Film festivals human rights women
“Clarissa’s Battle,” the film that opens the 2023 Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Photo credit: mopa.org

The Museum of Photographic Arts is hosting the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, which opens Thursday with a focus on activists stepping up and making a difference.

The 14th annual event, mostly online this year, features films on topics ranging from child care and education, to gender equity, military injustice and trans and Indigenous rights.

Most of the festival films will be available to stream (in the U.S. only) from Friday through 11:59 p.m. PST Feb. 9. Individual screenings cost $9 with full passes at $35.

The event kicks off with an in-person screening – tickets for the 6 p.m. Thursday show cost $10 – at the Balboa Park museum, along with an opening night reception for Clarissa’s Battle. The film depicts single mother and organizer Clarissa Doutherd as she works to build a coalition of parents to fight for childcare and early education funds.

The film will be followed by a panel discussion with Doutherd, executive director of Parent Voices Oakland, and director Tamara Perkins.

Three of the five films streaming digitally will be followed by a live Q&As with the filmmakers to highlight key social issues (each starts at 5 p.m.):

  • Feb. 7 – And Still I Sing (2022) by Fazila Amiri; feminist Afghan pop icon Aryana Sayeed takes two female singers under her wing to help them win a television music contest dominated by male winners.
  • Feb. 8 – #IAmVanessaGuillen (2022) by Andrea Patiño; when Guillen, a Latina service member, disappears and is found murdered, a soldier and sexual assault survivor comes forward to share her story, creating a hashtag that goes viral as other survivors relate similar experiences.
  • Feb 9 – Uýra: The Rising Forest (2022) by Juliana Curi; Uýra, a transgender Indigenous artist, travels through the Amazon on a journey of self-discovery using performance art to teach Indigenous youth.

“A person’s story has the power to spur change within the masses … ” said Kevin Linde, manager of digital and curatorial engagement of MOPA. “The festival is our opportunity to invite our community to look at the world through a different lens and celebrate the courageous filmmakers and their dedication to human rights.”

Patiño met the creator of the Guillen hashtag, Karina Lopez, while working as a journalist at Univision. The director said she is “just honored and excited” to have her film featured in the festival, and hopes “that truly we’ll reach more people and have change moving forward.”

Ultimately, Lopez said, she hopes the film doesn’t just spread awareness of sexual assault in the military – rage over Guillen’s death sparked changes in how such crimes may be reported and investigated – but that it also makes clear that healing is possible.

“I hope it shows that we’re still human and it’s OK to feel this spectrum of emotions and also frustration,” Lopez said.


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Ellen Bullock