Geneva Anderson digs into art

Human Rights Watch Film Festival delivers a powerful message, at Yerba Buena Center Thursday evenings through March 31, 2011

For the last ten years, every March, San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts has presented the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, bringing a remarkable selection of films with human rights themes to the Bay Area.  This year’s festival begins Thursday, March 10, with the 74 minute “Youth Producing Change,” 10 powerful videos produced by youths across the globe that document their own lives and a human rights crisis they experience every day.  The 11 short films were chosen from among 300 submissions by a partnership of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, and the program’s sponsor, Adobe Youth Voices, an educational effort funded by the charitable arm of the software company Adobe Systems.   The filmmakers will be in attendance for Q & A after the film.  The festival will continue screening a new film every Thursday evening in March, for a total of 4 films.   

The Human Right Watch Festival was begun 22 years ago by Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s leading independent organizations dedicated to defending human rights by focusing attention when rights are violated and giving a voice to the oppressed.   The films in the festival were selected for both their artistic merit and human rights content and each poignantly addresses current situations.

This year’s full-length films include a Sundance award winning documentary about the Cambodian genocide, a moving profile of the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s battle for more humane U.S. immigration policy, and an apalling look at prison conditions in Angola.  Painstakingly clear in all of these films is that there are powerful interests working to hide the truth about when and where atrocities occur.  Film creates a forum for brave individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference.  Joel Shepard, Film/Video Curator at YBCA explained that YBCA is currently refining its programming to address “engagement, not passive consumption” and that this festival fits neatly into YBCA’s “Encounter” Big Idea that presents works engaged with a social context.

Youth Producing Change, March 10, 2011, 7:00 pm, YBCA Screening Room 

Teen filmmakers turn the camera on their own struggles for human rights and invite audiences to experience the world as they do — as a Kenyan teenager living in Africa’s second largest slum, as a 15-year-old girl in India who needs to chose between supporting her family or getting an education or as a 14-year-old Afghan seeking asylum after his father was killed by the Taliban. Youth Producing Change shares ten powerful stories made by teens from across the globe as they share their vision of change. Adobe Youth Voices, Founding Presenter. (2010, 74 min, digital)  )  Audio Interview with Youth Producing Change Filmmakers    BUY TICKETS »

Enemies Of  The People, March 17, 2011, 7:30 pm YBCA Screening Room

By Rob Lemkin And Thet Sambath 

 Winner of the Sundance World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Prize,

Enemies of the People follows the intensely personal project of Mr. Thet Sambath, whose parents and brother were among the approximately two million people who perished during the mass killings from 1975 to 1979 at the hands of Cambodia’s Communist  Khmer Rouge regime, which was responsible for the deaths of nearly a quarter of the small country’s population.  With unprecedented access achieved patiently over years, he gently coaxes groundbreaking confessions from Nuon Chea, the notorious ‘Brother Number Two,’ (Pol Pot’s second in command) and from numerous grassroots killers, now frail seniors living out their final days.  As Sambath juggles between objective reportage and his intense personal desire for healing and understanding, he uncovers terrifying personal explanations for the genocide.  Somehow, operating like a one man Cambodian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he manages to listen calmly to the perpetrators speak casually about slitting throats and extracting and eating human gall bladder.  When he finally does share his truth, the results are healing but ultimately he has lost almost everything dear in life to him.  (2009, 94 min, digital)   BUY TICKETS »


Last Best Chance by directors Michael Camerini and Shari Robertson (2010) is a documentary that lays out the stakes in the foiled fight for U.S. immigration reform in the post-9/11 era.


Last Best Chance, March 24, 2011, 7:30 pm, YBCA Screening Room

By Michael Camerini And Shari Robertson

Last Best Chance is a documentary that lays out the stakes in the foiled fight for U.S. immigration reform in the post-9/11 era. The title refers to the comprehensive reform bill that was seen by its supporters as the “last best chance” this nation would have to get this right for a long time, and the film drives home what was lost when it failed to pass it.  It brilliantly presents a political legend, Senator Edward Kennedy, in his final battle for legislation that he believes would best serve US interests and provide greater security and dignity to many of the 20 million people currently living in the shadows. Senator Kennedy joins forces with talented allies on the outside to marshal fellow Senators Obama, Clinton, Menendez, Kyl and McCain toward a ‘Grand Bargain.’  But deep at the heart of this fast-moving story, below the level of strategy and protocol, we find a moral tale of modern American politics. (2010, 100 min, digital)  BUY TICKETS »

 In The Land of the Free…   March 31, 2011, 7:30 pm, YBCA Screening Room

By Vadim Jean
Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox and Robert King—the Angola 3—have spent a combined century in solitary confinement in Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Targeted by prison officials for being members of the Black Panther Party and for fighting against terrible prison conditions, they were convicted of the murder of a prison guard, a verdict they continue to challenge and for which new evidence continues to emerge. In the Land of the Free… presents their ongoing story as dramatic events continue to unfold. Narrated by Samuel L Jackson (2009, 84 min, digital) BUY TICKETS »

Details:  Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission Street, (across the street from SFMOMA), San Francisco, CA 94103. Several reasonably priced parking garages are located within one block of YBCA.   Human Rights Watch Film Festival screens Thursday evenings, March 10-31, 2011.  Tickets: $8 regular; $6 students, seniors, teachers and YBCA members.  Same day gallery admission with film ticket.  For more information visit, or call (415) 978-2787.  


March 7, 2011 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment