Fervor and Film: 2nd Annual Human Rights Film Fest

Fervor and Film: 2nd Annual Human Rights Film Fest

The 2009 Cairo Human Rights Film Festival commences next week with screenings from December 20 through the 23.  The Festival’s screenings will be hosted at El Balad Bookstore across from the American University in Cairo’s Tahrir campus in downtown Cairo.

This year marks the 2nd annual festival organized by the Cairo office of the American Islamic Conference (AIC). Priding itself on providing a venue for artistic expressions that stand for resistance, revolution and rights, the AIC aspires to build on last year’s successes.

The initial festival did not inaugurate without controversy. After the authorities attempted to subvert its onset, the program debuted upon waters of the Nile via boat, beyond their reach of the security forces. Many media outlets praised the ingenuity of the Festival’s organizer, Bikya Masr’s Dalia Ziada, who relocated the premier to assure the program’s materialization. The coverage included TIME Magazine, who heralded Ziada as one of the torchbearers of “Islam’s Soft Revolution.”

Ziada said at the 2008 inception that “the aim of this festival … is to redefine art as a way to defend human rights, and to convey this idea to ordinary people through non-standard art.”

In lieu of that aim, the 2009 festival aspires to replicate the 2008 showing, presenting an international, varicolored collection of films and directors.  Over the course of the Festival, 12 films will be exhibited including shorts, compilations, major motion pictures, and cartoons.  Groups of films will be bonded by themes, including “Freedom Dreams”, “Rights of People”, and “Violence Against Women.”

The selection includes the Cannes Film Festival 2007 Jury Prize winning “Persepolis”, an adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel.  The film tells the story of a young girl growing up in, and often chaffing against, the Iranian Revolution.

Persepolis will not be the only film with revolutionary subject matter.  The program will feature American filmmaker Steve York’s “Orange Revolution”, a dramatic telling of the 2004 Ukrainian elections and subsequent popular resistance.

An entire day of the Festival will be devoted to stories of violence against women and will showcase Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Ezzat’s one-minute “Please Spare Our Flowers”, a film produced with Amnesty International about Female Genital Mutilation.

The same day will screen another Egyptian filmmaker’s work, Mohamed Fathallah’s “El-Nadeem Film Series on Violence Against Women”.  The series documents the physical, sexual, and mental harm perpetrated against women by way of domestic violence.

The Festival and its organizers shy not away from difficult subject matter.  Invoking narratives from Rwanda to Egypt to Belarus, 2009’s gathering again promises to provoke.

**Please note the venue and date changes for the festival