Seattle Human Rights Film Festival – This Week!

Coming soon to a theater near you. . . human rights!  Our Amnesty International Puget Sound film festival committee has been previewing films and tracking down sponsors since September, and we’re pleased to present our 16th Annual Seattle Human Rights Film Festival from February 13 -17 at Cinerama and Northwest Film Forum.

Wednesday night, February 13, at 7 pm, we have a very special opening night showing of New Year Baby at Cinerama (2100 4th Ave., Seattle).  New Year Baby is about director Socheata Poeuv, who was “born on Cambodian New Year in a Thai refugee camp.  Socheata never knew how she got there.  After her birth, her family left their past behind and became American.  Her parents hid the story of surviving the Khmer Rouge genocide.  In New Year Baby, she journeys to Cambodia and discovers the truth about her family.  She uncovers their painful secrets, kept in shame, which also reveal great heroism.”

New Year Baby made me laugh as well as cry, as I got to know Socheata and her family, their heroism and the strength to not only survive but pass on the very love and values to their children the Khmer Rouge sought to destroy.  We’ll have a panel discussion afterwards, including a local member of the Cambodian-American community.

Then, starting on Friday, February 15 through Sunday, February 17, we move our film festival over to Northwest Film Forum (1515 12th Ave., on Capitol Hill in Seattle).  Amazingly, we somehow left your  Valentine’s Day free from human rights films and panels.  We’re sorry, we know it would have made for a romantic evening. . . (OK, even some of our film festival committee members rebelled)!

Friday night, February 15, is Denounce Torture night.  At 7 pm we will be showing The Prisoner Or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair, about an Iraqi journalist, Yuris Khatayer Abbas, who is arrested by American soldiers with his brothers and eventually taken to Abu Ghraib prison and charged with trying to assassinate Tony Blair. Animation, home movies, testimony from a former guard and footage from embedded reporter Michael Tucker (Gunner Palace) combine to “trace the moving story of an ordinary man trapped in a Kafkaesque nightmare.”

Join us for a discussion with James Yee, former US Army Muslim Chaplain for Guantanamo Bay, following the film.

Confessions of an Innocent Man shows at 9 pm Friday.  “Confessions of an Innocent Man is a raw expose that examines (Canadian citizen) William Sampson’s harrowing experience while imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for a crime he did not commit.  With no evidence of guilt and despite pleading his innocence, Sampson was repeatedly tortured and received no counsel or visitation from his government until after his captors got what they wanted: a confession.”  Join us for a discussion with filmmaker David Paperny after the film.

On Saturday, February 16, we start at 1 pm, with a double bill of A Lesson in Belorussian and Yahoo in ChinaA Lesson in Belorussian (note, spelling from English subtitled version of the film) is about Franek Viacorka and his classmates from a school established by his father to promote the Belarusian language, which goes underground when banned in 2003.  The students run an underground newspaper, record music with activist lyrics and organize an opposition concert, in spite of the imprisonment of Franek’s father and threats of their own arrest.  (Actually, Franek himself has been recently arrested, and just released.)

Also showing on this double bill, Yahoo in China, which looks into the complicity of Yahoo! in giving over their customer’s information to the Chinese government to help them arrest dissidents, including journalist and poet Shi Tao, imprisoned for sending an e-mail to a US based pro-democracy site about orders to the media to downplay the upcoming 15th Anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.  The film maker tries to talk to Yahoo! in both Hong Kong and the US, in Michael Moore style.

At 3 pm on Saturday, we follow a group of young Palestinian men secretly crossing the border to work in construction in Israel in 9 Star Hotel.  “Building luxury condominium by day, and hiding in makeshift tents to avoid authorities at night, they share food, friendship, nostalgia and an uncompromising urge to survive.” Peter Lippman of the Palestinian Solidarity Network will lead the discussion following the film.

Saturday night is Stop Violence Against Women night. At 6:30 pm, we show Killer’s Paradise about the murders of young women in Guatemala.  “Since 1999 more than two thousand women have been murdered in Guatemala, with the numbers escalating each year.  Yet, lawmakers and government officials continue to turn a blind eye.

Then at 9 pm we screen The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo.  “Shot in the war zones of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), this extraordinary film shatters the silence that surrounds the shocking plight of women and girls caught in this country’s intractable conflict. The most moving and harrowing moments of the film come as dozens of survivors recount their stories with an honesty and immediacy pulverizing in it’s  intimacy and detail.” 

The most disturbing part to me was when the filmmaker (herself a survivor of a gang rape) goes into the jungle and interviews soldiers who were (self admitted) rapists. 

Join us after the film for a discussion with director, Lisa F. Jackson and Tonya Sargeant, volunteer with Mama Makeka House of Hope.  Also join us for a reception following the screening, with food from Indo Padi Restaurant.  RSVP at .

Our final day, Sunday, February 17 starts with China Blue, about sweatshop workers in China. “Shot clandestinely, this is a deep-access account of what both China and the international retailers don’t want us to see: how the clothes we buy are actually made.  Following a pair of denim jeans from birth to sale, China Blue links the power of the U.S. consumer market to the daily lives of a Chinese factory owner and two teenaged factory workers.”

Then at 3 pm on Friday, our final film Bombhunters follows rural villagers in Cambodia who seek out and dismantle unexploded bombs and landmines to sell the scrap metal for profit.  Join us for a discussion with director Skye Fitzgerald after the film.

Tickets $8, $40 festival pass

Full listings and tickets online at:


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