- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
THE 2019 TORONTO HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH FILM FESTIVAL
TIFF ® and Human Rights Watch co-present the 16th annual Toronto Human Rights Watch Film Festival with a bold new lineup of films that spotlights global crises and provides a platform to expose stories that have long been hidden in the shadows. The films present compelling and urgent narratives on topics ranging from free speech and LGBTQ+ rights to religious freedoms and the effects of censorship on democratic society.
This year’s festival, running from April 3 to 10, 2019 at TIFF Bell Lightbox, features seven powerful films from nine countries: Brazil, France, Germany, China (Hong Kong), Malaysia, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, and the United States. Four of the seven films were directed or co-directed by women. Most screenings will be accompanied by discussions with filmmakers, Human Rights Watch researchers, or subject-matter experts, to spark conversations around the challenging issues featured in the films and to add important context.
At this year’s Opening Night, Human Rights Watch honours and pays tribute to trailblazers and award-winning filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier at the festival’s opening reception. Berlin Peace Film Award winner and Oscar-shortlisted documentary The Silence of Others is the Opening Night Film, which follows the victims of Francisco Franco and their ongoing fight for legal reparations against the Spanish dictator’s surviving fascist henchmen. Additional highlights from this year’s lineup include: the TIFF 2018 selection Ghost Fleet, examining the global fishing industry as a Thai human-rights activist, Patima Tungpuchayakul, and her team seek to bring home workers essentially enslaved at sea; the Prix Europa winner and Sundance selection The Cleaners, an inside look at people hired to moderate online content for corporations and at those affected by such censorship; and the closing night film, the Tribeca selection Roll Red Roll, the true story of a whistle-blowing blogger who exposed a community’s complicity in a vicious crime while examining the pervasiveness of rape culture and the ways in which it must be dismantled.
For the complete film lineup - Visit tiff.net/humanrightswatch.
The Silence of Others Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar | USA/Spain | 2018 The Silence of Others reveals the struggle of victims of Spain's 40-year dictatorship under the fascist general Francisco Franco who continue to seek justice. Filmed over six years, it follows the survivors as they organize the groundbreaking Argentine lawsuit to fight a state-imposed amnesia of crimes against humanity, and explores a country still divided four decades into democracy. The Silence of Others, whose executive producers were Pedro Almodóvar, Agustín Almodóvar, and Esther García, is the second documentary feature by the Emmy-winning filmmakers Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar (Made in L.A.). Wednesday, April 3, 8pm
A Family Tour Ying Liang | Taiwan/Hong Kong/Singapore/Malaysia | 2018 Five years ago, the Chinese filmmaker Yang Shu made a film that offended the Chinese government. She has since been forced to remain in exile in Hong Kong. When her mother, who had been ill, suffers a relapse, Yang Shu uses the opportunity of a film festival in Taiwan to reunite her family while keeping to the strictly regulated schedule of a Chinese tour company. Introduced by Farida Deif, Canada Director, Human Rights Watch. Thursday, April 4, 6:30pm
No Box for Me. An Intersex Story Floriane Devigne | France | 2018 Intersex is often still dealt with as a pathology that must be treated and repaired. This film reflects on the ways intersex people seek to reappropriate their bodies and construct their identities, and questions the standards our societies impose in the name of social norms. Introduced by Neela Ghoshal, Senior Researcher in the LGBT Rights program, Human Rights Watch Friday, April 5, 6:30pm
Ghost Fleet Shannon Service, Jeffrey Waldron | USA | 2018 People normally think of slavery as a part of history. But in the global fishing industry, a modern form of slavery takes place far out at sea where no one can bear witness. A Thai human rights activist, Patima Tungpuchayakul, has led a crusade to help her country's victims and expose their conditions. In Ghost Fleet, viewers follow her team on a seafaring rescue mission to bring home prisoners who have spent years in captivity. Introduced by director Shannon Service followed by Q&A discussion
CAPSULE REVIEWS OF SELECTED FILMS
THE CLEANERS (Germany 2018) ***
Directed by Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck
THECLEANERS, the new doc that premiered to sold-out performances at this year’s Hot Docs brings the audience into the hidden third world shadow industry of digital cleaning, where the internet rids itself of what it doesn’t like. The new documentary THECLEANERS unashamedly touts the all importance of ‘cleaners’ at the very start of the film. Words (titles) on screen emphasize the millions of tweets, posts on youtube and the millions of people connected on social media going to say how much the internet would be a mess without THECLEANERS. TheCleaners delete images, videos and texts that violate the rules of social media. his is none from, (surprise! surprise!) none other than Manila in the Philippines. The film introduces five “digital scavengers” among thousands of people outsourced from Silicon Valley whose job it is to delete “inappropriate” content off the net. In a parallel struggle, we meet people around the globe whose lives are dramatically affected by online censorship. The film is even more shocking when it shows glimpses of a few of these deleted images. The directors cannot resist sensationalization from their film. There is a disturbing segment which shows an image of a beheading done with a dull knife (like kitchen knife) resulting in a crooked cut with lots of blood. The film lacks a proper conclusion for the reason that problems presented in the film have no clear resolution. Promises by the high tech giant executives are difficult to keep despite good intentions.
