Annual human rights movie festival to open in city


Over the last few years, the Human Rights Watch annual film festival has gained a reputation for being the most illuminating documentary film project in the country (apart from Kenya’s own DocuBox).

It opens this coming Monday night at Alliance Francaise, Nairobi and features five doc films that are just as gripping and action-packed as many of the action-adventure thrillers that get gobbled up so quickly from pirate DVD stores scattered all over the country.

And from the pre-production publicity, this year’s set of five sounds like some of the best doc films that have come in recent years through HRW.

Interestingly, three of the five have been directed by women and one by an Iranian couple who team up to tell a powerful story of a woman walking through the Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

On Monday at 6:45, the film 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets by American filmmaker Marc Silver has already won a Special Jury Award at the Sundance Film Festival this year for his movie tracing the roots of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.

He does so looking at the killing by white policemen of young African-American men who have been shockingly slaughtered in cold blood, including Jordan Davis, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Michael Brown among others.

On Tuesday, The Trial of Spring Shoots directed by Gina Reticker is filmed in Arabic with English sub-titles. It tells the story of a young idealistic Egyptian woman who travels from her village to Cairo to add her voice to those calling for the end of 60 years of military rule in Egypt.

She is arrested, tortured and released to a family that also punishes and imprisons her for daring to speak her mind. She escapes, reflecting the courage and resilience of the women who played a pivotal role in Egypt’s Arab Spring.

Wednesday’s doc film, We Were Rebels, is also by women directors, Katharine von Schroeder and Florian Schewe. It’s also a story about resilience, only in this case, it’s about a reformed child soldier, Agel, from South Sudan who managed to flee first to Kenya, then to Australia where he became a pro-basketball player and coach.

The two filmmakers trace his path back to South Sudan, from 2011 to the end of 2013 when the civil war revived and Agel again became a soldier. Sadly he had returned home to rebuild his country; instead, he returned to fight another war.

Thursday evening from 6:30pm, Democrats is another remarkable true story recorded by Danish filmmaker Camilla Nelsson who managed to get inside the tightly-guarded political circle of Robert

Mugabe during the three years when rival political parties, embodied by Maangwana for ZANU-PF and Mwonzoru for the Movement for Democratic Change, struggled to shape a new constitution.

There were many personal as well as political clashes which Nelsson managed to capture, but sadly her film shows that the future of Zimbabwe was bound to be stormy and unstable.

Finally, on Friday, No Land’s Song is another bitter-sweet true story filmed in French and German and Farsi with English sub-titles by the Iranian filmmaker Ayat Najahi.