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Why Human Rights Movies Matter

14 March 2017

It is the 15th anniversary of “Festival du film et forum international sur les droits humains” (FIFDH), the annual Human Rights Film Festival taking place in Geneva. A film festival that zooms in on the many important documentaries, fictional and artistic films that addresses the theme of human rights. Important films that everyone should watch.
AFFICHE2017_A4_EN_WEBThe festival programme bursts with films celebrating human rights activists, and illuminates the important work that individuals, organisations and communities do in order to secure human rights and each person’s right to exist. Those who defend human rights often take immense risks. To stand up against oppression, destruction, violence and terror is dangerous. But it might change the world. Because of numerous brave activists, dictatorships and oppressive regimes have been challenged, minorities have been given the chance to exist and live their lives in peace, women have achieved the right to vote etc. So in spite of the danger and massive risks which activists have faced throughout the history and still face all over the world, the reward is big and activism has the potential to change the world. To make the world a better place.

War films or human rights films?

What is important to note is that the films shown at the festival is not just films about war and suffering. It is films about human rights. War films often mainly show how humans can be morbid and evil to each other. They often just show what happened during a specific conflict. Human rights films on the other hand, invite you to take a stance. They show us that we need to act. To do something in relation to what we just saw portrayed in the film.

As Isabelle Hattiker, FIFDH Programme Director, writes:

“To be revolutionary in 2017 is to overcome our fear, to stand our ground, letting filmmakers and artists rekindle us with a sense of wonder, creating a space for discussion and debate. To change the world in 2017, we must ask the right questions and offer a horizon of action. Why do we fight? What unites us? Where do we strive to go? How can that be achieved?”

The festival programme is filled with films that strongly oppose all violations of the entire spectrum of human rights. Many of the films name the perpetrators and make sure, that their vile actions are not forgotten. The programme is based on the notion that each human being is irreplaceable. That each human being deserves to be protected, listened to and free.

Engaging the audience, waking the activists

The FIFDH Festival is also a way to defend human rights by illuminating the very importance of human rights. The films shown at the festival show us what we can do in our own lives and communities in order to defend human rights. They thereby become both a source of inspiration and a call to action.

Watching the powerful documentaries and films leaves a mark on the viewer. The suffering, war crimes, injustices and pain cannot be unseen. But neither can the strength, humanity, bravery and empowerment. You are constantly reminded that civil resistance and activism work. That in spite of the present political trends, where the extreme right wing parties grow in all of Europe, where the President of the United States has re-enforced the “Gag Rule” and has a very dubious view on women and minorities, and where we see a backlash on several fronts when it comes to human rights, we shall not give up. We shall not give in to the hopelessness and see the challenges as too far reaching and overwhelming. Because standing up against injustice matters. Standing up for our human rights matters. Our voices matter.

As Isabelle Gattiker says:

“With the hope that one day we will be able to say: during these difficult times, we did not give up. We raised questions. We defended our fundamental values. We remained steadfast, we resisted the winds. And we were right.”

If you have seen a Human Rights Film that really made a difference in your life, then please share its title with us in the comment field below.

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WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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