, Rina Kardisch- Zavdasky, Jasmin Harell, Marcel Nist, Sarah Heitz, Nina Paslawska; Germany/Israel 2020, 104 min.

Three generations of Holocaust survivors collide in this documentary debut from German writer/directors Jana Matthes and Andrea Schramm. When 21-year old game designer Yaar, born in Jerusalem, but living in Berlin, develops a Holocaust-themed video game, the older members of his family are slightly offended by Yaar’s stance in blaming his family for giving him a victim identity. But Yaar soon comprehends their viewpoint during his journey into the dark family history.

Yaar then invites his father over for a boxing match – minus the punches – airing his grievance and his plan to explore it further. He then sets off to Krakow where the family was settled before the Holocaust, to develop the game with his friends Marcel and Sarah, and put the record straight. Visiting grandma Rina in Jerusalem is the first step, and Yaar is overwhelmed by her memories.

In Krakow the trio starts to put the game together, but Marcel’s protagonist, the “good SS man Edgar” fails to fit into the narrative. Crucially, does a good SS man really exist?. Visiting the scene where Steven Spielberg shot Schindler’s List, and the nearby camp of Plaszow itself – meticulously re-constructed by Spielberg himself – the site is now overgrown – Yaar’s starts to change his viewpoint, particularly when finding the slogan “Fucking Jews out of Poland” sprayed on the wall of the Jewish cemetery.

Yaar’s father arrives in Krakow, and they meet up with Nina Paslawska whose parents tried to hide Rina and her little brother Roman from the Gestapo in 1939. A family secret soon emerges but Yaar’s game gets put on the back burner: it seems the experiences of Yaar and his generation are emotionally too removed from the generation of his parents and grandparents.

TACHELES is certainly formed by the ambiguous way the directors tackle the conflict. They certainly belong to Yaar’s generation unlike the first generation who often grew up with low self esteem, unable to compete their elders who had failed to make it back from the camps and were hailed as everlasting heroes. There is a generalised feeling amongst the heirs of Holocaust victims of being somehow inferior to their forebears, whose memory could never be sullied and who possessions remained enshrined as sacred relics – woe betide the son or daughter who damaged the favourite plate of a beloved, but dead aunt, whilst doing the washing up.

Overall TACHELES also suffers from being over ‘talkie’, it works best when DoPs Lars Barthel and Andrej Johannes Thieme show the images of the Plaszow camp, or the interior of a church, where the whole truth of Rina’s life is revealed. TACHELES is very much a reminder that Yaar’s generation point of view of the Shoah is “that God fell asleep”. They do not want their children to inherit the misery of the past. AS



Human Rights Watch Festival | 15-22 March 2019

Creating a forum for courageous individuals fighting worthwhile causes on both sides of the lens, this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns to the Barbican, BFI Southbank and Regent Street Cinema with an international line-up of 15 award-winning documentary and feature films from Venezuela, South Africa, Palestine, Thailand and more.

The festival will open at the Barbican on 14 March with Hans Pool’s Bellingcat – Truth in a Post-Truth World, which follows the revolutionary rise of the “citizen investigative journalist” collective known as Bellingcat, dedicated to redefining breaking news by exploring the promise of open source investigation. 
Among other topics highlighted in the festival are: modern-day slavery in the fishing industry, South African students’ #FeesMustFall movement and the call for the decolonization of the education system; ‘boys will be boys’ rape culture; the impact of non-consensual gender assignment surgery on intersex infants; urban displacement; and a behind the scenes access to the trial of Ratko Mladić. Many filmmakers, protagonists, Human Rights Watch researchers and activists will take part in in-depth post-screening Q&A and panel discussions, some of which are detailed below:

UK Premiere: Screwdriver Mafak
Palestine-USA-Qatar 2018. Dir Bassam Jarbawi. With Ziad Bakri, Areen Omari, Jameel Khoury. 108min. Digital. EST. 15

Shot entirely on location in the West Bank, award-winning Palestinian director Bassam Jarbawi’s debut feature film tackles the physical and emotional toll of one man’s return home after 15 years in an Israeli jail. This mesmerising drama examines the trauma of reintegration after imprisonment, together with the unpredictable set of challenges faced in modern-day Palestine.


