By Denise Oliveira
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is taking place in Manhattan right now, and you can still catch six films – the majority of them documentaries – between Friday and Sunday.
One of the highlights of this festival is that the filmmakers and subjects of the documentaries often participate in post-screening discussions. “The audience can meet and interact with them,” said the festival’s director, John Biaggi. “And if you’re so inclined, you can learn how to help the organizations and people portrayed in the films,” he added.
Here is a guide to this weekend’s films:
A Quiet Inquisition: When the Nicaraguan government banned all abortions, even in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman’s life is at stake, OBGYN Carla Cerrato found herself between the law and the multiple young women and girls who were seeking her out. Dr. Cerrato will attend a post-screening discussion on June 20. “She’s a powerhouse,” Mr. Biaggi said. “She’s a very courageous person, from a country we don’t often hear much about,” he added.
Out in the Night: This one is a local NYC story: When a group of young African-American lesbian friends were threatened by an older man in Greenwich Village in 2006, they fought back, which landed them a felony charge of gang assault. The documentary chronicles their lives and their battle in the legal system. “It’s a big miscarriage of justice film,” Mr. Biaggi said. The women will be present and will participate in a discussion at the June 20 screening.
Scheherazade’s Diary: Director Zeina Daccache created a drama therapy program at a Lebanese prison, and this documentary follows female inmates during their 10 months in the program. Mr. Biaggi described it as an emotional film with amazing characters. It will screen on closing night, and Ms. Daccache will participate in a post-screening discussion.
Sepideh – Reaching for the Stars: Sepideh is a young Iranian girl who has dreamed of being an astronaut since she discovered that she could feel closer to her deceased father by watching the stars. “It’s beautiful and very touching, with an upbeat, remarkable ending,” Mr. Biaggi said. The Saturday showing is at 6:30 pm, and the documentary is appropriate for children, Mr. Biaggi noted.
The Homestretch: This documentary tells the story of three homeless youth in Chicago as they strive to build a better future for themselves. They will be present at the Saturday screening, together with a teacher who was a source of support and inspiration. “Expect a lively discussion afterward,” Mr. Biaggi said. This film is also appropriate for teenagers.
Siddharth: The only drama that will screen this weekend, the film is the bittersweet story of a young boy in India whose father sends him off to work in another town to help support the family. When Siddharth doesn’t return home for Diwali, his family and the authorities begin a search. “It’s a beautiful film,” Mr. Biaggi said. The filmmaker and the lead actress will participate in a discussion following the Saturday screening.