Human Rights Watch Festival Schedule

Edited by Gregg Morris


[May 11 update] 

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Opening Night Film & Reception
Friday, June 10, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center

HOOLIGAN SPARROW (New York premiere screening + panel discussion) Nanfu Wang—2016—83m—doc—In English and Mandarin

A group of activists protesting the alleged rape of six girls by a school headmaster and a government official quickly become fugitives. Filmmaker Nanfu Wang and super-activist Ye Haiyan (“Hooligan Sparrow”) must avoid government thugs and arrest. Sparrow becomes an enemy of the state, but detentions, interrogations, and evictions can’t stop her protest from going viral. A thriller set across southern China featuring friends who will go to any lengths to expose the truth.

Screening followed by discussion: Featuring Nanfu Wang, filmmaker; Sophie Richardson, China Director, Asia Division, Human Rights Watch; Liesl Gerntholtz, Women’s Rights Director, Human Rights Watch; moderator Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives, Human Rights Watch.

The Festival is pleased to present filmmaker Nanfu Wang with its 2016 Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking.

Renowned cinematographer and filmmaker Nestor Almendros (1930–1992) was a founder of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, actively involved in the selection of films and the promotion of human rights filmmaking. Even while deeply immersed in his own projects, he took the time to call the Festival team to mention a strong documentary or promote a work-in-progress. Believing in the power of human rights filmmaking, Nestor devoted himself to becoming a mentor to many young filmmakers. It is in the Festival’s loving memory of Nestor and our desire to celebrate his vision that we proudly bestow this award to filmmakers for their exceptional commitment to human rights.

Closing Night Film
Sunday, June 19, 7:00 pm – IFC Center

SONITA (New York premiere screening + Q&A with filmmaker)
Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami—2015—90m—doc—In English and Farsi

Winner of the 2016 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award for World Cinema Documentary, Sonita is about a determined and animated Afghan teen living in Tehran, who dreams of being a famous rapper. But in Iran, the government doesn’t let girls sing solo. And in her Afghan home she is expected to become a teenage bride. With her family keen to marry her off to receive her dowry, tradition bears down on Sonita. Armed with nothing but passion and persistence, she must turn obstacle into opportunity.
ALMOST SUNRISE (New York premiere screening + Q&A with filmmaker and film subject Tom Voss)
Michael Collins—2016—94m—doc—In English

Two friends, in an attempt to put their haunting combat experiences behind them, embark on an epic 2,700-mile trek on foot across America seeking redemption and healing as a way to close the moral chasm opened by war. Their odyssey across snowy mountains and vast deserts inspires an inner journey that culminates in a remarkable spiritual transformation that could light the way for other veterans seeking to reclaim their lives.

Suicide among military veterans has reached epidemic proportions and can be the result of what mental health professionals call “moral injury”—lasting wounds to the soul caused by participation in events that go against one’s deeply held sense of right and wrong. Almost Sunrise is an intimate, vérité film that eschews stereotypes, and instead, captures an unprecedented portrait of veterans—one of hope, potential and untold possibilities.

Saturday, June 11, 9:15 pm – IFC Center
Monday, June 13, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
CHAPTER & VERSE (Screening + Q&A with filmmaker)
Jamal Joseph—2015—97m—drama—In English

After serving eight years in prison, reformed gang leader S. Lance Ingram re-enters society and struggles to adapt to a changed Harlem. Living under the tough supervision of a parole officer in a halfway house, he is unable to find a job that will let him use the technological skills he gained in prison, and is forced to deal with racism, gang violence, and the gentrification of the historic New York City neighborhood in which he was raised. Directed by Jamal Joseph, a leader of the Black Panther Party who spent time in prison as a result of his involvement in the organization, Chapter & Verse pulls you into its vibrant world and reflects upon what it means to forge your own destiny in an outwardly harsh society.

