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Human Rights Watch Film Festival Returns for 32nd Year

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival, a gem of thought provoking and powerful documentaries that signify spring each year in New York City is back. For the 32nd edition of the NY HRWFF, we will be going on a digital journey with films via a slate of stellar programming that will raise your consciousness on topics like police violence, incarcerated women and cultural identity.

There are 10 compelling films to view that are available nationwide. Keeping the festival spirit and interactive nature alive, there will be in-depth online discussions with filmmakers, subjects and Human Rights Watch researchers. This special online edition is being co-presented by the festival’s incredible cinema partners IFC Center and Film at Lincoln Center, where the 2022 New York edition will be held.

This is truly a time of change in the world. Required viewing of these inspiring films that showcase stories of survival by those impacted by inequalities feels right. So let’s dive in to some amazing options.

While all films are incredible achievements, here are a few to keep on your radar:

“A Once and Future Peace”

From director and editor Eric Daniel Metzgar, we gain a fascinating look at a promising restorative justice program in Seattle that has roots in the peace-circles of Indigenous groups with the hope of helping young people who are facing time behind bars and their families. With a justice system that is broken and the teams who have been impacted by the program intrigued, including judges and prosecutors, can a change in the process make an impact for the long haul?


Director Jennifer Redfearn shares the stories of three women who are on the cusp of rejoining their families after stays in prison. Taking place in the Midwest where the opioid epidemic has been a large factor in the growing incarceration of women, we see the heartbreaking toll that families go through when the matriarch of a family is gone and the process everyone goes through as they try to rebuild relationships.

“Daughter of a Lost Bird”

Director, Brooke Pepion Swaney paints a compelling portrait of the life of her friend, Kendra Mylnechuk Potter, who confirms her Native lineage when she finds her birth mother. Raised by a white family, Potter struggles with balancing her Native identity with the painful history that the government has executed to intentionally erase her culture. This beautifully told story takes us to the Lummi homelands in Washington State to reveal both pain and beauty.

“Bajo Fuego (Under Siege)”

When the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the office of the President Juan Manuel Santos signed the Colombia peace deal in late 2016, there was anticipation that the 52 years of armed conflict may be over. Director Sjoerd van Grootheest and co-director Irene Velez-Torres follow farmers who grow coca in the area of Cauca. New armed groups arise and peace does not follow for these farmers who destroyed their own crops as part of a war against drugs. As their meager incomes dwindle and promises aren’t kept, they join together to try to protect their livelihoods.


Director Ashley O’Shay’s shares the stories of two fierce activist leaders in Chicago after two black Chicagoans are killed by police. With an insider’s view of the Movement for Black Lives calls for justice, we learn why the leaders, Bella and Janae have the strength and conviction to fight for public safety that isn’t necessarily based on police. This timely documentary sheds a light on what it is to be female, black and queer in the US right now.

The diverse array of film and the juxtaposition of the current climate of change across the world intertwine to give film lovers lots of food for thought and inspiration for action.

Tickets for each film are $9 and there is a film festival pass for $70 which will give you access to all the films being shown. For tickets and more information about NY’s HRWFF digital edition, please visit:

Photos Courtesy of HRWFF.


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