Sunday, January 29, 2023

Human Rights Watch Film Festival San Diego is February 2- 9

This week the San Diego stop of the Human Rights Film Festival is happening via Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) . A mix of in person and streaming  screenings the festival is highlighting the infringement of basic human rights in stories from around the global 

I love the festival and I have been covering the New York version of the festival for over a decade and other iterations as they were offered. To me this is a vital festival and I always make an effort to cover it where and when I can...even to the point of agreeing to cover this version while in the middle of Sundance and Slamdance.

One film is screening in person and the others are screening on line. Three of the streaming films will have one line Zoom Q&As at the listed time.

MOPA's page for the festival is here

Human Right's Watch page for the festival is here.

All of the films are good. All the films should be seen

(Only screening in Person on 2/2. Q&A and reception to follow)
A look at the battle being fought by Clarissa Doutherd in order to bring child care to her community and communities around her. We watch as Clarissa  gathers her troops and begins to get support for the government funded child care that everyone should be able to get.

This is a solid portrait of a woman and her cause. It is a wonderful blueprint for other people to use not only to do something similar for their own communities but also for other battles that need to be waged.

Worth a look.

These films screen remotely with a Q&A to follow at the listed time

 (Zoom Q&A 2/7 at 5PM Pacific Time)
A look at Afghan singers Zahra Elham and Sadiqa Madadgar as they are mentored by superstarAryanna Sayeed to compete on the Afghan version of American Idol. However things become dire when the Taliban begin to retake the country.

Politics meet entertainment as three woman seek to show the world that there is more to Afghanistan than religious zealousness. This is a moving story of three woman struggling to do the thing they love and to bring hope to the people of their country.

While events will clue you as to how this is going to go, the film is still worth seeing because of the three amazing women at the center. You will be moved.

#IAMVANESSGUILLEN (Zoom Q&A 2/8 at 5PM Pacific Time)
Deeply moving look at sexual harrassment and violence in the American military in the wake of the disappearance and murder of Vanessa Gullien at Fort Hood. Fellow soldier Karina Lopez who was also assaulted at the base went public with her story with the titled has tag and helped to fan the flames of a possible change.

You will get pissed off as the depth of the military's refusal to do anything is revealed. Thing are really bad as the military simply tries to cover things up instead of stopping the problem. While the film shows us that things are perhaps moving toward change, it also makes clear the damage that has been done over the years,

A vital and important film

U√ĚRA: The Rising Forest
 (Zoom Q&A 2/9 at 5PM Pacific Time)
Portrait of indigenous trans artist Uyra as she travels through the amazon.

This is a one of a kind film, one part travelogue, one part bio and one part work of art, about a one of a kind person. Highlighting the state of LGBT individuals in Brazil the film also amplifies the experiences of the indigenous population.

Dreamy trippy film, this film worked best for me visually. I loved the strange images the Uyra conjured up for the camera. 

The following films are available to screen at any time during the festival. There will be no Q&As for them. (These reviews ran as coverage at previous festivals)


This is a look at World Champion runner Caster Semenya who, due to biology of birth has naturally high androgen levels which athletic governing bodies suddenly claim are not allowed since it gives her an unfair advantage. Forced to change her biology if she wants to compete the film examines what it means to be a woman.

There have been been several news stories and documentaries on Semenya and the problem of people claiming the hormone levels some how makes her not a woman and this one is the best.

This film  made angry since it's clear that  a bunch of guys who don't understand biology are making stupid pronouncements. How did these boos get put in charge of anything?  Cutting to the chase this is a great and an important film that lays everything out in ways that make the athletic bodies look like fools.

The film is a must.


Delikado is  hell of a film. The film is the story  of the people on the island of Palawan in the Philippines who are fighting to keep their rain forest intact. One of the last rain forests in the world that hasn’t been severely compromised by the action of mankind the jungle is coveted by the rich and powerful. Who work to take to control of the land and resources by any means necessary.  Feeding into the madness is the former President Duterte’s criminal war on drugs, a reign of terror in disguise, where official and unofficial hit squads killed or brutalized anyone that they deemed part of the drug trade.

Lush and beautiful landscapes are counterbalanced by the evil that men do as activists and local officials are forced to fight the main government and interlopers. It’s a story which will make you angry.

The film is a portrait of three people Bobby Chen head of the Palawan NGO Network Inc (PNNI) which goes into the jungle to stop the illegal destruction of the rain forest. Efren "Tata" Balladeres, a one time government agent, turned activist and Nieves Rosento, mayor of one of the towns on the island. She is loved by her constituents and wants to keep the jungle intact. However her opponent is backed by the Philippines psychotic President Duterte and has been labeled as being in league with the drug dealers which makes her a target for the hit squads.

Structured like a thriller the film shows us the dangers of protecting the jungle and the land from the forces seeking to exploit the land for the profit of a few.  And there is danger since one of the people we are following dies during the course of the film. While you will watch the film for the suspense, the reality is you should see the film because it will make you understand just how the environment is under attack and how big business and big money doesn’t care who dies so they get money.

This is a great film and highly recommended

Be prepared to get angry.

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