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THE 2012 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FILM FESTIVAL

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THE 2012 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FILM FESTIVAL

19-23 NOVEMBER 2012, NAIROBI, KENYA

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Venue: Alliance Française de Nairobi, Monrovia/Loita Street

ENTRY: FREE

Films co-sponsored by:

CREAW (Centre for Rights Education and Awareness) and ACDM (African Community Development Media), FEMNET – The African Women’s Development and Communication Centre,

GALCK (The Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya), KCCWG (Kenya Climate Change Working Group), RCK HAKI (Refugee Consortium of Kenya)

 

For Immediate Release

Nairobi: Films to Inform, Inspire

Annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival

(Nairobi, November 15, 2012) – The Human Rights Watch Film Festival will be presented in Nairobi from November 19 through 23, 2012, with a program of five films.

Now in its 23rd year, the 2012 Human Rights Watch Film Festival presents  films designed  to inspire, inform and spark debate. This year, the second year for the festival in Nairobi, the films all feature stories of individuals or groups who are up against great odds, challenging barriers imposed by social, political, or geopolitical marginalization. The films will be shown in the Alliance Francaise de Nairobi, Monrovia/Loita Street. Admission is free.

“We are thrilled to be bringing the Human Rights Watch Film Festival to Nairobi for a second year,” said Neela Ghoshal, researcher at Human Rights Watch and coordinator of the film festival’s Nairobi screenings. “This year’s films raise issues ranging from the plight of asylum seekers to climate change, from political violence to the rights of women and sexual minorities – all issues that are of deep interest to Kenyan audiences. We look forward to sparking debate and encouraging both critical reflection and activism with this round of provocative films.”

Co-sponsors are the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW), the African Community Development Media (ACDM), the African Women’s Development Communication Centre, the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), the Kenya Climate Change Working Group (KCCWG), and  the Refugee Consortium of Kenya (RCK).

The Chief Guest on the opening night will be Dr. Willy Mutunga, D. Jur, SC, EGH, Chief Justice/President, Supreme Court of Kenya.

On November 19,  opening night, the festival  will feature ”Special Flight,” a portrait of the rejected asylum seekers and illegal migrants in Switzerland’s Frambois detention centre, which reveals a world that few know from the inside.

On November 20, the feature will be “Words of Witness,” the real-life story of 22-year-old Heba Afify, who defies cultural norms and family expectations  in taking to the streets to report on an Egypt in turmoil during the Arab Spring, using tweets, texts and Facebook posts. Every time Afify  heads out to cover the historical events shaping her country's future, her mother is compelled to remind her, "I know you are a journalist, but you're still a girl!"

The November 21 feature will be “The Island President,” the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, who must grapple with the daunting prospect of his country fighting for physical survival and his citizens becoming environmental refugees. After bringing democracy to the Indian Ocean nation following 30 years of despotic rule, Nasheed now faces an even greater challenge: rising sea levels that threaten to submerge the Maldives’ nearly 2000 islands.

The November 22 feature will be “Love Crimes of Kabul,” which follows three young prisoners as they go to trial, revealing the pressures and paradoxes women in Afghanistan face today, and the dangerous consequences of refusing to fit into society’s norms. Jailed for running away from home to escape abuse, for allegations of adultery, and other “moral crimes,” the women of Afghanistan’s Badum Bagh prison band together to fight for their freedom.

The festival will end on November 23  with ”Call me Kuchu,” which tells the story of the late, veteran activist David Kato who labored to repeal Uganda’s homophobic laws and liberate his fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, or “kuchus.” But Kato’s formidable task became more difficult as a new “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” is introduced that proposes the death penalty for HIV-positive gay men and prison for anyone who fails to turn in a known homosexual.

Each film will be followed by a panel discussion, featuring Kenyan civil society activists and representatives of international nongovernmental organizations and the UN, who will engage the audience in a discussion of the film’s relevance to Kenya, and the possible strategies that might lead to a more peaceful, rights-respecting and socially cohesive future.

Film Summaries and Participants

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 6:30 p.m.

SPECIAL FLIGHT (P/G)

Director: Fernand Melgar

Country: Switzerland

Year: 2011

Duration: 100 minutes

In French with English subtitles

 

The screening on Monday, November 19 is preceded by a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m. featuring Chief Guest Dr. Willy Mutunga, D.Jur, SC, EGH, Chief Justice/President, Supreme Court of Kenya.

Discussants: Roel Debruyne (Danish Refugee Council), Dennis Likule (Refugee Consortium of Kenya), and Jacqueline Parlevliet (UNHCR)

Melgar’s intimate and emotionally charged portrait of the rejected asylum seekers and illegal migrants in Switzerland’s Frambois detention center reveals a world that few know from the inside.  Melgar, who had extensive access to his subjects,  introduces viewers to a community of men who share friendships, fears, and a similar fate. There are three possibilities for every resident: to leave free with asylum granted, to leave the country by choice on a regular flight, or to leave in custody on a so-called ”special flight” back to their country of origin. As planes come and go in the background, the staff— caretakers, counselors, and friends to the men there—­have heartfelt dialogues about the well-being of residents. In the end, though, the staff reflect society’s attitudes toward migrants, and are also resented by the residents—making them simultaneously friend and foe.  That situation  is most evident when staff must prepare one of the men to leave on a special flight.