Sunday, June 12, 5:00 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
THE CROSSING (US premiere screening + Q&A with director)
George Kurian—2016—55m (65m w. featured shorts)—doc—In English and Arabic

*Preceded by MALAK (5m) and MUSTAPHA (5m), two beautifully rendered short films about two young Syrian children’s personal experiences journeying from their homeland to the shores of Greece. Produced by Dovana Films.

A first-hand account of the perilous journey made by a group of Syrian refugees. Traversing land and sea on an old fishing boat manned by smugglers, the nail-biting journey leads to Europe where the refugees disperse. Each must battle to stay sane and create an identity among the maze of regulations and refugee hostels. The Crossing shows us the lengths to which people go to find safety and forge their own destiny.

Wednesday, June 15, 8:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
Thursday, June 16, 9:15 pm – IFC Center
DO NOT RESIST (Screening + Q&A with filmmaker)
Craig Atkinson—2016—72m—doc—In English

Winner of Best Documentary Feature at the Tribeca Film Festival, Do Not Resist opens with shocking scenes from Ferguson, Missouri, to introduce an array of stories that collectively detail the disturbing realities of American police culture. The film depicts a high-end weapons expert who instructs police departments around the nation on the need for force and intimidation; a growing number of small towns and cities being armed with expensive military-grade equipment; and the development of face-recognition technology that makes the automated scanning of cities for wanted offenders a likely reality.

Director Craig Atkinson presents a unique and powerful portrait of the individuals and institutions each playing their part in a growing billion-dollar industry. Do Not Resist begs the question—who is it we “protect and serve.”

Tuesday, June 14, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
Wednesday, June 15, 9:00 pm – IFC Center
GROWING UP COY (World premiere screening + Q&A with filmmaker)
Eric Juhola—2016—83m—doc—In English

Growing Up Coy follows a landmark transgender rights case in Colorado where a 6-year-old transgender girl named Coy has been banned from the girls’ bathroom at her school. Coy’s parents hire a lawyer to pursue a civil rights case of discrimination, and the family is thrust into the international media spotlight, causing their lives to change forever. A timely topic as states across the US battle with this particular civil rights issue. The film also asks a universal question that every parent may face: How far would you go to fight for your child’s rights?

Thursday, June 16, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
Friday, June 17, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
Dalibor Matanić—2015—123m—drama—In Croatian

The High Sun shines a light on three love stories, set in three consecutive decades, in two neighboring Balkan villages with a long history of inter-ethnic hatred. Through these stories, Dalibor Matanić highlights how dangerous hatred towards “the other” can be. It is a film about the fragility—and intensity—of forbidden love. Jury Prize, Un Certain Regard, 2015 Cannes Film Festival.

Sunday, June 12, 9:15 pm – IFC Center
INSIDE THE CHINESE CLOSET (New York premiere screening + Q&A with filmmaker)
Sophia Luvara—2015—70m—doc—In English and Mandarin

In a nondescript lounge somewhere in Shanghai, men and women giggle, eyeing prospective partners, visibly nervous about making the first move. This isn’t your average matchmaking event—it’s a “fake-marriage fair” where gay men and lesbian women meet in an attempt to make matrimonial deals with members of the opposite sex to satisfy social and familial expectations of a heterosexual marriage. And pretend marriages are just the start. Touching and troubling in equal measure, Inside the Chinese Closet exposes the difficult decisions young LGBT individuals must make when forced to balance their quest for love with parental and cultural expectations.

Friday, June 17, 9:30 pm – IFC Center
Saturday, June 18, 9:00 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
JACKSON (New York premiere screening + Q&A with filmmaker and film subject Shannon Brewer)
Maisie Crow—2015—90m—doc—In English

What is life like in a place where the anti­-abortion movement has made access to legal abortion almost impossible? Since the ruling in Roe v. Wade over four decades ago, the self-labelled “pro-life” movement has won significant legal, cultural, and political battles. Now, the stigma of abortion is prolific in the American South, leaving women in poverty and women of color particularly vulnerable. Set against the backdrop of the fight over the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, Jackson takes a close look inside the issues surrounding abortion.

