SALEM, Mass.--The Peabody Essex Museum, the MFA Film Program, and Human Rights Watch, are proud to present the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, January 17-22. This year’s program includes 15 documentaries from countries around the globe and four feature films from Tibet, India, Lebanon, and Argentina.

The Peabody Essex Museum opens its portion of Festival screenings on Saturday, Jan. 20, with a series of six stellar films and documentaries. Total Denial, a documentary about the lawsuit of Burmese villagers against U.S. oil giants, starts off the PEM screenings at 1 p.m. It is followed by  Men on the Edge - Fishermen’s Diary at noon, and Rosita at 5 p.m. The Saturday screenings close with The Refugee All Stars at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, Jan. 21, the museum screens two more captivating films:Rain in a Dry Land at 1 p.m. and Amu at 3 p.m. PEM is the only venue to screen Total Denial, The Refugee All Stars, and Rain in a Dry Land during the Festival.

Please note: Award-winning filmmaker Janet Goldwater will be available for questions and discussion following the screening of her film, Rosita, on Jan. 20.

About the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival

Human Rights Watch International Film Festival has become a leading venue for distinguished fiction, documentary and animated films and videos with a distinctive human rights theme. Works featured help to put a human face on threats to individual freedom and dignity, and celebrate the power of the human spirit and intellect to prevail. In selecting films for the festival, Human Rights Watch concentrates equally on artistic merit and human rights content. Each year, the festival's programming committee screens more than 500 films and videos to create a program that represents a range of countries and issues. Though the festival rules out films that contain unacceptable inaccuracies of fact, no films are barred on the basis of a particular point of view.

Ticketing Information

PEM: Tickets are included with museum admission. Reservations suggested. General museum admission: Adults $13; seniors $11; students $9. Members, youth 16 and under, and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission. For more information visit, or call 978-745-9500 ext. 3011.

Please note: Evening screenings of Rosita (Saturday, Jan. 20, at 5 p.m.) and The Refugee All Stars (Saturday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.) are free and open to the public – museum admission not required.

All films screened in Morse Auditorium

Film Descriptions

Total Denial
Sat, Jan 20, 1 pm PEM
Total Denial by Milena Kaneva (Bulgaria/Italy, 2006, 65 min.) Total Denial is the inspiring story of 15 villagers from the jungles of Burma whose quest for justice eventually leads them to bring a human rights-abuse lawsuit against two U.S. oil giants. For five years, producer/director Milena Kaneva collected accounts from Burmese villagers of forced labor, relocation of villages, rape and murder associated with construction of the Yadana pipeline. Her “guide” was Ka Hsaw Wa, described by Kerry Kennedy in her book Speak Truth to Power as “a man of incredible courage and commitment, with the firm belief that one man can make a difference. In English, Karena and Burmese with English subtitles

Men on the Edge
Sat, Jan 20, 3 pm PEM
Men on the Edge by Avner Faingulernt and Macabit Abramzon (2005, 90 min.). On the border between Gaza and Israel lies an isolated and abandoned beach where, against all odds, Israeli and Palestinian fishermen lived and worked together from 1999 to 2003. The Palestinians taught the Israelis ancient fishing techniques and the Israelis, by their presence, enabled the Palestinians to continue fishing in Israeli waters. The film intimately and beautifully documents these four crucial years in the lives of an eclectic group of men from warring cultures, brought together by their shared work and the natural threats they face each day in the open sea. Nature’s harshness proves less of an obstacle to their work than the pressures of politics surrounding their enclave. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.

Sat, Jan 20, 5 pm PEM
Rosita by Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater (US/Nicaragua, 2005, 90 min.). When a nine year-old Nicaraguan girl becomes pregnant as a result of rape, her parents—illiterate campesinos working in Costa Rica—seek a legal “therapeutic” abortion to save their only child’s life. Rosa’s parents find themselves forced into battle with two governments, the medical establishment, and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Award-winning filmmakers Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater expose the machinations of politicians, doctors, and clergymen, but shield the young protagonist from the camera. Yet Rosa is at the heart of the film, revealing herself through her own words and drawings. In Spanish and English with English subtitles. Preceded by Fourteen by Nicole Barnette (2006, 7 min.) in which a girl’s 14th birthday is revealed to be devastatingly memorable. Award-winning filmmaker Janet Goldwater will be available for questions and discussion following the screening of her film, Rosita.

The Refugee All Stars
Sat, Jan 20, 7 pm PEM
The Refugee All Stars by Zach Niles and Banker White (2005, 78 min.). For three years, two filmmakers from San Francisco followed a group of Sierra Leonian refugees as they turned to music in the face of severe adversity: murder, exile, and psychological trauma. “Easily the film’s most powerful segment shows the conflicting emotions registering on the faces of the musicians during their homecoming, as they ride through the devastated streets of Freetown. The scene overshadows the film’s upbeat ending in which the band goes into a recording studio to make a successful album” (The Globe and Mail)

Rain in a Dry Land
Sun, Jan 21, 1 pm PEM
Rain in a Dry Land by Anne Makepeace (USA/Kenya, 2006, 83 min) In 2004, 13,000 Somali Bantu refugees realized their dream of coming to America. They now live in 50 cities across the country and are part of the largest group from a single African community to settle in the United States at one time. Rain in a Dry Land chronicles two years in the lives of two extended families as they leave a 200-year legacy of oppression in Africa to face new challenges in a new land. Both of these war-torn families find ways to survive and create a safe haven in America. In English, Mai Mai and Somali with English subtitles

Sun, Jan 21, 3 pm PEM
Amu by Shonali Bose (India, 2006, 106 min.). Amu begins with the everyday dilemmas of a young Indian-American, Kaju, returning to the “foreignness” of her homeland. The film gathers a potent political charge as Kaju begins to realizes how her own privileged life in America was born out of communal violence in India, particularly the massacre of four thousand Sikhs after Prime Minister Gandhi was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards in 1984. Writer-director Shonali Bose was a student in Delhi during those days, and wrote down the stories of survivors she met in relief camps, giving Amu’s flashback scenes the impact of first-hand experience. The film makes a strong case that the massacres were not spontaneous, and depicts corrupt politicians and police who went unpunished. Kaju’s questions produce difficult answers that force her to face the truth of India's history and her own. In English, Bengali, Hindi, and Punjabi with English subtitles.


PR Contacts:

Whitney Van Dyke  -  Director of Communications  -  978-542-1828  -

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