Filmmakers, Film Participants, and Human Rights Watch Canada Film Festival Committee Co-Chairs Jennifer Baichwal and Nick de Pencier are available for interviews.
The 19th annual Human Rights Watch Canada Film Festival (HRWFF), in its third year of partnership with Hot Docs, will present five films about key issues of the day to audiences in Toronto and, for the second time, digitally across Canada. The film festival is committed to amplifying courageous voices from around the world on both sides of the lens.
The special curated lineup features films that dive deep into human rights issues in Canada, Georgia, Germany, Mali and Peru, chronicling gripping accounts of ongoing struggles including the protection of Indigenous lands; the expansive migrant experience; LGBTI+ pride; generational effects of the Holocaust; and justice for survivors of sexual violence.
The hybrid festival will include in-person screenings from May 26-29 at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto, as well as digital streaming across Canada from May 30 – June 2. All theatre and virtual tickets are FREE, thanks to the generous support of sponsors, and will include special programming for each film.
“I am thrilled to be co-chairing the Human Rights Watch Canada Film Festival for a second year,” said Canadian documentary filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal. “Now, more than ever, exposing tyranny and injustice is vitally important to finding the paths towards positive change. The antidote to misinformation campaigns is rigorously researched and carefully observed real-life stories, like the ones that can be found in this year’s festival.”
Her co-chair, Canadian documentary filmmaker Nick de Pencier said: “We had the privilege of watching numerous powerful films, and the ones the committee chose — not an easy task — stand out for their complex and unique perspectives. They show in a variety of ways that people can triumph over inequality and discrimination.”
The festival opens with the world premiere of Canadian documentary Klabona Keepers, an intimate portrait of the dynamic Indigenous community that succeeded in protecting the remote Sacred Headwaters, known as the Klabona, in northwest British Columbia from industrial activities. It is directed by Tamo Campos and Jasper Snow-Rosen, and produced by Rhoda Quock. An in-depth discussion with community members and the team behind the film will follow the screening.
“I’m so grateful for our film to be the opening film,” said John Nole of the Klabona Keepers. “It means so much to our people and our Elders. There were so many people who stood beside us and guided us to a successful outcome. Creator, rest the souls of some who have left us to continue the fight that they started for the Klabona. Our ancestors continue to share their wisdom from the spirit world and guide us.”
Alison Uttley, Canada Development Director at Human Rights Watch, said: “We are honoured to present the world premiere of this deeply moving film, which shows the challenges faced by many Indigenous communities across Canada. The efforts of the Klabona Keepers and Elders to protect the Sacred Headwaters is commendable and we look forward to celebrating their achievements on opening night. Klabona Keepers kicks off a lineup of films that spotlight courage and serve as an inspiration for how we can all do our part to stand up to injustice.”
Four more films round out the festival: The Last Shelter, from Ousmane Samassekou, is an emotional portrait of Gao, Mali and the migrants who flow through it; March for Dignity, directed by John Eames, follows a small group of brave LGBTI+ activists in Tbilisi, Georgia who attempt to conduct the first Pride march in the country, where homosexuality remains highly stigmatized; Mujer de Soldado (Soldier’s Woman), directed by Patricia Weiss Risso, captures a sexual violence survivor, Magda Surichaqui Cóndoris and other Peruvian women in a deeply moving picture of female solidarity; and Tacheles – The Heart of the Matter, from Jana Matthes and Andrea Schramm, finds a young Jewish Berliner attempting to process and overcome intergenerational trauma by developing a video game set in 1940’s Germany based on his grandmother’s experience.
All screenings will include either an extended introduction, in-depth discussions with filmmakers and featured participants from the films, Human Rights Watch researchers, and/or special guests.
FILM LINEUP & PROGRAM DETAILS
Klabona Keepers – OPENING FILM
Directed by Tamo Campos and Jasper Snow-Rosen. Produced by Rhoda Quock.
2022, Documentary, 72 min.
Klabona Keepers is an intimate portrait of the dynamic Indigenous community that succeeded in protecting the remote Sacred Headwaters, known as the Klabona, in northwest British Columbia from industrial activities. Spanning 15 years of matriarch-led resistance, the film follows a small group of determined Elders in the village of Iskut as they heal from the wounds of colonization to push back against law enforcement, the government, and some of the world’s largest multinational companies. Nestled between scenes of stand-offs and blockades, land defenders reflect on how their history of forced displacement, residential schools, and trauma strengthened their resolve to protect the land that was so essential to their healing journey.
Includes: An in-depth discussion with community members and the team behind the film.
Mujer de Soldado (Soldier’s Woman)
Directed by Patricia Weiss Risso
2021, Documentary, 83 min.