Friday, June 10, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
Sunday, June 12, 8:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
OVARIAN PSYCOS (New York premiere screening + Q&A with filmmaker and film subjects)
Joanna Sokolowski and Kate Trumbull-LaValle —2016—72m—doc—In English and Spanish

Riding at night through the streets of Eastside Los Angeles, the Ovarian Psycos are an unapologetic crew of women of color. Founded by Xela de la X, a single mother and poet, the Ovas cycle for the purpose of healing, reclaiming their neighborhoods, and creating safer streets for women.

At first only attracting a few local women, the Ovarian Psycos have since inspired a crowd of locals to challenge the stereotypical expectations of femininity and be a visible force along the barrios and boulevards of Los Angeles. The film intimately explores the impact of the group’s brand of feminism on neighborhood women and communities as they confront the injustice, racism, and violence in their lives.

Saturday, June 11, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
Monday, June 13, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
P.S. JERUSALEM (Screening + Q&A with filmmaker)
Danae Elon—2015—87m—doc—In English, Arabic and Hebrew

Danae Elon exposes a deep, complex, and painful portrait of Jerusalem today. The filmmaker relocates her young family from New York City to her childhood home of Jerusalem, a decision prompted by the death of her father. Danae’s camera captures her three young boys growing up, asking endless questions and confronting the reality around them. She sends them to the only school in the city that teaches Arab and Jewish children together, a respite from the conflict enveloping her surroundings. But can she keep her family together—and keep a cool head—in the political and cultural heat of Jerusalem?

Friday, June 17, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
Saturday, June 18, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
SOLITARY (Screening + Q&A with filmmaker)
Kristi Jacobson—2015—80m—doc—In English

Solitary tells the stories of several inmates sent to Red Onion State Prison, one of over 40 supermax prisons across the US, which holds inmates in eight-by-ten foot solitary confinement cells, 23 hours a day. Profoundly intimate, this immersive film weaves through prison corridors and cells, capturing the chilling sounds and haunting atmosphere of the prison.

With unprecedented access, award-winning filmmaker Kristi Jacobson investigates an invisible part of the American justice system and tells the stories of people caught in the complex penal system—both inmates and correction officers—raising provocative questions about punishment in America today. HBO Documentary Films.

Thursday, June 16, 6:15 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
Mehrdad Oskouei —2016—76m—doc—In Farsi

Murder, drug addiction, hijacking cars, running away from home: these are just a few of the crimes that the girls from the rehabilitation center for juvenile delinquents in Tehran have committed. For seven years, director Mehrdad Oskouei sought permission from the Iranian authorities to allow him to film an imprisoned population, otherwise hidden from the public eye.

The result is an incredibly personal documentary about the dreams, nightmares, and hopes of the women in this all-female facility. Their individual stories show their desire to return to freedom and live a normal life, but also the fear of what is waiting for them on the outside.

Friday, June 10, 9:30 pm – IFC Center
Saturday, June 11, 9:00 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
SUITED (Screening + Q&A with filmmaker and film subjects)
Jason Benjamin—2016—77m—doc—In English

Suited tells the story of Bindle & Keep, a Brooklyn tailoring company that caters to a diverse LGBTQ community. Clothier duo Rae and Daniel take a holistic approach to their work, considering each client’s personal narrative, which becomes inextricable from the creation of the perfect custom-made suit. From Derek’s emotional journey as he prepares for his wedding to Everett, a law student in a conservative environment, or Melissa, who simply wants to look good for a 40th birthday party—the need for well-fitting garments represents deeper issues of identity, empowerment, and the importance of feeling happy in one’s body. HBO Documentary Films.

Saturday, June 18, 9:45 pm – IFC Center
TEMPESTAD (US premiere screening + Q&A with filmmaker)
Tatiana Huezo—2016—105m—doc—In Spanish

Two women, their voices echoing over the landscape and highways of Mexico from North to South, tell how official corruption and injustice allowed violence to take control of their lives.

