Every year, the Human Rights Film Festival Berlin showcases a diverse array of outstanding documentaries from all over the world. As bearers of uncomfortable truths, they exhume unofficial narratives, marginalised experiences and untold histories while raising awareness of human rights abuses.
This celebration of bravery, both behind the camera and in front of it, appropriately kicks off with with the European premiere of Ithaka, Ben Lawrence’s first-hand exploration of the family dynamics behind the noble fight to free the world’s most famous political prisoner, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Watching Assange’s father John Shipton as he accepts and embodies the role of supporter and parental guardian – a role he didn’t seek (and long rejected) – is a lesson in humility and perseverance. Shipton embodies those unsung heroes the festival seeks to bring to the limelight, people who are going more than the extra mile to uphold justice, or change, who, as the festival organisers say, are “risking a lot for change – standing up to those in power and proving that a better and more just society is possible”.
People who are… risking a lot for change – standing up to those in power and proving that a better and more just society is possible
These remarkable stories also include Neary Adeline Hay’s Eskape, which tells the story of her own journey into the past to uncover details of her escape from the Khmer Rouge 40 years previous, when she was just a baby and her mother carried her through the jungle to safety. Erasmus in Gaza, by Chiara Avesani and Matteo Delbò, follows Riccardo, an Italian medical student who chose to spend his Erasmus exchange working as a war surgeon in the Gaza Strip.
Another standout is Gorki Glaser-Müller’s Children of the Enemy which follows the nightmarish travails of Patricio Galvez after his daughter was radicalised and joined ISIS alongside her husband. Both died in 2019, leaving seven children in a prison camp in deadly conditions. Following Patricio to northern Iraq, the documentary dogs his every step as he works to bring his grandchildren home. Not always easy viewings but certainly essential, as the 42 films shown this year are accompanied by discussions and Q&As.
- Human Rights Film Festival Oct 13-23 Sputnik Kino am Südstern, ACUDKino and other venues.