The ‘Human Rights Watch Film Festival’ brings some poignant stories to audiences looking to understand more around them

Posted in Festival Coverage, Film Festivals, Movies by - March 31, 2016
The ‘Human Rights Watch Film Festival’ brings some poignant stories to audiences looking to understand more around them

I’ll be the first to admit that there is more often than not there is an overwhelming glut of film festivals in this town we call Toronto.  However that doesn’t mean that they’re aren’t some that are doing some genuine good and bringing some important issues to light.

Human Rights Watch is one of the leading organizations dedicated to defending and protecting human rights for people around the world.  Through the Human Rights Watch Film Festival it gives audiences around the world the opportunity to bear witness to some of the atrocities that are happening across the planet through storytelling which allows us as audiences to appreciate how we all deserve the same rights and privileges that everyone deserves.

Running from March 30th through April 7th, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, we got the chance to highlight some of the unique films that bring so many poignant issues to light.

Kicking off tonight from director Patricio Guzman is The Pearl Button a stunning documentary that chronicles the history of the indigenous peoples of Chilean Patagonia, whose decimation by colonial conquest prefigured the brutality of the Pinochet regime.

We see a group of people, simply forgotten by history and Guzman brings there story to light with a certain degree of subtle mastery that is more than a little difficult to ignore as the history of these people that lived up and down the coastline has just been blotted out of existence.  It combines some truly heartbreaking stories with the stunning visuals of the coastlines that these people called their homes and is an absolute must see.


Screening on April 2nd, Dheepan was last year’s Palme D’Or winner from director Jacques Audiard about a Tamil Tiger solider fleeing the wars and starting a brand new life in a Parisian suburb.  You can read our review from TIFF, right here.

Inside The Chinese Closet is a heartbreaking story of the extent that some people have to go to be themselves while not making any social noise in a cultural landscape that values family honor above all else.  It’s the world of Shanghai’s “fake-marriage fairs,” where gay men and lesbian women meet to strike matrimonial deals with members of the opposite sex in order to satisfy social and familial expectations.  Yet another cold reminder of how far we have to go all over the world to ensure that LGBTQ people can live their lives freely and how the differences of culture can make a world of difference when someone is trying to live their life as freely as they can.

The closing night offering of Almost Holy on April 7th by director Steve Hoover who came to prominence after his heartbreaking film Blood Brother is an absolute barn burner.  It’s the story of Gennadiy Mokhnenko; a man who has won accolades for his work rescuing abused, drug- and alcohol-addicted kids from the streets of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, but his methods have made him a figure of much controversy as he isn’t afraid to use tools like abduction and forced confinement to get the job done and help people even in spite of themselves.  Executive produced by the one and only Terrance Malick, this is a haunting portrait of the ugly things that happen in this world and the even uglier things that need to happen to combat them.

All in all it’s a festival that highlights some of the world’s wrong’s in a fashion that allows them to resonate to audiences that just might have the power to do something about it, when the lights raise and we all leave the comfort of the theatre.  Film as a medium not only entertains, but has the chance to educate and maybe just maybe help make the world a better place.


This post was written by

David Voigt, has been a lover of cinema all his life and an actual underpaid critic for a solid 5 years covering everything that the city of Toronto has to offer. He was a content manager in video distribution industry before that and his love of all things cinema goes back to his first moments in awe looking up at the big screen. His 12 years of experience on the home entertainment side of the business have provided him with a unique view on what is worth spending your hard earned entertainment dollars on. Combine that with his unquestioned love of film, David should be your only stop to find out about the best in film, not only in Toronto, but worldwide.