 

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 20 – 6:30 p.m.

WORDS OF WITNESS (P/G)

Director: Mai Iskander

Country: Egypt/US

Year: 2012

Duration: 68 minutes

 

In English and Arabic with English subtitles

Discussants: Irungu Houghton (Oxfam), Aamera Jiwaji (Nairobi Business Monthly), and Philip Thigo (Social Development Network, SODNET)

Defying cultural norms and family expectations, 22-year-old Heba Afify takes to the streets to report on an Egypt in turmoil, using tweets, texts and Facebook posts. Every time Heba she out to cover the historical events shaping her country's future, her mother is compelled to remind her, "I know you are a journalist, but you're still a girl!" Her coming of age, political awakening and the disillusionment that follows mirror that of a nation seeking the freedom to shape its own destiny, dignity and democracy.  Her words bear witness to the heady optimism of a country on a path to self-determination, the toppling of a dictator, the difficult transition toward democracy, the courageous challenge to the ruling military, which cracks down on the opposition, and the celebration of a cultural shift  in which  a younger generation inspired a country to “lead themselves.”

 

WEDNESDAY,  NOVEMBER 21 – 6:30 p.m.

THE ISLAND PRESIDENT (G/E)

Director: Jon Shenk

Country: US

Year: 2011

Duration: 100 minutes

In English and Dhivehi with English subtitles

 

Discussion: John Kioli (Kenya Climate Change Working Group); David Obura (CORDIO - Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean); and a representative of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP)

Shenk’s The Island President tells the story of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, who must grapple with the daunting prospect of his country fighting for physical survival and his citizens becoming environmental refugees. After bringing democracy to the Indian Ocean nation following 30 years of despotic rule, Nasheed now faces an even greater challenge: rising sea levels that threaten to submerge the Maldives’ nearly 2000 islands. The Island President captures Nasheed’s first year in office, culminating in his trip to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit, where the film provides a rare glimpse of the political horse-trading that goes on at such a top-level global assembly. Nasheed leverages the Maldives’ underdog position as a tiny country, harnessing the media’s power and overcoming deadlocks by appealing to other developing nations for unity.

 

THURSDAY  NOVEMBER 22 – 6:30 p.m.

LOVE CRIMES OF KABUL (P/G)

Director: Tanaz Eshaghian

Country: Afghanistan/US

Year: 2011

Duration: 71 minutes

In Dari and Pashto with English subtitles

 

Discussants: Ann Njogu (CREAW), Dorothy Ogutu (African Sex Worker Network) and Judy Okal (Center for Reproductive Rights)

Jailed for running away from home to escape abuse, for allegations of adultery, and other “moral crimes,” the women of Afghanistan’s Badum Bagh prison band together to fight for their freedom. Love Crimes of Kabul follows three young prisoners as they go to trial, revealing the pressures and paradoxes women in Afghanistan face today, and the dangerous consequences of refusing to fit into society’s norms. Their defiant actions come to be seen as threats to the very fabric of society, and their acts of self-determination as illegal. Will life outside prison enable these women to experience the freedom they desire? Filmmaker Tanaz Eshaghian brings us into the lives of these “outsiders,” and we watch as teenage romantics learn to become steely-eyed negotiators in an effort to secure their future, brokering their freedom with courage, charm, and skill.

FRIDAY  NOVEMBER 23 – 6:30 p.m.

CALL ME KUCHU (Above 16)

Directors: Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall

Country: US

Year: 2012

Duration 87 minutes

In English and Luganda with English subtitles

Discussants: Pepe Julian Onziema (Sexual Minorities Uganda), Jackson Otieno (GALCK), John “Longjones” Wambere (Spectrum Uganda Initiatives), and Jane Wothaya (Gay Kenya Trust)

 

In an office on the outskirts of Kampala, veteran activist David Kato labors to repeal Uganda’s homophobic laws and liberate his fellow lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women, or “kuchus.” But Kato’s formidable task just became more difficult. A new “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” proposes the death penalty for HIV-positive gay men and prison for anyone who fails to turn in a known homosexual. Kato is one of the few who dare to publicly protest the country’s government and media.  Working with a dedicated group of fellow activists, he fights for Kampala’s kuchus on Ugandan television, at the United Nations, and in the courts. Because, he insists, “if we keep on hiding, they will say we are not here.” With unprecedented access, Call Me Kuchu examines the astounding courage and determination required to battle an oppressive government, a vicious media and a powerful church in the fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

 

MEDIA CONTACTS:

Zahid Rajan, HRW Film Festival Consultant:  Tel: +254 722 344 900; Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Neela Ghoshal, HRW Nairobi Office: Tel +254 729 466 685; Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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 www.hrw.org

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