By Roger Costa
We live in a self-centered world devastated by darkness, individualism, corruption and fast-growing absence of solidarity, a post-modern era manipulated by secularism, materialism and technology. But as we all know, there’s still a few remaining people and institutions spread around the globe, determined to fight for dignity and integrity for the less fortunate, or the injured and rejected, standing in defense of many helpless souls marked by tragedy and injustice. The Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2017 takes place June 9-18 at Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center in NYC, presenting a highly urgent and outstanding line-up of documentaries showcasing how these folks are shining light and hope where everything seemed lost. Here are 9 not-to-be-missed films.
NOWHERE TO HIDE
In this shocking account of the consequences left by the American Invasion in Iraq, a male nurse exposes the physical and emotional damage of innocent civilians, adults and children, wounded during war conflicts. Alarming and efficient, Director Zaradasht Ahmed gives the nurse, Nori Sharif, a camera, allowing him to film the unimaginable.
A sensitive and refreshingly cheerful, as well as good-humored look at the lives of a group of 40-something-year-old folks with Down Syndrome, interacting and discovering themselves while spending most of the time at a culinary school. Capturing revealing moments of the human condition, Chilean director Maite Alberdi extracts a pure love letter to the joy of living, despite the circumstances.
A powerful, precise and intriguing exposé on the system’s manipulation via government and technology in the era of surveillance. With interviews and cutting-edge insights on social crisis in Brazil, Tibet, India, Syria, all linked to the limitless exposure of information, director Nicholas de Pencier’s adaptation of Ronald Deibert’s book, presents both sides of the battle, as well as the unstoppable internet-force that unites and divides. Remarkable!
THE GOOD POSTMAN
Undoubtedly one of this year’s most thoughtful and ingenious portraits of human solidarity, Tonislav Hristov’s film follows a Bulgarian postman concerned with the safety of refugees seeking shelter in his lands. He’s running for mayor, and persuades his community to voluntarily support the cause, for humanitarian reasons. An inspiring true story about the power of compassion.
THE BLOOD IS AT THE DOORSTEP
A striking portrait of the current racial crisis in America, centered around a community affected by hatred and racism, depicting the crucial events that led after the death of a 31-year-old unarmed black man diagnosed with schizophrenia, who was shot 14 times and killed by a Milwaukee police officer in front of a Starbucks store. Director Erik Ljung gathers the facts, and follows the activists, exposing police brutality, family suffering and redemption.
500 YEARS: LIFE IN RESISTANCE
Following journalist and anthropologist Irma Alicia Velásquez Nimatuj, as well as other voices of the Mayan Resistance in Guatemala, director Pamela Yates concludes her acclaimed political trilogy focusing on the trials of a genocide of indigenous people. Investigative and shocking, the film is a touching experience, also exploring the power of women in guerrilla zones amidst the battle between politicians and indigenous communities.
Award-winning filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung’s mesmerizing film recounts the traumatic experiences of sexual abuse of three elderly women all violated by the Japanese Army during war known as “comfort women”. Following these ladies in their native nations, China, Philippines and South Korea, capturing heartbreaking revelations of frustration, suffering and resilience, as they demand an apology, the director creates an unforgettable portrait of survival.
BILL NYE: SCIENCE GUY
Filmmakers David Alvarado and Jason Sussberg follows the famous TV celeb and activist with personal approach as he meets up with fans and opponents to investigate the ordeals of Existence, the role of science in everyday-life and his high concerns and own movement about global warming. As enthusiastic as its subject, the film is deliciously informative, surprisingly funny and somehow a revealing research on one similar condition everyone shares: the inner power of belief.
With focus on a group of volunteer workers dedicated to helping young girls who had been contaminated by different diseases linked to chemical products recklessly used by cheap companies in China, directors Heather White and Lynn Zhang expose a lethal scandal involving big names such as Apple and Samsung, as well as the Government. It also paints an urgent portrait of a generation of hard-working young people defying their own endurance in order to survive.