The film is a meditation on corruption and on the notion of “impunidad,” the impunity or unaccountability of those in power, whether part of the Mexican government or the country’s drug cartels. An emotional and evocative journey, steeped not only in loss and pain, but also in love, dignity and resistance.

Friday, June 17, 9:00 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
Saturday, June 18, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
THE UNCONDEMNED (Screening + Q&A with filmmaker and film subject Sara Darehshori)
Michele Mitchell and Nick Louvel—2015—86m —doc—In English, French and Kinyarwanda

Both a real-life courtroom thriller and a moving human drama, The Uncondemned tells the gripping story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to have rape recognized as a war crime, and the Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice for the crimes committed against them. This odyssey takes the crusaders to a crucial trial at an international criminal court, the results of which changed the world of criminal justice forever.

Saturday, June 11, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center
Sunday, June 12, 7:00 pm – IFC Center
WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE (New York premiere screening + Q&A with filmmaker) Heidi Brandenburg and Mathew Orzel—2016—103m —doc—In Spanish

What happens when the thirst for power and riches takes priority over human life? The Amazon Rainforest, one of the planet’s most valuable natural resources, is being auctioned off, and its people condemned. Alberto Pizango, a young indigenous leader fighting to make the voices of indigenous Peruvians heard, stands up to political leaders and is accused of conspiracy and inciting violence. Set against the backdrop of a global recession and climate crisis, When Two Worlds Collide, winner of a World Cinema documentary competition prize for best first feature at Sundance, reveals the human side to the battle of conflicting visions and political wills working to shape the future of the Amazon, and of an already debilitated global ecosystem. Opens at Film Forum on Aug. 17.

Thursday, June 16, 8:45 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center

Special Event – Discussion Panel

More than one million asylum seekers and migrants have arrived in Europe by sea. According to UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, 84 percent were from Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia, or Iraq—all countries experiencing conflict, widespread violence and insecurity, or which have highly repressive governments.

Human Rights Watch has covered the unfolding situation in multiple countries using research teams that include photographers and videographers to capture conditions on the ground and convey the compelling individual stories behind this crisis. In this panel discussion Human Rights Watch Emergencies Director Peter Bouckaert and photographer Zalmaï share their insights and images, along with short video clips, to discuss how governments can effectively respond to the refugee crisis in line with their legal responsibilities and stated values.
This event will run 90 minutes.

Tuesday, June 14, 7:00 pm – IFC Center

*There will be an exhibition of Zalmaï’s photographs to accompany this discussion in the Roy and Frieda Furman Gallery at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater.
Special Event – Discussion Panel

Virtual Reality (VR) is an expanding arena for immersive and interactive content. Creators are exploring ways to project participants into new worlds and experiences, and a growing number of these are focused on human rights. A variety of backers such as the New York Times, Google, Facebook, and the United Nations are working to develop and expand our use of the technology. Questions over how best to use VR, and its ability to impact human rights situations, are hotly debated—particularly as VR’s unique approach to audience experience raises new issues over legitimacy and responsibility.

Creators differ over how far to push audiences’ boundaries, for what impact, and with what design model. Opinions over these questions are ever-changing within the field. Join us for a panel discussion with creators, journalists and human rights experts to discuss this exciting and evolving intersection of VR and human rights. Panelists include Francesca Panetta, Special Projects Editor at The Guardian; Sam Gregory, Program Director at WITNESS; Lina Srivastava, Founder, CIEL; and others.
This event will run 90 minutes.