UK Premiere: Facing the Dragon 

Afghanistan-Turkey-Germany-Australia 2018. Dir Sedika Mojadidi. 81min. Digital. EST. 15 

Afghan-American filmmaker Sedika Mojadidi pursues two awe-inspiring women on the front lines as the United States withdraws from Afghanistan and the Taliban regains their hold. As the country’s fragile democracy shakes, threats of violence increase against Shakila, a journalist, and Nilofar, a local politician. They are soon forced to choose between duty and love for their country, and their families’ safety. 


UK Premiere: Roll Red Roll 

USA 2018. Dir Nancy Schwartzman. 81min. Digital. 15 

In small-town Ohio, USA, a sexual assault involving members of the beloved high-school football team gained global attention. With unprecedented access to a local community struggling to reconcile disturbing truths and the journalist using social-media evidence to reveal them, this true-crime thriller cuts to the heart of debates around engrained rape culture, and unflinchingly asks: ‘Why didn’t anyone stop it?’ 


UK Premiere: The Sweet Requiem Kyoyang Ngarmo
India-USA 2018. Dirs Ritu Sarin, Tenzing Sonam. With Tenzin Dolker, Jampa Kalsang Tamang, Tashi Choedon. 93min. Digital. EST. 15

At the age of eight, Dolkar fled her home with her father to escape Chinese armed forces, and faced an arduous journey across the Himalayas. Now 26, she lives in a Tibetan refugee colony in Delhi, where an unexpected encounter with a man from her past awakens long-suppressed memories, propelling Dolkar on an obsessive search for the truth.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on 12 February 2019. Members of BFI Southbank can purchase tickets from 5 February and members of the Barbican can purchase tickets from 6 February.

On her Shoulders (2018) ****

Dir.: Alexandria Bombach; Documentary with Nadia Murad; USA 2018, 94 min.

Alexandria Bombach (Frame by Frame) has experienced human trafficking at first hand. This informs her devastating documentary about Yazidi human rights activist Nadia Murad, and her quest to bring justice to her compatriot victims of ISIS genocide. This crime against humanity is still waiting to be addressed by the international community. But Bombach started her project long before Murad was awarded the Nobel Price for Peace in 2018 – jointly with Denis Mukwege. Currently around 400 000 Yazidis, are living in the diaspora all over the world.

Nadia Murad, born 1993 in the village of Kocho, Sinjar province in northern Iraq, was a student when ISIS declared all Yazidi (members of a monotheistic religion) “a shame to Islam” and started a genocide in 2014. Over 5000 people were killed, 7000 women and children were imprisoned as sex slaves. Nadia Murad’s village was attacked on 15th September 2014, ISIS killing her mother and six brothers the same day. Nadia was taken with her two sisters to the city of Mosul, were she was raped, beaten and burned with cigarettes. She escaped, and was smuggled out of the country by neighbours. In Germany, 200 000 Yazidis are living in exile. Here, Nadia was offered psychotherapy for the trauma she had suffered. “But after one session I knew that this therapy would not help me, as long as many of us were still in captivity and nobody was prosecuting the ISIS members who are responsible”. Thus she became an activist, travelling the world for support. In 2015 she was made an Ambassador of the UN, Nadia was the first person to brief the assembly on Human Trafficking. She visited parliaments, among others the Lower House in Ottawa, and attended a rally in Berlin to mark the second anniversary of the genocide. She has tried to improve their dreadful conditions in camps in Italy and Turkey. In 2016 she re-visited the UN Assembly again, together with the human Rights lawyer Amal Clooney, to lodge a formal lawsuit against the ISIS commanders responsible for the atrocities.

