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Human Rights Watch Film Festival London – Preview

Human Rights Watch Film Festival London – Preview

Now on its 19th edition, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns to London to showcase the best in socially conscious cinema from around the world. The perfect antidote to festivals that lose themselves in red carpet glamour, the 2015 edition, spread across screens at the Barbican, Curzon Soho, Ritzy Picturehouse and even the British Museum, offers up 16 films between 18th-27th March.

So what should you be looking out for in a programme that shines a light on injustice and the tenacious people that stand up to it? Before the festival opens proper, there’s the UK premiere of Wim Wenders’ Oscar nominated documentary The Salt of the Earth. Showing as part of a fundraising benefit for Human Rights Watch at the British Museum, it follows internationally renowned photographer Sebastião Salgado as he sets about tackling climate change through his art. While Wenders’ narrative films have tailed off in recent years, his documentary work has remained of the highest quality suggesting this is well worth the effort.

With that out the way, the opening night film on Thursday 19th comes from Laura Nix. The Yes Men are Revolting picks up with the infamous activists, well known for their elaborate hoaxes staged to draw attention to corporate crime. Two decades in, they’re starting to feel their age as activism and mid-life crisis clash horns. There’s big name drama to close proceedings as well. Rosewater, the debut feature from The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, stars Gael Garcia Bernal as Iranian/Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari who was locked up in Iran for his coverage of the 2009 elections.
rosewater-stillThe really interesting films come in-between as the festival offers up the chance to watch efforts otherwise likely to pass the UK by. There are hybrid documentaries like Francois Verster’s The Dream of The Shahrazad addressing creativity and oppression, a combination of political thriller and musical journey in Ayat Najafi’s No Land’s Song looking at the loss of the female voice in Iran and an account of an all-girls school in remote Afghanistan in Beth Murphy’s film What Tomorrow Brings.

I’m particularly looking forward to Democrats, a documentary delving into the political world of Robert Mugabe through the eyes of two opponents, Burden of Peace following Guatemala’s first female attorney general through her difficult job, and Life is Sacred about an unorthodox presidential candidate in Columbia.

On top of the films, there’s a Guardian Masterclass on human rights reporting and several musical events. So there’s no excuse for not checking it out. If you like your cinema to have a little bit more going for it than extravagant explosions and pretty clothes, you know where to look for the rest of the month.

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