One thing that many people before me have taken note of is that film festivals have become the only way some films get seen in this new world of limited distribution. No where is that point clearer than the Human Rights Watch Film Festival now going on at the Film Society of Lincoln Center in NYC. The circuit of human rights films festivals around the world are a place where you can see challenging films questioning the world that are not coming to a theatre or even a TV screen near you. That's why these festivals are so important and need to be supported.
This year's festival has programmed 5 different issue areas: health, development and the environment; LGBT and migrant rights; personal testimony and witnessing; reporting in crises and women's rights.
Women directors feature prominently in each issue area including the opening and closing night films Alison Klayman's Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry which opened the festival on June 15th and will be in theaters on July 27th and Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worall's Call Me Kuchu which will close the festival on June 28th.
Call Me Kuchu tells the story of brave souls including the first out Ugnadan David Kato (who was murdered) in Uganda fighting to repeal the homophobic laws of the country. The film includes the story of Stosh Mugisha, a lesbian who was raped by a man in order to correct her sexuality. This practice is becoming more and more common place throughout Africa and is heartbreaking.
I've seen all the films in the women's rights section which includes The Invisible War (which I will be writing about separately) the devastating documentary on rape in the military made by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering who will be receiving the Nestor Almendros Award for courage in filmmaking. Check out Stephen Holden's NY Times piece on the festival which highlights The Invisible War.