MARCH 29th - APRIL 6th, 2017
Bravely bearing witness to human rights violations worldwide, the documentary and fiction features at the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival tell extraordinary stories of struggle, survival, and hope.
Toronto-based documentary filmmaker and cinematographer Nicholas de Pencier (Four Wings and a Prayer, Watermark) examines the complex global impact that the internet has had on matters of free speech, privacy and activism.
A courageous factory worker struggling with leukemia helps a group of young Chinese workers who have also been poisoned while making our favourite cell phones and electronic gadgets. Filmed over four years, this lushly photographed film takes the audience on an 8,000-mile journey to the world's electronics factory floors and the neighbourhoods and hospitals surrounding the world's largest electronics supplier, Foxconn. Complicit reveals the human costs of global outsourcing while highlighting the choices made by a group of inspired activists seeking change.
Maria Toorpakai Wazir has spent her young life defying expectations. At age 25, she is an internationally competitive squash player. But in her home country, Pakistan, she remains controversial. In her family's region of Waziristan, women are forbidden by the Taliban from playing sports. In Girl Unbound, we follow Maria over several months as she represents Pakistan on the national team and carves her own identity, despite threats to her family.
Victor and Fernando are stylists in Mexicali, Mexico who are the go-to professionals for the city’s socialites. To their customers, they were a lovely couple — until they decided to legally marry. Losing the support of customers and friends and confronting a backlash of criticism, through their fight they woke up members of Mexicali’s society to fight homophobia and inequality.
Nowhere to Hide follows male nurse Nori Sharif through five years of dramatic change, providing unique access into one of the world's most dangerous and inaccessible areas: the "triangle of death" in central Iraq. Initially filming stories of survivors as American and Coalition troops retreat from Iraq in 2011, conflicts continue with Iraqi militias, and the population flees accompanied by most of the hospital staff; Nori is one of the few who remains. When ISIS advances on Jalawla in 2014 and takes over the city, Nori too must flee with his family at a moment's notice, and turns the camera on himself.
Comrades and lovers Amer and Raghda met in a Syrian prison cell 15 years ago. When director Sean McAllister first meets their family in 2009, Raghda is back in prison, leaving Amer to look after their four boys alone; but as the Arab Spring sweeps the region, the family’s fate shifts irrevocably. Filmed over five years, the film charts their incredible odyssey to political freedom. For Raghda and Amer, it is a journey of hope, dreams and despair: for the revolution, their homeland and each other.
In the midst of the Egyptian Arab Spring, Bassem Youssef makes a decision that's every mother's worst nightmare: he leaves his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian. Dubbed "The Egyptian Jon Stewart," Bassem creates the most-viewed television program in the Middle East: he has 30 million viewers per episode, compared to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart's 2 million. In a country where free speech is not settled law, Bassem comes up with creative ways to non-violently challenge abuses of power. He endures physical threats, protests and legal action, all because of jokes. No unicorns or falafel were harmed in the making of this film.
In 2007, the Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations filed a landmark discrimination complaint against Indian Affairs and Northern Development Canada. They argued that child and family welfare services provided to First Nations children on reserves and in Yukon were underfunded and inferior to services offered to other Canadian children. Veteran director Alanis Obomsawin's We Can't Make the Same Mistake Twice documents this epic court challenge, giving voice to the tenacious childcare workers at its epicenter.