NO BOX FOR ME. AN INTERSEX STORY (France 2018) ***
NI D’EVE NI N’ADAM UE HISTOIRE INTERSEX
(French title: Neither Eve, Neither Adam: An Intersex Story)
Directed by Floriane Levigne
“Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that do not seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male. It is estimated that 2% of the population are born with some kind of gender variation. For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. This doc is abut Intersex people. The main issue is to decide for the intersex person whether to be male or female and in many cases, an operation done at an early age to fix the gender. However, as the body develops, the chromosomes might turn out the opposite. NO BOX FOR ME examines this problem with 3 intersex subjects, letting them have their say. Animation is used to illustrate the problem they go through. The film though running just around 60 minutes, will be an eye-opener for many, myself included for the one reason that I do not know any intersex people. The films best line is uttered by an intersex man to an intern lady, of the people that have insulted him because of his condition: “I pity them. They will always be normal. We will always be different.”
ROLL RED ROLL (USA 2018) ***1/2
Directed by Nancy Schwartzman
RED is the colour and name of the famous football team and pride of the town Steubenville, OHIO. But part of the fame comes from a scandal which rocked the nation. Two of the football team members, Hays and Richmond were arrested for allegedly raping an unconscious and drunk underaged girl (referred to as Jane Doe) at a drunk-fest pre-game party. The doc is an example in which the subject is so upsetting and intriguing that the audience would be totally glued to the screen regardless off how good the doc actually is. Thankfully, the doc is not half bad and gets the audience to be on the side of the female victim right from the start with the narration performed by a crime blogger, Alexandria Goddard whose work actually brought this crime into light. The climax of the film is the revelation on whether the two boys will be convicted with a guilty verdict. There is another twist in the plot which adds nicely to the film’s conclusion. The film is also totally relevant in these times of sexual harassment.
THE SILENCE OF OTHERS (Spain 2018) ***1/2
Directed by Almudena Carracedo, Robert Bahar
(OPENING NIGHT FILM)
One of the biggest docs to premiere at Toronto’s HOT DOS 2018 was Pedro Almodovar’s presentation of THE SILENCE OF OTHERS, a film about the evil of the Franco regime of 40 years. The film gets personal at the film’s start when a 90-ish old women places flowers at the side of the road. She is still mourning the death of her mother, who was taken away by the townsfolk way back in the 30’s and left by the side of the road. Her body was not allowed to be taken to the cemetery. Footage taken in 1936 the shows Franco next to Hitler followed by massacre of rows of people and other injustices such as brutal beatings by Franco troops. All the above occurs within the first 5 minutes of the film so the audience is primed for a solid riveting historical documentary. This elderly woman is just one person seeking just for inhumanities done during the Franco regime. She and many others want their relatives’ graves exhumed for their remains. Others were tortured by officials in the regime. They,understandably want justice. The film follows a select few of those who suffered under the Franco regime. Many want the torturers punished and go to jail while others want the bodies of their dead ones back for proper burial. The film centres on their emotions especially showing their joy and relief after the courts have passed sentence.