There are seven movies contained on the Human Rights Watch DVD box set, out July 21st from First Run Features. I have chosen to review each of the seven seperately because I think many of them are terrific films that deserve their own reviews, and all of them are worthy efforts in terms of furthering human rights around the world. A quick recap:
Dangerous Living: Coming Out in the Developing World (4/10): A documentary about gays and lesbians who are oppressed far worse in their native countries than anyone could imagine in North America. The thing is, I get it. It’s worse in Iran than it is in the U.S. But I need more than just a list of abuses that I could find online.
Silent Waters (8/10): A powerful film about a Pakistani Muslim woman whose past comes back to haunt her when her son gets caught up with a group of Islamic fundamentalist nutjobs. Not terribly well made, but it has a lot of heart.
S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (10/10): A small but very ambitious documentary surrounding the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the late 70s. A genocide that claimed the lives of 2 million people, a film maker brings the victims of the toruture and genocide together with the perpetrators of the same events at the place where it all took place. A magnificent film.
The Devil’s Miner (9/10): A remarkable, charming and heartbreaking film about a 14-year old who has worked in the mines of Bolivia since he was ten, and his 12-year-old brother who is joining him in the mines for the first time. Miners work themselves to death searching for silver that may no longer be there at all, and pray to the devil since they believe that it must be he that controls the mines. A terrific movie.
Dreaming Lhasa (8/10): A passionate, moving story about Tibetan exiles living in Dharamsala, India. An American film maker goes to India to learn more about her roots and the freedom fighters and the Chinese occupation of her homeland, and end up on a journey of revelation and self-discovery. Mostly cast with non-actors, Dreaming Lhasa has a uniquely genuine feel to it.
Roses in December (5/10): This is the story of Jean Donovan, a lay missionary who was murdered in El Salvador along with three nuns by military police in 1980. The U.S. government tried very hard to ignore the whole thing. But instead of exploring any of the reasons behind the murder, or the reasons behind the United States platform of non-involvement, the film is an hour-long biography of Jean Donovan. She was a remarkable and interesting woman, to be sure, but I wanted to know more than just that she rode a motorcycle.
The Camden 28 (8/10): A remarkable documentary about several priests and ministers, part of the anti-war “Catholic left” in the 1960s, who broke into a draft office to destroy draft cards in an act of protest against the Vietnam war. What ensued was a trial that changed protests, changed peoples’ perception of the war, and even changed the laws of the United States.