With a focus on the importance of human rights at a time when they are suffering dangerous setbacks around the world, the 17th edition of the International Festival and Forum on Human Rights closed yesterday in Geneva, Switzerland, after a week of shining the spotlight on citizen engagement and resistance.
Women took centre stage this year, with more female characters among the film selection than ever before. “They are strong women, women who, despite an unsustainable context, rise up, become actors in their lives, and often act alone to make a difference” festival director Isabelle Gattiker explained.
The opening night on International Women’s Day was dedicated to women human rights defenders, beginning with a screening of On Her Shoulders, the film by Alexandria Bombach that recounts the story of 2018 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nadia Murad, who survived kidnapping and sexual slavery at the hands of ISIS. The film went on to win the Gilda Vieira de Mello prize, named for the UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello who died in Iraq during the war.
The Grand Prize of Geneva went to Delphine and Carole, a celebration of feminism and the friendship between the acclaimed, late actress Delphine Seyrig and her friend Carole Roussopoulos, with footage filmed in the 1970s.
There were special mentions for Carmen & Lola, the debut from Spanish director Arantxa Echevarria where 17-year-old gypsy Carmen meets the adventurous Lola, changing the traditional course of her life, and to Sonita by Iranian filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami, the true story of Afghan refugee Sonita who dreams of becoming a rapper but is forced into marriage instead.
The political threat to human rights was the subject of Petra Costa’s The Edge of Democracy, which charts the recent history of Brazil. A later event saw Brazilian feminist activist Ludmilla Teixeira call for the vigilance of the international community on the situation in Brazil and the mobilisation of women against populism.
The festival also devoted an evening to the issue of cyber-harassment of women journalists, and other guests included actor Forest Whitaker, web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, author Roberto Saviano who spoke by videoconference and artist Ai Weiwei.
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