This year, many filmmakers return to the festival with new stories. Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy, and Paco de Onis follow the International Criminal Court as its prosecutors seek to hold war criminals responsible. Fabrizio Lazzaretti, with fellow filmmaker Paolo Santolini, watches an Italian medical aid organization help young victims. Anne Aghion presents the last part of her Gacaca trilogy, this time as the winner of the Nestor Almendros Award. Meanwhile, an Israeli filmmaker is in search of anti-Semitism in the West (and finds it), and corporate pranksters The Yes Men return to put the screws to big business again. Sometimes the good guys win. In this year’s program, they’re starting to win more.
In commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, we will be screening five previous Nestor Almendros Award-winning films as part of a weekday matinee series. On the weekend following this series we will screen this year’s Nestor Almendros Award winner My Neighbor, My Killer. The film will be followed by a discussion with filmmaker Anne Aghion and former director (1989-2008) of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival Bruni Burres. A reception to celebrate this year’s awardee Anne Aghion and the 20th Anniversary of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival will be held in the Furman Gallery directly following the discussion.
The true meaning of reconciliation in Rwanda is examined as former enemies live with one another again. A woman seeks asylum to protect her daughter from genital mutilation. And unexploded bombs after the latest war in Lebanon threaten all. The makers of such films are remarkable by their commitment to exposing injustice and showing us the face of destruction, as well as the face of rejuvenation. In South Africa, former sex workers with HIV have formed their own community in which they help themselves. Indigenous people in Ecuador actually sue big oil companies. And while troubles still rage all around them, many Afghanis tryout to become stars on the Afghan version of American Idol.
Film has the ability not only to bear witness—in a direct and uncompromising way—to wrongdoings throughout the world, but also to find ways in which justice and compassion can reign. Since 1988, the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival has set the standard for such work. This year is no exception.
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Film Selectors & Festival Organizers
Marina Pinto Kaufman, Festival Chair, Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
John Biaggi, Director, Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
Andrea Holley, Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
Marian Masone, Director, Festivals/Associate Director, Programming, The Film Society of Lincoln Center
Jennifer Nedbalsky, Program Manager, Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
Diana Lee, Festival Coordinator, Human Rights Watch International Film Festival
Cynthia Carrion, Outreach Coordinator, Youth Producing Change
To Time Out New York for their support this year, to Equal Exchange, FEED Granola, IZZE Juices, Late July Organic Snacks and L’Orange Bleue for their kind support.
Nestor Almendros Award
The Festival is delighted to present Anne Aghion—filmmaker of My Neighbor, My Killer with our 2009 Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking. The festival’s screenings of My Neighbor, My Killer are dedicated to Dr. Alison L. Des Forges, senior advisor to Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division and our beloved colleague and friend, who died in the Buffalo, NY plane crash on February 12, 2009. Alison devoted more than 40 years of her life to the people of Central Africa, especially Rwanda. Known for her tireless efforts to expose human rights abuses and secure justice for people throughout the African Great Lakes region, she was one of the true heroes of the human rights movement and her work an inspiration to innumerable activists around the world.
Multiple award-winning filmmaker Anne Aghion has just completed the Gacaca (Ga-CHA-cha) Series, widely regarded as a seminal body of work on Rwanda’s experiment in justice after the genocide. For nearly a decade she filmed in a tiny rural community to discover how survivors and perpetrators are coping with the government’s attempt to reunite the nation. Aghion began her film career after a decade at the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune in Paris. She holds a degree in Arab Language and Literature from Barnard College at Columbia University in New York and is the recipient of a 2005 Guggenheim Fellowship.
Nestor Almendros (1930–1992) was a founder of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, actively involved in the selection of films and the promotion of human rights filmmaking. Often while working at various locations, he took the time to call the Festival team to mention a little-known documentary or promote a work-in-progress. Believing in the power of human rights filmmaking, Nestor devoted himself to becoming a mentor to many an apprentice. 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.