Human Rights Watch Film Fest Returns for Year Six

Three Days of Docs, Dramas at Campbell Hall Start Tuesday, April 26

Courtesy Photo

Since its start in 2006, Arts & Lectures’ annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival has striven to shed light on a veritable mosaic of human-rights issues from around the world. And this year is no different, thanks to a stunning selection of documentaries and dramas that touch on current and past events at home and abroad. Subjects range from abortion rights to post–civil-war Sierra Leone, the ongoing political turmoil in Zimbabwe to tales of World War II-era gypsies and their flight from Nazi persecution.

This week, the festival returns for year six and will move from a month-long screening series to three back-to-back nights of three feature-length films, all to be shown at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Below you’ll find a rundown of the week’s events, including film-by-film synopses and a couple key reasons to tune in.

Tuesday, April 26

12th & Delaware

In this 2010 HBO documentary, a Florida abortion clinic struggles to stand its ground after a pro-life clinic moves in across the street. As patients struggle to make one of the hardest decisions of their lives, the film’s pro-choicers are faced with the brutal realities of providing abortion services in a conservative community.


Director Tony Gatlif employs a zany, Danny Boyle-esque approach to his heartfelt tale about a band of gypsies traveling through the French countryside during World War II. James Thiérrée and Marie-Josée Croze expertly anchor the cast, portraying an uneducated recluse and his teacher-turned-resistance-fighter, respectively.


Pakistan’s first woman leader gets a worthy and enlightening profile in this 2010 documentary from filmmakers Duane Baughman and Johnny O’Hara. Here, Benazir Bhutto is revered for her medical accomplishments and examined through the eyes of her male-dominated nation.

Wednesday, April 27

War Don Don

Five years after he was first put on trial, Revolutionary United Front (RUF) leader Issa Sesay is sentenced for countless war crimes committed during Sierra Leone’s devastating civil war. Interviews with former RUF officers, civilians, and Sesay’s own defense team give a fascinating look into a country torn apart by war, as well as put into question the ineffectual nature of the UN’s special courts.

Nostalgia for the Light

In Chile’s Atacama Desert, extreme heat keeps human remains intact long after their burial. In this documentary, astronomers visit the site to explore its bizarre sky, while others scour the desert in search of the bodies of their loved ones in the wake of the Pinochet regime’s devastation.

<em>Mugabe and the White African</em>
Courtesy Photo

Mugabe and the White African

Providing a harrowing look into the life of Mike Campbell, one of the few white farmers left standing in Zimbabwe following the dictatorship of President Robert Mugabe, this documentary follows Campbell and his son as they try to fight the Zimbabwe government in a special court, even as their fellow landowners are being bullied—and physically threatened—off their properties.

Thursday, April 28

Pink Saris

Sampat Pal Devi is known throughout India for her progressive stance on women’s rights. In this documentary, we follow Pal Devi as she mediates between the poor, violated, and often times battered young wives of North India, their abusive families, and the authorities that continue to turn a blind eye.

!Women Art Revolution

Lynn Hershman-Leeson goes back through the vaults to paint this riveting picture of the feminist art movement and the impact it had on not only the free speech movement but American culture as a whole.

Soundtrack for a Revolution

The Roots, John Legend, and Wyclef Jean all make appearances in this thoughtful and thought-provoking look at the civil-rights movement and the music it spawned.


Arts & Lectures presents the Human Rights Watch Film Festival this Tuesday-Thursday, April 26-28, at UCSB’s Campbell Hall. Screenings take place at 4, 7, and 9 p.m. each night. Call 893-3535 or visit for info.


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