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Human Rights Watch Film Festival: in London


Hooligan Sparrow, HRWFF, London Eight of the festival’s films are directed by women.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival will be in London from 9 to 18 March, 2016, and features 16 inspiring, topical and provocative documentaries and dramas.

The Opening Night film on 10 March at the Curzon Soho is the UK premiere of ‘Hooligan Sparrow‘, which highlights the cost of defending human rights in China today.

The filmmaker, Nanfu Wang, joins a group of fugitive activists, including the maverick Ye Haiyan (aka “Hooligan Sparrow”) who go on the run across southern China to avoid government thugs and arrest after protesting the sexual abuse of six schoolgirls by their headmaster and government officials.

The Closing Night film on 18 March at Picturehouse Central is Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Academy Award nominated debut drama Mustang, the story of five rebellious sisters growing up in Turkey who suddenly find their family home transformed into a prison, their schoolwork replaced by compulsory household chores and their futures dominated by arranged marriages.

The complex ethics, opportunities and risks of human rights filmmaking and reporting will be discussed in another three special programmes, to give audiences a greater understanding of the work of Human Rights Watch and human rights advocacy in general.

In one, Nadim Houry, the Human Rights Watch deputy Middle East and North Africa director, and Andrea Holley, strategic director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, will discuss the investigative techniques used to assemble the Human Rights Watch report If The Dead Could Speak, which revealed the human stories behind a set of 53,275 photographs that were smuggled out of Syria by a military defector in August 2013. The final report, which took nine months of research, included at least 6,786 images of people who had died in government custody.

Complex ethical issues are also revealed in two documentaries.

In P.S. Jerusalem – following the death of her father the noted journalist and author Amos Elon – the director Danae Elon moves her young family from New York to her hometown of Jerusalem and intimately captures the experiences and endless questions of two of her young boys as they confront the reality around them.

In Sonita – winner of Sundance 2016 Grand Jury World Documentary prize – the filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami documents and ultimately alters the course of the life of the feisty Afghan teenager Sonita, who despite living as a refugee in Iran, where female singers are banned from singing solo, as well as her family’s plans to sell her for USD9,000 as a teenage bride, remains determined to become a famous rapper.

Among the eight festival films directed by women, is Gini Reticker’s The Trials of Spring, a selection of shorts that look at women from Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen who were on the front lines of the Arab Spring uprisings five years ago, and took to the streets beside men, their signs held high. But as the jubilation of revolution gave way to the convoluted process of governing – and often the chaos and blood of war – women have disappeared from the mainstream story.

While the films are being shown at the Barbican, the British Museum, the Curzon Soho, Picturehouse Central, and the Ritzy Picturehouse, select films from the Festival will be shown online during the London 2016 event.

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is proud to continue its exciting partnership with MUBI, an online cinema community whose 6.5 million users watch, discover and share their thoughts on great movies from around the world. Learn more at

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