Bombach’s greatest achievement is that she always concentrates on Nadia Murad as a real person – rather than an activist. It hurts to watch her suffering all over again in order to get attention for the survivors and justice for the dead and living. For over twenty years she lived in a peaceful village, where she dreamt of opening a beauty salon “so that girls could enhance their personality”. Then came the shock of enslavement, and now the stress of being on the international scene to fight for her fellow Yazidis. It begs the question, what is left of the real Nadia Murad? This indomitable young woman is still working to help her people despite ISIS assassination threats. Putting on a brave face, she tells her fellow Yazidis not to cry. But, Bombach catches the moments when Nadia breaks down – but only in private. A portrait of hope in the darkness of genocide. AS


Human Rights Watch Film Festival | 18 – 27 March 2015

The HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH Film Festival, in its 19th year, takes place at various venues in London from 18th March. Here’s a flavour of some of the titles screening:

Mike STORM IN THE ANDES 01 Opening Night | Thu 19th March | CURZON SOHO


Comedy troupe The Yes Men stage phoney events and press releases in an effort to bring attention to environmental dangers and corporate greed. Director Laura Nix (The Politics of Fur) gets to grips with these activists, some of whom are personal friends, to bring their challenges and motivations to the surface.

Life is Sacred. Main Still.Friday 20 March, CURZON SOHO | Sunday 22 March, BARBICAN


Danish filmmaker Andreas Dalsgaard has been documenting the Colombian professor-turned-politician Antanas Mocus for many years – first for Cities on Speed: Bogota Change (2009) which focuses on Mockus’ work as Mayor of Bogota and mire recently Life is Sacred, which features some of the people from the earlier film. Dalsgaard studied in visual anthropology in Paris and then anthropology in Aarhus, before graduating from film school in Denmark in 2009. His first feature Afghan Muscles (2007) became a festival hit and won the American Film Institute Grand Prix.

Democrats. Primary StillFriday 20 March, BARBICAN | Monday 23 March, RITZY, Brixton:


Director Camilla Nielsson spent three years filming the cross-party negotiations behind Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution – it took a year just to gain the right filming permits – and gained an extraordinary level access and trust among Zimbabwe’s political players.

WTB Image 1_2Friday 20 March, RITZY Brixton | Saturday 21 March, CURZON SOHO:

WHAT TOMORROW BRINGS (Exclusive preview)

Director Beth Murphy spent a year in Afghanistan filming What Tomorrow Brings about a newly established Afghan girls’ school, where the humanitarian battle to provide basic education for girls mirrors the military and political battles to save Afghanistan from again becoming a failed state. The film traces the stories of several girls over a single school year – both inside the classroom and at home – while providing a rare glimpse into the day-to-day life of an Afghan community torn between two radically different destinies.

Murphy has directed, produced and written nearly 20 documentary films for national and international media outlets including The Sundance Channel, The History Channel, Discovery International, Lifetime Television, The Sundance Channel, Discovery Health, PBS, NHK, and numerous international outlets.

STORM IN THE ANDES 01_0Saturday 21 March RITZY Brixton | Monday 23 March, BARBICAN


Director Mikael Wiström is an award-winning Swedish documentary filmmaker, photographer and documentary teacher, who has been making films in Peru since 1982, and started travelling to Peru in 1974 as a photographer. For Storm in the Andes he originally intended to make a film about the Peruvian conflict from the peasants’ point of view, when out of the blue, Josefin Ekermann wrote to him wanting to find out more about her aunt and her family’s history with the Shining Path movement (Sendero Luminoso), which then changed the course of his film with extraordinary results.

wrestling_2_01_9186 copySaturday 21 March, RITZY Brixton | Sunday 22 March, BARBICAN


Director Hajooj Kuka is filmmaker from Sudan, currently based between Nairobi, Kenya and Nuba Mountains, Sudan. He is the creative director of, a website that works with local reporters aimed at bringing news of the war through short documentaries, to the Sudanese people. Hajooj is a regular contributor to His previous work includes the 2009 documentary, Darfur’s Skeleton (52 min), which explores the conflict in Sudan’s troubled region since 2003. Beats of the Antonov won the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.

