Human Rights Watch to Launch Virtual Film Festival

Human Rights Watch to Launch Virtual Film Festival

Human Rights Watch is set to present its annual documentary film festival in a new, digital form. Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, the group’s 2020 festival will be virtual-only, utilising online features to supplement the traditional festival experience.

The event will feature in-depth online discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, and Human Rights Watch researchers. Their conversations will focus on how communities worldwide are struggling to cope with the ongoing pandemic crisis.

Human Rights Watch

John Biaggi, Director of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, says: “At a time when the world is experiencing a profound shared adversity, it is particularly heartening to witness the brave individuals and strong communities in the 11 films in this year’s program. They overcome adversity in so many remarkable and moving ways to show us all how struggle can create positive and powerful change for humanity.”

The festival will continue to cooperate with long-time cinema venue partners Film at Lincoln Center and IFC Center, with plans to return to its partner venues once in-person gatherings are deemed safe.


The scheduled programming of the 2020 Human Rights Watch Film Festival are as follows:

The 8th, Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle, USA/Ireland

Belly of the Beast (Opening Night), Erika Cohn, USA

Coded Bias, Shalini Kantayya, USA/UK/China/South Africa

Down a Dark Stairwell, Ursula Liang, USA

From Here, Christina Antonakos-Wallace, USA

Gather (Closing Night), Sanjay Rawal, USA

I Am Samuel, Peter Murimi, Kenya/Canada/UK/USA

Maxima, Claudia Sparrow, USA

Radio Silence, Juliana Fanjul, Switzerland/Mexico

Reunited, Mira Jargil, Denmark/Sweden

Welcome to Chechnya, David France, USA


Access passes for the festival’s online content are currently available for purchase. Sales begin on May 14th, with tickets available for a particular event, or the entire festival as a whole. A limited number of tickets are available for each film, to mitigate the risks of high server traffic.

Ticket prices are as follows: $9 individual ticket (public), $8 individual ticket for members of Film at Lincoln Center, Human Rights Watch Film Festival and IFC Center members, or $70 for a festival pass.

Audience participation

Audience will also be able to participate in the discussion alongside filmmakers, Human Rights Watch experts, and special guests. For details please visit

Members of the media may request advance press screeners by contacting [email protected].

The Statements

Dennis Lim, Director of Programming for Film at Lincoln Center and the New York Film Festival, states: “Film at Lincoln Center is proud to continue its long partnership with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. This annual showcase has always reminded us of the power of cinema to make a difference, which makes this digital edition all the more essential in these challenging times.”

John Vanco, Senior Vice President and General Manager of IFC Center, adds: “IFC Center is honored to continue working with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival as the festival adapts to our new reality. Their mission of providing a showcase for important and inspiring films remains as vital as ever.”

The Principles

The 11 films slated to screen at this digital event are spanning the globe in terms of origin, tackling a variety of topics that range from reform of the US criminal justice system to Ireland’s fight for reproductive rights, to the reframing of long-oppressed indigenous voices in Peru and North America. Three main principles are set to guide this year’s festival and its film selections: Investigate, Expose, and Change.