The 28th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York City, co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center and taking place June 9-18, will screen productions from Chile, Guatemala and Mexico, among the 21 films that compose this year's lineup.
This year's festival will screen The Grown-Ups / Los niños by Chilean director Maite Alberdi in its New York premiere; No Dress Code Required / Etiqueta no rigurosa by Mexican director Cristina Herrera Bórquez, also in its local premiere; and what's been billed as 'The Resistance Saga,' the epic trilogy of documentaries by Pamela Yates on the saga of the Mayan people of Guatemala, including When the Mountains Tremble (1984), Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2001), and the latest installment, 500 Years: Life in Resistance (2017). The festival will also host the world premiere of Home Truth, co-directed by Latina filmmaker Katia Maguire.
In The Grown-Ups director Alberdi follows a group of forty-something classmates who for almost their entire lives have grown up together and are reaching the age of 50 with varying degrees of frustration. Anita, Rita, Ricardo and Andrés feel that the school they attend for people with Down syndrome is confining; they long for new challenges, greater independence, and more personal space. Director Alberdi’s observational approach is warm and compassionate, allowing the characters to voice their innermost longings and aspirations.
It also perfectly captures the tragic state of limbo in which they are stuck: mature enough to want the pressures and privileges of independent adulthood, yet emotionally and financially ill-equipped to pursue them alone—and ultimately failed by a system that treats them as homogeneously disabled rather than as individuals. Their engaging story is a mixture of heartache and humor, and hope for greater understanding of people with Down syndrome, or anyone whose perceptions and abilities are different from “the norm.”
In No Dress Code Required, Víctor and Fernando, a devoted, unassuming couple from Mexicali, Mexico, find themselves in the center of a legal firestorm over their desire to get married. Weighing all their options, the pair opts to stay in their hometown of Mexicali and fight for their legal rights. With the help of two committed attorneys, Víctor and Fernando withstand a seemingly interminable series of bizarre hurdles and bureaucratic nitpicking with grace and dignity. No Dress Code Required is a rallying cry for equality, a testament to the power of ordinary people to become agents of change, and above all, an unforgettable love story that touches the heart and stirs the conscience.
'The Resistance Saga' is a cinematic project designed to galvanize audiences to fight back when society is faced with authoritarianism and demagogues, and celebrate the role that the arts can play in creating, strengthening, and communicating narratives of nonviolent resistance. In so many ways, indigenous peoples throughout the Americas have set the example of long-term courageous and strategic resistance against daunting odds, with a powerful example being the saga of the Mayan people as depicted in director Pamela Yates’ films When the Mountains Tremble, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator and the latest installment, 500 Years: Life in Resistance.
All three films of the Guatemalan trilogy have premiered at the Sundance Film Festival during the past 35 years. When the Mountains Tremble (1984) introduced indigenous rights leader Rigoberta Menchú as the storyteller in her role to expose repression during Guatemala’s brutal armed conflict. Winner of the Special Jury Award at Sundance, the film was seen worldwide and translated into 10 languages. It helped put Menchú on the world stage and 10 years later she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Yates’ sequel, Granito: How to Nail a Dictator (2011) is a political thriller detailing international efforts to build a genocide case against Guatemalan General Efraín Ríos Montt.
The case included outtakes from When the Mountains Tremble as forensic evidence in the prosecution of Montt. The third film, 500 Years: Life in Resistance (2017), picks up where Granito leaves off, providing inside access to the first trial in the history of the Americas to prosecute the genocide of indigenous people. Driven by universal themes of justice, power, and corruption, the film provides a platform for the majority indigenous Mayan population, which is now poised to reimagine their society.
Shot over the course of nine years, Home Truth chronicles one family’s incredible pursuit of justice, shedding light on how our society responds to domestic violence and how the trauma from domestic violence can linger through generations. In 1999, Colorado mother Jessica Gonzales experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when her three young daughters were killed after being abducted by their father in violation of a domestic violence restraining order. Devastated, Jessica sued her local police department for failing to adequately enforce her restraining order despite her repeated calls for help that night. Determined to make sure her daughters did not die in vain, Jessica pursues her case to the US Supreme Court and an international human rights tribunal, seeking to strengthen legal rights for domestic violence victims. Meanwhile, her relationship with her one surviving child, her son Jessie, suffers, as he struggles with the tragedy in his own way.