Sunday 22 March, CURZON Soho | Tuesday 24 March,RITZY Brixton:

Ouighours 1UYGHYRS: Prisoners of the Absurd (UK Prem)

Director Patricio Henríquez is a Quebec based filmmaker with a prolific body of work acknowledged by more than 70 awards and distinctions. He grew up and trained in filmmaking in Chile leaving the country after Augusto Pinochet overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvadore Allende. In 1974 he settled in Montreal and has been making television and feature documentaries about Chile and social justice around the world ever since.He brings the little-known story of the Uyghur detainnees to the screen with a collective narrative in which the cynical machinations of nation-states often win out over reason.

ABRI_12 - © CLIMAGETuesday 24 March, BARBICAN |Wednesday 25 March, CURZON Soho:

THE SHELTER (L’Abri) (UK Prem)

Director Fernand Melgar was born in 1961 in Tangier into a family of Spanish anarchist exiles. His parents clandestinely snuck him into Switzerland in 1963 when they entered as seasonal workers. He has produced over 20 documentaries on immigration and identity. His 2008 documentary La Forteresse won the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival as well as many other international awards. His film Special Flight (HRWFF 2012) shot in 2011 in an administrative detention center, received more than thirty international awards, including the Swiss Film Award and the Prix Europa.

girl on wall again 1Tuesday 24 March, CURZON Soho | Thursday 26 March, BARBICAN:


Multiple award-winning director, François Verster is based in Cape Town, South Africa. The Dream of Shahrazad has been his longest project in the making so far, and began with the idea of taking a classical piece of music and juxtaposing it with a contemporary political issue. Filmed before, during and after the Arab Spring The Dream of the Shahrazad weaves together a web of music, politics and storytelling to explore the ways in which creativity and political articulation coincide in response to oppression.

The_Wanted18_0Monday 23 March, CURZON Soho |  Tuesday 24 March, BARBICAN | Thursday 26 March, RITZY Brixton:


Filmmaker Amer Shomali, a Palestinian artist, grew up in a refugee camp in Syria, went to art school in Bournemouth, studied architecture at the Birzeit University in Palestine and now lives in Ramallah. He has co-director credits for the film The Wanted 18 which is a part-animated documentary (Shomali did the animation of the cows) about the non-violent resistance during the first Intifada in the late 1980s in the West Bank Christian town of Beit Sahour. Villagers bought 18 cows and started producing their own milk as a co-operative. The farm was so successful that the Israeli army, in a desperate bid to stop it, declared the farm “a threat to national security.”

carla_night_2-1Wednesday 25 March, BARBICAN |  Thursday 26 March, RITZY Brixton:


Directors Alessandra Zeka and Holen Sabrina Kahn have been producing documentaries together since 1998. Here they have created a powerful, character-driven story that revealed how total abortion prohibition impacts life in a public hospital. To contextualize the issue in the wider condition of women and girl’s reproductive and maternal health, it was particularly important that the story focus on the experience of a routine OBGYN surgeon rather than an abortion doctor. During our pre-production trips Dr. Carla Cerrato emerged as the brave and compelling central figure for the film and it is around her growing sense of consciousness that the story is told. As a portrait of a strong Central American female professional A Quiet Inquisition also brings to view a figure rarely represented in the Latino or American media. The serious social and human rights issues central to this intimate story of Carla, her colleagues and patients – individuals whose lives have been turned upside down by the law – come to light here through a nuanced lens.

1 - claudia paz y pazWednesday 25 March, RITZY Brixton | Thursday 26 March, CURZON Soho:

BURDEN OF PEACE (International Prem)

Director Joey Boink is a political sciences graduate and filmmaker who has gained extraordinary access to Guatemala’s first female Attorney General, Claudia Paz y Paz (during her four-year mandate in the world’s most dangerous countries ) to make this film. It observes her attempts to break the downward spiral of a society where drug cartels, corruption and violence have become part of daily life. She manages to improve the country’s safety and justice issues but is met with much resistance.

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