Spanish, Quechua (fully subtitled in English); Peru
Magda Surichaqui Cóndor was a teenager when soldiers arrived in her small Peruvian village in 1984. Sent to root out members of the Shining Path, soldiers of the Peruvian army used their sweeping powers to rape and humiliate local women, leaving them shunned by their own communities, often with children in tow. Three decades later, Surichaqui Cóndor has joined a number of other women in bringing charges against their abusers. With stunning cinematography and respectful intimacy, Patricia Wiesse Risso accompanies Surichaqui Cóndor and her friends as they reminisce over their youth and their lives since, whilst they sit and chew coca leaves, peeling potatoes and spinning wool. Mujer de Soldado is a deeply moving picture of female solidarity that finally provides space for the dignity of these women’s experiences that has long been denied.
March for Dignity
Directed by John Eames
2020, Documentary, 74 min.
Georgian, English; Georgia
This film follows a small group of brave LGBTI+ activists in Tbilisi, Georgia as they attempt to conduct the first Pride march in the country, where homosexuality remains highly stigmatized. They face overwhelming opposition, abuse, intolerance and discrimination from far-right groups, the government and the Georgian Orthodox Church, all of which have a history of inciting violent attacks on the LGBTI+ community. With the country’s hopes for membership in the European Union, and anti-Russian sentiment firmly on the political agenda, Georgians are at a turning point in history where they must choose to fight for progress and human rights, or concede to greater Russian influence. In the midst of this geopolitical turmoil, the committed organizers of Tbilisi Pride boldly strive to be visible in their evolving country.
Includes an introduction by Graeme Reid, director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.
Tacheles -The Heart of the Matter
Directed by Jana Matthes and Andrea Schramm
2020, Documentary, 104 min.
German, Hebrew, English with English and German subtitles; Germany
A young Jewish man, Yaar, develops a computer game set in 1940s Germany featuring a young Jewish girl based on his grandmother, Rina, which enables Jews to defend themselves, and Nazis to act humanely. Yaar’s father is shocked, and the work opens old family wounds left unaddressed for generations. Tacheles – The Heart of the Matter follows the journey of this family’s painful confrontation with history that will forever change the young man’s relationships with his father, and explores with growing self-awareness how the survivors’ trauma is inherited, asking the burning question from the perspective of a 21 year old: what does the Holocaust have to do with me?
Bonus online content to include: recorded film talk with filmmakers Jana Matthes & Andrea Schramm, the film participant Yaar, and Wenzel Michalski, Germany director at Human Rights Watch.
The Last Shelter
Directed by Ousmane Samassekou
2021, Documentary, 85 min.
French, English; France, Mali and South Africa
Deep in Mali, in West Africa on the edge of the Sahel Desert, lies the peaceful city of Gao—a quiet way station for passersby with their eyes set on Europe in hopes of finding opportunity, safety, and a better future. As migration flows from countries south of Mali like Burkina Faso, Togo, and Benin, the people of Gao maintain a safe haven where tired travelers seek refuge and immigration support before continuing their journey into Algeria, Spain and beyond. The travelers tell their stories in a uniquely beautiful and humane film about no longer having a home once you have set off. The Last Shelter is an emotional portrait of this town and the generous people who live in it.
ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH CANADA
Human Rights Watch is one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to protecting the human rights of people around the world. Human Rights Watch works tenaciously to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted change and fights to bring greater justice and security to people around the world. In 2002, Human Rights Watch Canada was established to advance education on human rights issues, both in Canada and around the world, and to increase support for the work of Human Rights Watch worldwide.
The Canadian office organizes several larger public and smaller private events throughout the year. This includes the annual Human Rights Watch Canada Film Festival, which demonstrates the power of film in raising awareness of human rights issues across the globe. The film festival brings to life human rights abuses through storytelling in a way that challenges all to empathize and demand justice for all people. To learn more about their work or make a donation, visit www.hrw.org/canada.
ABOUT HOT DOCS
Hot Docs (www.hotdocs.ca), North America’s largest documentary festival, conference and market, is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing and celebrating the art of documentary and to creating production opportunities for documentary filmmakers. Year-round, Hot Docs supports the Canadian and international industry with professional development programs and a multi-million-dollar production fund portfolio, and fosters education through documentaries with its popular free program Docs For Schools. Hot Docs owns and programs Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema, a century-old landmark located in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood and the world’s first and largest documentary cinema, and operates Hot Docs at Home streaming platform.
ABOUT HOT DOCS TED ROGERS CINEMA
Owned and operated by Hot Docs, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing and celebrating the art of documentary, Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema is the world’s largest documentary cinema. A historic, century-old landmark located in Toronto’s vibrant Annex neighbourhood, the Cinema is a year-round home for non-fiction film and storytelling, presenting first-run international and Canadian documentaries, curated film and speakers series, signature events including Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Hot Docs Podcast Festival and Curious Minds Weekend, as well as hosting for some of the city’s premier festivals and events. Since assuming management in 2012, Hot Docs has screened over 1,425 films to audiences of more than 1.3 million. In 2016, a generous $5-million donation from Rogers Foundation enabled Hot Docs to purchase venue.
Tickets are free and will be available through the Hot Docs website.
For festival updates, please check the Hot Docs website and follow the festival on Twitter and Instagram: