TIFF Human Rights Watch Film Fest Boasts 8 Docs

The Wanted 18.
Photo courtesy of TIFF.
The line-up for +TIFF ’s 12th annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival has just been released and it boasts eight documentaries that highlight extraordinary stories from around the world. Among the docs are Wim Wenders’ current Oscar nominee for Best Documentary Feature The Salt of the Earth and Joshua Oppenheimer’s festival sensation and follow-up to The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence. (Both films made the OFCS list of the best unreleased films of 2014.) Other notable entries and festival favourites include the surprise (and worthy) for the People’s Choice Award for Best Documentary at TIFF 2014, Beats of the Antonov and my favourite Canadian doc from last year’s festival circuit, The Wanted 18. (I covered the latter three films for POV during TIFF and you can find links to the reviews below, along with additional coverage in the upcoming spring issue.) You don’t want to miss this wild and wholly original docudrama that puts some endearing clay cows at the heart of the human rights movement. The festival line-up includes a hot of special guests to engage audiences with Q&As following the screenings, but, sadly, the cows are not among them.

Here’s what’s playing:

The One That Got Away
dirs. Sam Lawlor and Lindsay Pollock | United Kingdom/Hungary 2013 | 70 min. | PG | Canadian Premiere
In this moving documentary, Holocaust survivor Thomas Beck tells his incredible tale of escape from a Nazi concentration camp, and relates his wistful memories of the girl he met and fell in love with during his imprisonment — whom he suddenly finds himself face-to-face with 70 years later. Tuesday, March 24 at 8 p.m.

The Look of Silence
dir. Joshua Oppenheimer | Denmark/Indonesia/Norway/Finland/United Kingdom 2014 | 98 min. | 14A
Grand Jury Prize, Venice International Film Festival 2014
Toronto International Film Festival 2014
Director Joshua Oppenheimer's follow-up to his extraordinary documentary The Act of Killing focuses on a village optometrist who confronts the former right-wing paramilitaries who murdered his brother during Indonesia's anti-communist purges of the 1960s. Wednesday, March 25 at 6:30 p.m.
-Featuring a special video introduction by the filmmaker.
 -Review from POV: “…Oppenheimer gives an impeccably pointed interrogation of the murders through the eyes of family members left to mourn the victims. The killers had their story, and now the victims have theirs.”

Uyghurs: Prisoners of the Absurd
dir. Patricio Henriquez | Canada 2014 | 98 min. | 14A
This timely documentary chronicles the incredible odyssey of three refugees from China's persecuted Turkic-speaking Muslim minority, who fled to Afghanistan to seek sanctuary and found themselves rounded up and shipped to Guantanamo Bay as part of the United States’ indiscriminate War on Terror. Thursday, March 26 at 6:30 p.m.

Introduction by Michelle Shephard, national security reporter for the Toronto Star.

Beats of the Antonov
dir. Hajooj Kuka | Sudan/South Africa 2014 | 65 min. | PG
Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary Award, Toronto International Film Festival 2014
Director Hajooj Kuka immerses audiences in the world of the Sudanese farmers, herders and rebels of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountain regions, who defiantly continue to tend their lands and celebrate their heritage in the face of a government bombing campaign. Friday, March 27 at 6:45 p.m.

With guest speaker Bill Frelick, Director, Refugee Program, Human Rights Watch.

-Review from POV: “Kuka lets the villagers tell their stories using their own songs, words, dances, and rhythms. Beats of the Antonov shows the celebration of culture as the defiant assertion for diversity in the face of oppression.”

The Salt of the Earth
dirs. Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado | France/Brazil/Italy 2014 | 110 min. | PG | Toronto Premiere
Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize, Festival de Cannes 2014
Master filmmaker Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado collaborated to create this stunning documentary tribute to Salgado’s father Sebastião, the world-renowned Brazilian photographer whose decades spent chronicling some of the darkest corners of the globe led him to a terrible crisis of faith — and a late-life act of rejuvenation. Saturday, March 28 at 7 p.m.

Burden of Peace
dirs. Joey Boink and Sander Wirken | Netherlands/Guatemala/Spain 2014 | 77 min. | 14A | North American Premiere
This intimate documentary follows Guatemala's first female Attorney General Claudia Paz y Paz as she fights against her country's legacy of violence and corruption, and marks a historical first when she successfully prosecutes former dictator Efrain Ríos Montt for genocide.Tuesday, March 31 at 6:30 p.m.

With guest speaker Liesl Gerntholtz, Executive Director, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch.

The Wanted 18
dirs. Amer Shomali and Paul Cowan | Canada/Palestine/France 2014 | 75 min. | PG
Toronto International Film Festival 2014
Through stop-motion animation, drawings and interviews, this film recreates an astonishing true story from the First Palestinian Intifada: the Israeli army’s pursuit of 18 cows, whose independent milk production on a Palestinian collective farm was declared a threat to the national security of the state of Israel. Wednesday, April 1 at 6:30 p.m.
-Review from POV: “There simply isn’t anything quite like The Wanted 18. It’s a true original. This ingenious documentary is often riotously entertaining thanks to the plucky humour of the cows, but it’s disarmingly moving, too, in its ability to morph these little mooers into agents of resistance.”
-TopTen Canadian Films of 2014: #4.

Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story
dirs. Sandrine Orabona and Mark Herzog | USA 2014 | 90 min. | 14A
This compelling and compassionate documentary chronicles the struggle of decorated ex-Navy SEAL Kristin Beck to live her new life as a transgender woman. Thursday, April 2 at 6:30 p.m.

Introduction and Q&A by Kristin Beck, with guest speaker Graeme Reid, Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, Human Rights Watch.

The TIFF Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs March 24- April 2.
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