Sunday, 31 January 2010

Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival

It doesn't start until the end of February (Feb. 24-March 6), but I wanted to give you a heads up to buy your tickets for the Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival. I spoke with Jasmine Herlt, the Executive Director of the Canadian branch yesterday on TmTm about four of the ten compelling films that make up this year's programme. According to Herlt, HRW included film as a component in it's fight for justice because film is a visceral way of making these issues "real", regardless of whether the format is fictive narrative or documentary. There is something about seeing the issues played out on a screen that make people react and take notice of what's going on in this world we all share.

BACK YARDA fictionalized version of true events in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico where the murders of hundreds of women remain unsolved. How can women be murdered on a regular basis with no one seeming to care? Director, Carlos Carrera and his crew risked much to bring this story to the screen despite threats to their production. The film is Mexico's submission to this year's Academy Awards.

BE LIKE OTHERS  In Iran homosexuality is punishable by death. The sanctioned solution to this is gender reassignment surgery. Since gender and sexuality are not linked, I can't help but wonder about the psychological damage being done to young generations of gay men forced to choose this medical resolution that doesn't match their identities. Director, Tanaz Eshaghian follows the life-altering journey of several men in this documentary.

LAST TRAIN HOME  Directed by Canadian Lixin Fan, this documentary takes us into the world of Chinese industrialization and the impact it has had on family dynamics. By following one family, Fan is able to sum up the effects of modernization on the traditional Chinese family. Opening Night film.

THE GREATEST SILENCE: RAPE IN THE CONGO  Director, Lisa F. Jackson, a rape survivor herself, spent a year documenting the plight of Congolese women and girls and their bravery in speaking out about what they survived. Surprisingly, Jackson was also able to capture on film the soldiers who committed these crimes.

I had the opportunity to see PRESUMED GUILTY, one of the films on the HRW roster last September at the Toronto International Film Festival. I'm glad that others will have the chance to see this documentary about the Mexican judicial system. Click here for my interview with directors Roberto Hernandez and Geoffrey Smith.

Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival
February 24th - March 6
416-968-FILM (3456)
1-877-FILM (3456)

U of T Student Special!
Tickets: $5.00
Contact: Jessika at

Student specials are also available at Ryerson,Humber and York University.
Contact your HRW Film Festival Student Committee for tickets.

For the complete list of films/schedule, please visit:

Video and The Greatest Silence still courtesy of Human Rights Watch website.

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