Features in-person and online films
By Morgan M. Hurley
After a swing through Frankfurt, London, and Munich, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival (HRWFF) is coming to San Diego starting this weekend, running Feb. 2-10, with films that will surely move you to tears … of both sadness and joy.
This film festival comes from the same organization – Human Rights Watch (HRW) – that has, for more than 40 years, according to the film festival’s website, “defended people at risk of abuse by investigating abuses scrupulously, exposing the facts widely, and relentlessly pressing those in power for change that respects rights. Our researchers examine situations in more than 100 countries around the world functioning as investigators, journalists, and advocates.”
The film festival is their way of telling the stories of the human rights violations and the diversity that exists in the world. With more than 500 films to consider annually, HRW acknowledges that sometimes the films “represent points of view that are different” from the organization itself.
The festival isn’t new, however; they just celebrated their 30th year and have showcased over 720 films in that time all over the world.
The festival will offer both in person and virtual (online) films, with the Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) in Balboa Park as its host for the in person events. This is the 14th time MOPA has hosted the HRWFF. MOPA is located at 7960 El Prado, Balboa Park.
All in-person screenings will be followed by a question-and-answer (Q&A) session.
FilmOUT San Diego is a partner for the festival, and opening night, Friday, Feb. 2, at 6 pm, the screening will be “Summer Qamp,” an “uplifting, funny, honest and moving” film from Canadian director Jen Markowitz.
The 79 minute film tells the story of Camp fYrefly, and follows a group of teens in a “completely LGBTQAI2S+ affirming environment as they find community and come into their authentic selves.”
There will be a reception at MOPA prior to the screening and a live Q&A after the film with the film team and local LGBTQ advocates.
Executive producer Mia Weier established a relationship with Camp fYerfly in Alberta, Canada, when searching for an appropriate camp for her daughter. Mia and fellow producers felt a “sense of urgency” to share this story.
“It’s no understatement to say we are experiencing an all- out assault on the rights and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ youth; showcasing safe spaces like this camp can be both a healing balm for a community facing a period of heightened threat and a way for a larger audience to gain insight into and empathy for a group they may misunderstand. Both these impacts can contribute to a cultural and political shift.”
Director Markowitz stated that her career is “committed to telling the stories of queer and trans people; this project brings together my passion for storytelling with a dedication to their community, and knowledge of the deep truths and realities of what it entails to exist within it.
“My investment and existence within the trans community is my joy and purpose in life,” she stated in promotion materials for the film.
In addition Summer Qamp, the in-person festival at MOPA continues Saturday with the following films:
Saturday, Feb. 3, 1 pm, Sundance Documentary Special Jury Award: Freedom of Expression winner, “Bad Press” (2023) by Rebecca Landsberry-Baker (Muscogee Creek) and Joe Peeler. The landmark film follows the story of what happens when the elected leaders of the Muscogee Nation, the fourth largest Native American tribe, curb press freedom by giving officials the authority to edit all news stories before they reach the public, and a rogue Mvskoke Media reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have far-reaching ramifications for Native American communities.
Saturday, Feb. 3, 4 pm, “Si Pudiera Quedarme (If I Could Stay)” (2024) by Florencia Krochik and Theo Rigby. The film chronicles the story of two undocumented mothers, Jeanette and Ingrid. As they face deportation and separation from their young children, they and their communities rally support to keep them safe despite the risks. A story of courage and allyship, Si Pudiera Quedarme is a timely look at the transformative power of communities uniting for justice.
Saturday, Feb. 3, 7 pm, “We Dare to Dream” (2023) by Waad al-Kateab. This final film of the in-person screening aspect of the festival shares the story of athletes from Iran, Syria, South Sudan and Cameroon — all refugees who swim, run and fight their way to opportunity and safety in host nations across the world. Spanning a breadth of backgrounds, personal stories and Olympic sports, the film reveals their lives and hopes as they train to compete on the world stage, showing the fire and the drive of young people forced to leave their families, homes and countries of birth to build new lives.
From Feb; 4-10, the festival will continue online and the films will be made available from 9 am Feb. 4, through midnight on Feb. 10.
Films offered online are
“Is Anybody Out There?” in which filmmaker Ella Glendining asks the question: “What does it take to love yourself fiercely as a disabled person in a non-disabled world?”
Also available for online screening, the multiple award-winning “Seven Winters in Tehran” chronicles the life of 19-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari, who became a symbol of resistance and women’s rights in Iran and worldwide.
In addition to these films, three of the in-person films, “Bad Press,” “Si Pudiera Quedarme (If I Could Stay)” and “We Dare to Dream” will also be available to stream.
Tickets for in-person screenings are as follows: individual film tickets: $6 members | $8 seniors, military, and students (with ID) | $10 non-members.
In-person festival pass to see all four films: $20 members | $30 non-members.
Digital Tickets: Digital-only festival pass provides access to five films online, including two films not available in person: $20 members | $35 non-members. Individual film digital tickets: $6 members | $9 non-members.
To learn more and purchase tickets, visit ff.hrw.org/san-diego.
–Morgan M. Hurley can be reached at [email protected].
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