2009 Human Rights Film Festival
HUMAN RIGHTS IN A CHANGING WORLD
In 2008 we marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration Human Rights by asking whether the language of human rights was still relevant – after all, the world we are living in today is quite different to that of 1948. The answer to that question was unequivocally ‘yes’ based on the number of you who came to the festival.
This year, the festival is taking place in a period of heightened uncertainty and change. Many of us are experiencing personal anxiety as we consider the security of our jobs and homes. As we look to secure our personal wellbeing we may be faced with making difficult decisions that affect our every day rights and freedoms or the rights and freedoms of others. We will need to consider how we live, work, and spend our leisure time. It is also possible that we will reconsider how others live, work, and whether they even have leisure time.
When faced with decisions such as these, the temptation is to look to our own interests rather than the interests of the community we live in; human rights may be perceived as only for some deserving sectors of society, but not for those who are on the margins. And when times get tough, it is easy for human rights to be ignored or side-lined by politicians who claim they have to make “tough choices for the sake of our own safety, security and long term benefit”.
As we said in 2008, these rights and freedoms have been realised only after considerable time, perseverance, effort, bloody mindedness and struggle. Human rights promote the inherent dignity of the person. They are inalienable, indivisible and universal and we cannot pick and choose who is entitled to the benefits of these fundamental rights anymore than we can decide when these rights apply and in what circumstances. We must therefore, ensure these fundamental rights and freedoms are celebrated, kept alive and not eroded by the politics of pragmatism and expediency.
Today, more than ever, these rights and freedoms give us the opportunity to debate, discuss and shape the society we want to live in and want our children to live in. Do we want a society divided by self-interest or are we searching for something more?
The Human Rights Film Festival seeks to show that we have the ability and opportunity to work together to make our vision of a better society a reality and bring about meaningful change. There is an opportunity to promote a shared vision of a society where the dignity, rights and freedoms of others are valued so that we can live in a world that is environmentally and economically sustainable. Now seems to be a pretty good time to make that choice and that is our challenge to you. We have no illusions that this is a difficult path to choose but it is a path that other communities have been down before and we are not alone.
This year’s festival theme is ‘freedom’ and we are screening films that highlight the extent to which individuals and communities will go to exercise their freedoms and try and achieve change for the better. They are not always successful, but neither is that always the point. These films whilst recording their successes also bear witness to the struggles that have taken place and continue to take place.
Our line-up this year is particularly strong with high quality documentaries from around the globe, touching on a wide range of human rights issues. Most have won international recognition. We continue to bring you films with a New Zealand connection and encourage the film-makers to attend the festival and participate on the panels. We hope other New Zealand film-makers will be inspired to take up the challenge and explore human rights themes through the medium of film in the future.
On behalf of all the volunteers and sponsors who help put this festival together, the film makers and the individuals and communities who share with us their stories; thank you for your support and belief in a better world.
Boris van Beusekom and Carolyn Brown
TATTOOED UNDER FIRE
Tattooed Under Fire is a grippingly intimate, character-driven portrait of war-bound and returning soldiers as they go under the tattoo needle – sharing their secrets and confessing their fears. Each soldier’s story is an evocative, poignant and highly personal look at the human and cultural cost of war.
Website + Trailer
In Freedom Park, a squatter settlement in South Africa, a group of HIV-infected former sex-workers create a network called Tapologo. They become home based carers for their community, transforming degradation into solidarity and squalor into hope.
Victoria Donda Perez is one of the first babies born in a clandestine detention centre during the Argentinean military dictatorship of the late 1970’s. Thirty years on Victoria embarks on a journey of self-discovery to find out what happened to her parents.
Every year, indigenous leaders from all over the world come to the United Nations in New York, to participate in the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Viktor Kaisiepo, the representative of Western Papua comes to defend the rights of his people, colonised by Indonesia since 1969.
Website + Trailer
Native Americans in Northern California fight for their fish and the survival of their culture. An energy corporation is messing up their river with a series of hydro-power dams, contributing to one of the worst fish die-offs in U.S. history.
In the summer of 2006, while the football world’s attention was focused on Germany, thousands of players around the globe were training hard and competing to be part of the World Cup… The Homeless World Cup. The film follows seven players in their own tough worlds as they confront the daily challenges of life on the streets, battle drug and alcohol addiction, and fight for the right to be recognised as human beings.
THE NEW TEN COMMANDMENTS
United by a single theme – human rights in Scotland – this film draws together some of the most talented filmmakers and visual artists based in Scotland, to make a film that communicates a variety of artistic visions whilst exploring the real life stories of those for whom the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has intimate meaning.
Eleven people are preparing to pose naked for a book of photos. They were born disabled, like the director himself, due to the disastrous side-effects of Thalidomide. These fascinating characters are working in areas such as politics, the media, sport, astrophysics and acting and have learned to live with their disability to an impressive level of “normality”.
Website + Trailer
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the federal state of Belarus regained its independence. The cautious democratisation process was nipped in the bud when in 1994 Alexander Lukashenko won the presidential elections and went on to reign with an iron fist. Journalists reveal how Lukashenko systematically undermines the ability of the media to record events in Belarus.
FLYING ON ONE ENGINE
For a number of years, Dr. Sharadkumar Dicksheet has been coming to the aid of poor families in India to perform life-changing surgery. Flying on One Engine tells the remarkable story of Dr Dicksheet, a US plastic surgeon who is partially paralysed, battled oesophageal cancer, suffered two heart attacks and a cerebral haemorrhage. He has turned his back on the opportunity to earn a lot of money operating on Americans to conduct marathon surgery sessions in India.
Nearly 3 billion people live below the poverty line earning less than 2 US dollars a day. In 2000, all the governments committed to halve poverty by 2015. But what is the situation today? Global warming, famine, financial crisis: the challenges are now global and more urgent than ever. Eight directors give us their free and personal vision about our world.
Website + Trailer
7 – 15 May
14 – 22 May
21 – 29 May
Regent on Worcester
28 May – 5 June