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February ushers in human rights film festival

Childcare and education, environmental protection, gender equality, transgender and indigenous rights, women’s rights—these are some of the subjects of the critically acclaimed films at the 13th annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival hosted by the Museum of Photographic Arts from Feb. 2-9.

Kicking off the festival on Feb. 2, an in-person only screening of “Clarissa’s Battle” followed by a live panel discussion and opening night reception.

Three of the five films streaming digitally will be followed by a live Q&A with award-winning filmmakers, film participants, and human rights activists to highlight key social issues impacting today’s global community.

Festival deputy director Jennifer Nedbalsky said every day in our communities people are coming together, taking action to protect their rights and the rights of future generations, and that people should hear these stories of activists willing to dedicate their lives to building a more equitable future.

“This year’s films profile stories of Afghan women and female athletes demanding to be treated equally, of climate defenders in the Philippines and trans/Indigenous artists in Brazil using creativity and putting their lives on the line to protect critical natural resources,” she said in a press release. “The festival, taking place in San Diego, home to a large military community, is also providing a platform to service members who are working to end sexual assault in the military. We hope that by watching the films in this year’s festival, audience members will find links that might help them to act in their own communities.”

With a Digital Festival pass for all five films, digital screenings can be watched anytime Feb. 3-9. Participants can RSVP for Zoom Q&A discussions.

“Clarissa’s Battle” is about a single mother, Clarissa Douthard, building a powerful coalition of parents fighting for childcare and early education funds desperately needed by low and middle-income parents and children across the U.S.

“#IAmVanessaGuillen” is about U.S. soldier Karina Lopez who survived a sexual assault at Fort Hood military base in 2018. When Vanessa Guillen, another Latina service member disappeared, Lopez stepped forward to tell her story, creating the #IAmVanessaGuillan hashtag, and exposing the cycle of abuse occurring on military bases.

“And I Still Sing” follows Afghan pop star and activist Aryana Sayeed as she mentors young hopefuls as the appear on their country’s hit television show “Afghan Star.” With two young women on the verge of being named the first ever female winners, the Taliban take over and their dreams of becoming pop starts are under threat.

“Category: Woman” focuses on four athletes from the Global South who are required by sporting institution World Athletics to medically alter their healthy bodies if they want to continue to compete in their sport.

In “Delikado,” environmental defenders are tested as they battle to save their home Palawan, an island paradise in the Philippines from the illegal destruction of its forests, fisheries, and mountains.

“Uýra: The Rising Forest” is about a trans indigenous artist traveling through the Amazon on a journey of self-discovery, using performance art to teach indigenous youth that they are guardians of ancestral messages of the Amazon Forest. In a country that kills the highest number of trans, Indigenous, and environmentalist youth worldwide, Uýra leads a rising movement while fostering unity and providing inspiration for the LGBTQIA+ and environmental movements in the heart of the Amazon Forest.

For more information on the 2023 Human Rights Watch Film Festival, visit

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Source: East County Californian

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