Womens stories at Human Rights Watch Film Festival


The Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns to London from 9-18 March, featuring a powerful selection of films, including many made by and about women. Danae Elon explores the complicated relationship she has with her homeland in P.S: Jerusalem and Hooligan Sparrow sees director Nanfu Wang follow Chinese dissident artist Ye Haiyan as she battles government harassment in China. Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Academy Award nominated debut drama Mustang is the story of five rebellious sisters growing up in Turkey, and marking 5 years since the Arab Spring uprisingsThe Trials of Spring is a selection of shorts looking at women’s stories from across the Middle East. Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s film, Sonita, about a feisty teenage Afghan rapper whose family want to sell her into marriage, completes a remarkable line-up of work by women at the festival, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary in London.

Opening Night film, Thu 10 March, Curzon Soho
Hooligan Sparrow (UK Premiere)
Director Nanfu Wang and Sophie Richardson, China Director for HRW, will give an extended Q&A following the screening

 “…my experience making a documentary about human rights in China gave me a sense of fear that I think Westerners have no frame of reference for.” – Nanfu Wang


From the producers of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, comes director Nanfu Wang’s film about maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) following her band of colleagues across southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls sexually abused by their principal. Often using hidden cameras, even Wang herself comes under government surveillance as Sparrow and the group face interrogation, harassment, and even imprisonment. Marked as an enemy of the state, Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers, continues to champion the girls and women’s rights by arming herself with the power and reach of social media.


Fri 11 March, Barbican

Trials of Spring – A Shorts Selection
Director/Executive Producer Gini Reticker will give an extended Q&A following the screenings

The Trials of Spring is a selection of shorts that look at women from Bahrain, Libya, Syria and Yemen who were on the front lines of the Arab Spring uprisings five years ago, and took to the streets beside men, their signs held high. But as the jubilation of revolution gave way to the convoluted process of governing – and often the chaos and blood of war – women have disappeared from the mainstream story.


The Trials of Spring is created by Oscar© Nominated Gini Reticker and Abigail Disney, the team behind the award-winning documentary, Pray the Devil Back to Hell, and Executive Producers of the celebrated PBS special series, Women, War & Peace.


Fri 11 March, Ritzy

Sat 12 March, Curzon Soho

Tue 15 March, Barbican

Sonita (UK Premiere)

Director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami and Sonita wlll give an extended Q&A following the screenings

“The prices for girls are up?! We don’t have price tags like sheep!” – Sonita
Iranian filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s highly personal, and occasionally provocative film took 3 years to make and swept the Audience Award at this year’s IDFA festival and became a double winner at Sundance 2016. Sonita is an 18-year-old female, an undocumented Afghan illegal immigrant living in the poor suburbs of Tehran. She is a feisty, spirited young woman who fights to live the way she wants – as an artist, singer and musician – in spite of all the obstacles she confronts in Iran and her conservative patriarchal family. In harsh contrast to her goal is the plan, strongly advanced by her mother, to make her a bride and sell her to a new family for $9.000. When asked about the biggest challenge of making the film Rokhsareh Maghami answered, “Whether I should interfere in Sonita’s life or not. If I did, what would happen to the authenticity of my movie?”
Sat 12 March, Barbican

Mon 14 March, Picturehouse Central

P.S. Jerusalem (UK Premiere)

Director Danae Elon will attend and will give an extended Q&A following the screenings
“Our personal (life) was always political” – Danae Elon


Prompted by the death of her father – esteemed Israeli academic and critic, Amos Elon – Elon, her husband Philip and their children relocate to Jerusalem in search of answers, insight and not a little resolution to her love/hate relationship with the country of her birth. The place she once saw as ‘home’ challenges her relationship with her husband and children and it is through the prism of the family unit that the story exposes a deep, complex and painful portrait of Jerusalem today.


Danae Elon’s latest film, P.S. Jerusalem, builds on the award-winning success of her previous work, Another Road Home, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. A graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, in 2009 Danae was the recipient of the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in Film.



Closing Night film, Fri 18 Mar Picturehouse Central

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with award winning Turkish author, Elif Shafak and Heather Barr, senior researcher, Women’s Rights division, Human Rights Watch.

Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven had a very cosmopolitan upbringing, between France, Turkey and the United States. A compulsive cinephile, she studied directing in Paris and, after several award winning shorts, comes the Academy Award nominated Mustang. Lale and her four sisters return home from school, innocently playing with a group of boys. The supposed debauchery of their games causes a scandal with unforeseen consequences and the family home progressively transforms into a prison. The five sisters, driven by the same desire for freedom, rebel against the limitations imposed upon them, and Mustang a powerful, female take on contemporary Turkey.

News Editor

Author: News Editor

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