Admirably, Human Rights Watch has developed this per annum movie series of first run films that heightens and enlightens our understanding of human rights abuses in history and at all corners of the globe. This year another bumper set has been brought together (7 in all) and is packaged beautifully with full liner notes from Human rights experts at Human Rights Watch coupled with the movie makers comments themselves. Keep an eye out for possible July release date. Only Amazon US is taking pre-orders at this point.
S21: THE KHMER ROUGE KILLING MACHINE
Accolades: International Human Rights Award 2004; Best Director and Václav Havel Awards, One World Human Rights Film Festival 2004; Best Documentary, Chicago International Film Festival; Francois Chalais Award, Cannes Film Festival 2003; Grand Jury Prize, Copenhagen Film Festival 2003; FIPRESCI Prize, Leipzig Film Festival 2003
Filmaker and survivor Rithy Panh takes us back to the infamous point and place in time i.e. the Cambodian killing fields of 1975-79, when two million Cambodians died from murder and famine under the brutal Khmer Rouge’s ideal of an agrarian utopia. The population were forced into the countryside for re-education but were decimated in a relentless genocide. Panh’s own family were slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge.
This story is focused on the detention center ‘S-21’. ‘S-21’ was the schoolhouse-turned prison where 17,000 adults and children were interrogated, tortured and killed, their “crimes” documented to justify their execution. One survivor, Vann Nath, confronts his gaolers/jailers, one of whom, a prison guard by the name of Poeuv, was only 12 years old when he committed the atrocities. His fellow guards too are not apologists nor remorseful and sickenly attempt to justify their horrendous actions and the genocidal machine which they found themselves parts of.
THE DEVIL’S MINER
Winner of the German Camera Award
Woodstock Film Festival, Best Documentary
Winner of the Humanitarian Award, Mexico Film Festival
Winner, Best Documentary Filmamkers, Tribeca Film Festival
Jerusalem Film Festival, Spirit of Freedom Award, Best International Documentary
Winner of the Silver Hugo Award, Best Documentary, Chicago Film Festival
Winner of the Fipresci Prize, Hot Docs – Toronto
The Devil’s Miner centres on two brothers, 14-year-old Basilio Vargas and his 12-year-old brother Bernardino, who risk their lives daily by working deep in the perilous silver mines of Cerro Rico, Bolivia, in order to earn a pittance to support their family and afford essential educational supplies. The boys, like their fellow miners turn to worshipping a demonlike deity, El Tio, for protection in their infernal underground world of darkness and despair. The boys have little hope of seeing better days and this harrowing tale makes us all realise how human rights laws in our safe Western countries are so easily taken for granted, especially those which protect the most vulnerable, our children.
Karma, a Tibetan filmmaker from New York, goes to Dharamsala to make a documentary about political prisoners who have escaped Tibet. She interviews Dhondup, an enigmatic ex-monk who confides in her that his real reason for escaping to India is to fulfill his dying mother’s last wish, to deliver a charm box to a long-missing resistance fighter. Karma unwittingly falls in love with Dhondup as his quest becomes a journey into Tibet’s fractured past and a voyage of self-discovery.
Silent Waters is set in 1979 Pakistan, when General Zia-ul-Haq took control of the country and stoked the fires of Islamic nationalism. Ayesha, who gets by on her late husband’s pension and by teaching young girls the Koran, invests her hopes in her beloved son Saleem. But when Saleem takes up with a group of Islamic fundamentalists just as a group of Sikh pilgrims come to town, Ayesha’s past comes to haunt her .
Accolades: Audience Award, Best Feature, Barcelona GLBT International Festival; Audience Award, Best Documentary, Hartford Alternatives Festival
Dangerous Living is the first documentary exploring the lives of homosexuals in non-western cultures. We hear the stories of gays and lesbians from Egypt, Honduras, Kenya, Thailand and elsewhere, places most occurrences of oppression receive no media coverage. Dangerous Living sheds light on an emerging global movement to end discrimination and violence against GLBT people.
THE CAMDEN 28
Jury Prize; Audience Award, Best Documentary, Philadelphia International Film Festival
Summer, 1971: Protests against the Vietnam War are spreading across the US. In Camden, New Jersey a group of 28 activists are arrested by the FBI for attemping to destroy records in a local draft board office. Featuring a treasure trove of archival materials as well as current interviews with Howard Zinn and members of the Camden 28, The Camden 28 uncovers a story of potent dissent.
ROSES IN DECEMBER
On December 2, 1980 lay missioner Jean Donovan and three American nuns were brutally murdered by El Salvador’s security force. Roses in December chronicles Donovan’s life, from her affluent childhood to her decision to volunteer in El Salvador to her tragic death. Roses in December is both an eloquent memorial to Jean Donovan’s commitment and a powerful indictment of U.S. foreign policy in Central America.