TIFF Presents - Human Rights Watch
The Annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival opens this week at the Bell Lightbox. The festival highlights films that deal with the subject of human rights around the world, current and past. A total of 8 films are to be screened, all of them riveting documentaries on struggle, survival and hope.
For more information on the festival, ticket pricing, venue and complete program, check theTIFF website at:
4 of the films are capsuled review below:
THE LOOK OF SILENCE (Denmark/Indonesia/Finland/Norway/UK 2014) **|
Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer
A sort of guilty sequel to his overrated 2012 documentary THE ART OF KILLING that are many critics best10 of the year, not because the doc was any good but for its subject matter. THE ART OF KILLING had interviews of killers of communists brag about their deed. The film glorified violence without any hint of repercussions with director Oppenheimer benefiting from it. In THE LOOK OF SILENCE, there is more conscience. He follows a family who, after viewing the previous film, discovered and confronted the former right-wing militiamen who murdered their son during Indonesia’s anti-communist purges of the mid-1960s. The film’s key figure is Adi, whose older brother was murdered five decades ago during the bloodletting. A village optometrist, Adi travels the back roads with his vision-testing refractor instrument. While conducting eye exams, he quizzes his patients about their memories of the violent era that most would prefer to forget. Then, through Oppenheimer’s work with perpetrators, Adi discovers how his brother was murdered, and decides to confront each of his brother’s killer. That is pretty much Oppenheimer’s film. There is not much research, head or tail or climax to this film, which will likely be just as popular as ACT OF KILLING, again for its subject matter When will this all end?
THE SALT OF THE EARTH (Brazil/France 2013) ****
Directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Rebeiro Salgado
Wim Wenders is the acclaimed German director who recently delved into the documentary genre with successful films as BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB and PINA. Photographer Sebastião Salgado is an equally well-known photographer in his arts circle with exhibitions curated around the world. THE SALT OF THE EARTH sees both artists together, forging both an educational and stunning portrait of mankind and the planet. The theme of the film changes from hopeless to hope so that it ends on a happy note - a Hollywood style ending. The film is directed by both Wenders and Salgado’s son Juliano Robeiro. Intermingled with images, is the story of the Salgado, which is equally interesting. Salgado was educated as an economist, but photography took over. His wife Leila, sold everything and together, they curated their work and eventually gained fame and success. It is inspiring to see both succeed in their field of dreams. With early shots of the couple in their youth to the current, where both are now old, it is a lifelong work. The film’s most disturbing bits are the famine and genocide photographs. Africa is Salgado’s favourite continent but it is also the most savage. The sight of the starved, murdered and dead bodies are not for the faint hearted. At one point, Salgado terms the human race as the worst and most disgusting of the species. THE SALT OF THE EARTH is a fascinating experience and an unforgettable documentary. It is not an easy film to take but it is an essential journey.
UYGHURS: PRISONERS OF THE ABSURD (Canada 2014) ***
Directed by Patricio Henriquez
The name Guantanamo Bay strikes a nasty chord. The prison is well renowned for the torture of inmates - guilty or innocent. In Patricio Henrique’s disturbing documentary on human rights, the victims are innocent victims caught at the wrong pace at the wrong time. The subject are the Uyghur People. They are Turkic-speaking Muslims who have become a persecuted minority since the area was incorporated into the People’s Republic of China, a country already notorious for abusing human rights. The film chronicles the incredible odyssey of three refugees from China's persecuted Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, who fled to Afghanistan to seek sanctuary and found themselves rounded up and shipped to Guantanamo Bay as part of the US' indiscriminate "War on Terror.” The film is made more authentic by the interviewing of these refugees who are now finally free. But it is a long desperate journey no one wants to take.
This moving documentary is not light entertainment but demands to be seen for the truth to be told. The evil and cowardice of man are again exposed, but fortunately there are a few heroes in the world that work tirelessly for the Human Rights of the world!
THE WANTED 18 (Canada/Palestine/France 2014) ***
Directed by Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan
This is the film Israel would not want to make. THE WANTED 18 makes the Israel military look simply cartoonish like the animated cows in this documentary and deservedly so - for trying their best for no reason at all, to restrict the freedom of a Palestinian kibbutz. THE WANTED 18 in question is 18 cows. It all begins with the agricultural committee suggesting that the city stops buying milk from Israel and start producing their own. Cows are purchased and Israel gets upset with the military threatening to take the cows as the independent milk production was declared "a threat to the national security of the state of Israel." Things get sillier when the cows are taken from the farm and hidden. Posters of the cows are circulated. The population of the actual city is on display in the film, which creates a spirit seldom seen in documentaries. They demonstrate how resilient they are in the face of forced curfews and unlawful taxing. The directors show in THE WANTED 18 that it is possible to entertain and educate at the same time, using animation or whatever tools necessary, without distracting the main issue at hand.