With an exciting line up of topical and timely films, Human Rights Film Week 2012, as a film festival, aimed to engage, entertain and inspire. Film and film makers hold a prominent place in human rights advocacy and education. As the definitive visual and narrative medium, film and documentaries, in particular, can effectively communicate, inform and educate audiences about some of the most pressing issues of our time.
Throughout the world, human rights are seen both as a foundation and as a critical imperative. Issues such as conflict and conflict resolution; gender discrimination and violence; safe migration and casteism continue to be at the centre stage in many countries and societies. Bringing a human rights perspective to these issues could lead to a positive paradigm shift as well as a significant increase in awareness and informed decision-making.
Human Rights Film Week 2012 took place in November and offered 24 films from all over the world and from Nepal for community and student audiences. International films that were screened included Bitter Seeds (India), Children of War (Uganda), Illegal (Belgium), No Look Pass (USA), Into the Current (Burma). Films from Nepal included The Sari Soldiers, Frames of War, Saving Dolma and The Desert Eats Us.
All public screenings were free, on a first come first serve basis, but donations were encouraged. The primary sponsors for Human Rights Film Week 2012 were the Advocacy Forum, UNHCR, the US Embassy in Nepal and the Human Rights Film Center. Many of the films screened are award-winning international documentaries representing many different parts of the world. Films produced by Human Rights Film Center (Khatti Suun and Until when) and Advocacy Forum (The Last Message and The Resurrected) were also part and parcel of the Film Week.
A Press Conference and Media Screening took place on November 11 at the Summit Hotel which began with a key note address and interactions with the Media representatives who were present. Following the Press Conference, representatives from the Media were invited to watch one of the festival’s featured films – The Price of Sex.
The most popular film of Human Rights Film Week in Kathmandu was the UNHCR feature documentary ‘Desert Flower’ – the extraordinary story of the woman who crossed the desert and changed the world. Directed by Sherry Horman, ‘Desert Flower’ is the photographed narrative and adaptation of Waris Dirie’s bestselling autobiography and traces Waris’ journey from war-torn Somalia to the fashion world in London and beyond. It is the story of one woman’s victory over unimaginably harsh beginnings and her work to ensure that other girls avoid the same horrific experience.
Human Rights Film Week moved to Patan on November 21 and welcomed school audiences as well as regular attendees. Four successful days of film screenings along with post-film discussions in Kathmandu, at Sarwanam Theatre and 1905 Restaurant, reaffirmed belief in the value of and need for human rights film programming in Nepal and, indeed, throughout the world.
Importantly, student audiences in Patan participated in the Wall of Hope by tracing their hands and joining in a Human Rights Film Week Campaign to end violence against women. Attendees during Human Rights Film Week in Patan were also invited to trace their hands on the Wall of Hope and express themselves in different ways to support this important Campaign. Many of the films screened in the Patan venues were about issues relating to violence against women. Overall, an estimated 2,000 people (youth and adults) attended 39 film screenings during Human Rights Film Week 2012.
Nepal continues to move slowly in advancing democratic norms, human rights, and transitional justice mechanisms following the recent war. A variety of human rights issues, especially impunity, remain huge problems for much of the population. Defenders of human rights, both governmental and non-governmental, are not supported by many sectors of society, including government ministries and major political parties. Media organizations are attacked, and their reporters are threatened for reporting human rights violations. In this context, it is imperative that rights organizations not only continue their important work but also increase their efforts in lifting up and building a culture that respects human rights.