Opening: Human Rights Watch at TIFF Bell Lightbox
Evil tyrants, cruel teens and human traffickers are among the bad guys in the unwelcome spotlight of TIFF's annual Human Rights Watch film series. The fest, which starts today and runs until March 8 at the Bell Lightbox, assembles nine documentaries from around the world that showcase humanity at its darkest. Here are four that caught our eye.
Screens Feb. 29 at 8 p.m. Directed by Fernand Melgar, 103 mins (in French).
The fest kicks off with a doc from the last place you'd expect to be on the human-rights radar: Switzerland. Apparently, the Swiss have a habit of arranging ‟special flights” to forcibly turf out illegal immigrants from the land of cheese and chocolate, but not before keeping them locked up for up to two years. Filmmaker Fernand Melgar ventures inside the Frambois detention centre near Geneva to paint a portrait of the boredom, tension and unlikely friendships that build among the inmates and wardens. Deportation notices arrive suddenly, with no possibility of appeal, and the illegals are forced back to countries they may not have lived in for decades.
Screens Fri. March 2 at 8 p.m. Directed by Lee Hirsch, 98 mins.
There's currently a right kerfuffle going on south of the border over the R-rating assigned to this shocking doc on school-ground bullying. It seems the stories of emotional and physical violence some teens are subjected to weren't the problem, but the repeated use of curse words was beyond the pale for the ratings board in the U.S. There’s a petition doing the rounds demanding it gets the PG-13 rating that will bring this doc from Sundance and Emmy-award-winning director Lee Hirsch to wider audiences. And it deserves to be seen. Hirsch spent a year following some of the five million American kids who are bullied every year and who cling to the desperate hope that “it will get better.”
Screens Sun. March 2 at 8 p.m. Directed by Nic Dunlop, Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern, 70 mins.
Myo Myint Cho was once a soldier in the Burmese army, one of the thousands that propped up the country’s brutal military junta for 50 years. After losing a leg to a landmine, Myo Myint became a pro-democracy activist, calling for the end of a government reviled around the world for its human-rights abuses. He was thrown in jail after taking to the streets to protest General Ne Win’s rather crazy decision to devalue the country’s currency on the advice of an astrologer. After a decade Myo Myint was released from jail and fled to Thailand, from where he tells his story in this HBO doc.
Screens Tues. March 6 at 8 p.m. Directed by Mimi Chakarova, 73 mins.
Bulgarian photojournalist Mimi Chakarova spent eight-years documenting sex trafficking in Europe. In her film she interviews women who were bought and sold like cattle in Eastern Europe and shipped to brothels in the west and the Middle East. Chakarova filmed undercover and the result is a stark and haunting doc.
Human Rights Watch 2012 runs to March 8 at TIFF Bell Lightbox, 350 King St. W., 416-599-8433.