Wednesday, June 15, 6:30 pm – Film Society of Lincoln Center

This panel is presented in conjunction with VR installation 6×9: An Immersive Experience of Solitary Confinement, June 10-18 from 7:30 to 9:30 pm at the Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater. This installation is free and open to the public. Co-created by The Guardian and The Mill.
Right now, more than 80,000 people are in solitary confinement in the US—locked in tiny concrete boxes where every element of their environment is controlled. They spend 22-24 hours a day in their cells, with little to no human contact for days or even decades. The sensory deprivation they endure causes severe psychological damage. These people are invisible to us—and eventually to themselves. This powerful VR piece invites you to experience first-hand what life is like in solitary confinement.
Europe’s Refugee Crisis

Photography by Zalmaï for Human Rights Watch

Photo exhibition runs from June 10-18 at the Frieda and Roy Furman GalleryFilm Society of Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater

The desperate flight of refugees and asylum seekers from unending violence and abuse in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Eritrea, and their limited chance to secure adequate work, housing, schooling, and legal status in neighboring countries, led an estimated one million people to flee to Europe in the past year.

The fear of what an influx of asylum seekers could mean for their societies has led many governments in Europe and elsewhere to close the gates and pursue beggar-thy-neighbor policies that are the negation of shared solidarity and responsibility. The fear of more terrorist attacks has moved many governments around the world to follow the excesses of the post-9-11 response by the United States and many politicians to scapegoat Muslims or refugees.

Over the past year, photographer Zalmaï accompanied teams of Human Rights Watch researchers carrying out on-the-ground investigations in multiple countries and documenting the crisis as it was unfolding.

Zalmaï: Born in Kabul, Afghanistan, Zalmaï fled his country after the Soviet invasion in 1979 and found refuge in Lausanne, Switzerland, where he became a Swiss citizen. Following his passion for photography, Zalmaï pursued combined studies at the School of Photography of Lausanne and the Professional Photography Training Center of Yverdon. In 1989, he began to work as a freelance photographer, traveling the world and eventually returning to Afghanistan, where he continues to document the plight of the Afghan people.

His work has been published in the New York Times Magazine, TIME, The New Yorker, Harper’s, and Newsweek. He has also worked for a number of nongovernmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the International Committee of the Red Cross, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

Human Rights Watch
Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights. We work tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and fight to bring greater justice and security to people around the world. Through the Human Rights Watch Film Festival we bear witness to human rights violations and create a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference. The film festival brings to life human rights abuses through storytelling in a way that challenges each individual to empathize and demand justice for all people. To learn more about our work or to make a donation, visit

Film Society of Lincoln Center
Founded in 1969 to celebrate American and international cinema, the Film Society of Lincoln Center works to recognize established and emerging filmmakers, support important new work, and to enhance the awareness, accessibility, and understanding of the moving image. The Film Society produces the renowned New York Film Festival, a curated selection of the year’s most significant new film work, and presents or collaborates on other annual New York City festivals including Art of the Real, Dance on Camera, Film Comment Selects, Human Rights Watch Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, New York African Film Festival, New York Asian Film Festival, New York Jewish Film Festival, Open Roads: New Italian Cinema, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, and Scary Movies.

In addition to publishing the award-winning Film Comment magazine, the Film Society recognizes an artist’s unique achievement in film with the prestigious Chaplin Award, whose 2016 recipient was Morgan Freeman. The Film Society’s state-of-the-art Walter Reade Theater and the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center, located at Lincoln Center, provide a home for year-round programs and the New York City film community. For more information, visit and follow @filmlinc on Twitter.

IFC Center
IFC Center is a five-screen, state-of-the-art cinema in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village that opened in June 2005 following an extensive renovation of the historic Waverly Theater. IFC Center presents the very best in new foreign-language, American independent and documentary features to audiences and is also known for its innovative repertory series and festivals, showing short films before its regular features in the ongoing “Short Attention Span Cinema” program, and special events such as the guest-programmed “Movie Nights” and frequent in-person appearances by filmmakers. In 2010, IFC Center launched the acclaimed DOC NYC festival, a high-profile showcase that celebrates nonfiction filmmaking and is now the largest documentary festival in the US. For additional theater information, current and upcoming program details and more, visit

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Gregg Morris can be reached at