Camera's eye: human rights

Everyone should be entitled to equal opportunities, to the right to love and to achieve their dreams. Here are six films at Eye on Film, which will take you to different corners of the world to people fighting for love and life. It will also take you to places where it will make you question what is right and wrong, and the meaning of the word “justice”.


1. They Call Us Monsters ( 2016, Ben Lear, United States)

In a dark corner of the American legal system, children aged between 14 and 17 face life sentences in adult prisons for committing violent crimes. Filmed in Sylmar Juvenile Hall just north of LA, Lear’s debut film follows boys as they await adult trial. Having been charged with serious violent offences, they’re incarcerated away from other minors. The director: “I had lots of half-baked notions of good and evil, right and wrong, that criminals should be locked up and punished forever. But this experience saw my views reshape, growing much more nuanced. I wanted to share that evolution with an audience.”


2. Starless dreams (2016, Mehrdad Oskouei, Iran)

For seven years, director Mehrdad Oskouei sought permission from the Iranian authorities to allow him to film an imprisoned population, otherwise hidden from the public eye. The result is an incredibly personal documentary about the dreams, nightmares, and hopes of the women in this all-female facility. The film offers a unique perspective from the director, who is also a cultural ambassador for the United Nation’s humanitarian committee UCHA. The film is a winner of the Amnesty International Film Prize at the 2016 Berlinale.


3. Rara (2016, Pepa San Marten, Chile-Argentina)

The script, co-written by Chilean director Alicia Scherson, is based on true events: the 2004 loss of custody by a Chilean judge of her children because of her sexual orientation. Sara is an ordinary girl, her life is just like that of any other early adolescent, the only exception being that her mother’s new partner is a woman and the family is going through a trial, which places them under increasing scrutiny. Told with humour and a bittersweet touch, the film is a must-see, being the winner of the Grand Prix of the Generation Kplus International Jury in Berlinale for 2016.


4. Valderama (2016, Abbas Amini, Iran)

15-year-old “Valderama”, so called by the townsfolk for his long curly hair, is trying to obtain an ID card which he’s never been able to have. In the vastness of Tehran, he fights to obtain not only love and shelter, but also the personal recognition an ID card brings. The film illustrates the deprivation of basic social rights through not having an ID, the phenomenon of child labourers and their exclusion from the educational system. What do you do when officially you do not exist?


5.  The Lagoon (2016, Aaron Schock, Mexico)

The Maya people are a group of Indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. They inhabit southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras. Twelve-year-old Yu’uk and his younger brother Jose have grown up in the deep, lush rainforests of southern Mexico, nestled in the protective embrace of the Mayan people. The film represents a contemplation of the oppression of tribal Mayans still existing to this day. The film was selected at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and is now part of the Eye on Film line-up.


6. Cambridge (2016, Eldora Traykova, Bulgaria)

This is a documentary, which will take you Dolni Tsibar: a Roma village which bursts with will for knowledge and determination for success. For the period of one school year, Traykova, who is credited with more than 40 documentaries, follows the life of adults and children. The director reveals what is behind their will for education in a context where the Roma are still treated as second-class citizens and face discrimination on a daily basis. The Roma Cambridge shows us a father, angry with his twins because both of them got all A’s and one B – the lower mark could put their dream of going to college in jeopardy.


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