African focus in human rights film fest

MISANI Special to the AmNews | 10/4/2012, 3:23 p.m.
The 50th anniversary of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights took place in 1998....
African focus in human rights film fest

The 50th anniversary of the U.N.'s Universal Declaration of Human Rights took place in 1998. For this milestone, Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit organization committed to defending the rights of people around the world, printed and distributed the 30-article declaration, which the United Nations' General Assembly adopted on Dec. 10, 1948, in Paris, France.

The declaration came into existence as a result of the horrific occurrences of World War II. It represents the first written global statement of the rights to which human beings are naturally entitled.

Human Rights Watch's strategy is to bring to light human rights violations by shining the spotlight on a variety of very specific international issues. It has effectively been at the vanguard of this battle over the past 30 years, working unceasingly, as they describe, "to lay the legal and moral groundwork for deep-rooted attention where human rights are violated."

In its fight to bring improved justice and security to the citizens of the world, it has, as the organization states, "given voice to the oppressed and [held] oppressors accountable for their crimes."

One of the key vehicles in the organization's fight for human rights is the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, which serves to show its audience violations of the rights of human beings around the world.

Through the powerful art of images and storytelling on screen, the festival brings to life human rights abuses, acting as a conduit to engage viewers to connect and empathize with the abused victims. This in turn motivates and stirs them into action, prompting them to speak up and rally for justice.

The 2012 Human Right Watch Film Festival, co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, runs June 14-28 at Lincoln Center's Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th St.

Now in its 23rd year, the program consists of 16 films from 12 countries, 14 of which are New York premieres. Amongst the collection are the following films of African interest.

"Color of the Ocean" (Spain, 2011), directed by Maggie Peren, will screen on Saturday, June 23 at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 24 at 4 p.m. The film, in French, German and Spanish with English subtitles, focuses on a Congolese man (Hubert Kounde), Zola, and his son Mamadou, who are among a boatload of refugees that lands on the shores of the Canary Islands.

Zola, who is placed in an internment camp, receives the assistance of Nathalie, a German tourist, whose husband objects to her involvement. A relationship evolves between Nathalie and Jose (Alex Gonzalez), a police officer on the island who has become skeptical about his job. Zola and Mamadou subsequently find themselves at the mercy of smugglers. All of the characters grapple with the question of responsibility for the actions they choose to take.

"Little Heaven" (Belgium, 2011) is a documentary by Lieven Corthouts that makes its New York premiere on Monday, June 25 at 4 p.m. Subsequent screenings with post-screening Q&As take place Tuesday, June 26 at 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, June 27 at 9 p.m. The setting for the documentary is the Little Heaven Orphanage in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; the subject is children living with HIV.