Film Series:
Human Rights Watch International Film Festival


January 17-20 at the Peabody Essex Museum


Morse Auditorium, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem
East India Square, Salem, MA 01970

Salem, Mass.
—The Peabody Essex Museum, the MFA Film Program, and Human Rights Watch are proud to present the 8th annual Boston Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, January 17-20. The 2008 film series shines a spotlight on the brave individuals facing war, violence, gender inequalities, and judicial barriers taking place around the world. Presenting films from both new and established international filmmakers, this year's festival represents a captivating and eclectic collection of international contemporary cinema from Iraq, Chad, Denmark, Israel, and Nigeria.

The Peabody Essex Museum opens its portion of the Festival screenings on Thursday, Jan. 17, with The Devil Came on Horseback, a gripping film about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, at 8 p.m. On Saturday, Jan. 19, the Peabody Essex Museum continues the Festival with screenings of Sari's Mother at 1 p.m., Enemies of Happiness at 1:30 p.m., Election Day at 3 p.m., and Strange Culture at 5:30 p.m. The Festival at the Peabody Essex Museum concludes on Sunday, Jan. 20, with the screening of At the Green Line at 1:30 p.m. and Suffering and Smiling at 3 p.m.

The Peabody Essex Museum is the only venue to screen Sari's Mother, Enemies of Happiness, Election Day, and At the Green Line during the Festival.

Please note that representatives from the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur will be available for questions and discussion following the screening of The Devil Came on Horseback on Jan. 17.

Images are available.

About the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival

Human Rights Watch's International Film Festival has become a leading venue for distinguished fiction, documentary and animated films and videos with a distinctive human rights theme. The works we feature 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, we do not bar any films on the basis of a particular point of view.

Ticketing Information

Film tickets are included with admission to the Peabody Essex Museum. The Devil Came on Horseback and Strange Culture are FREE. General museum admission: Adults $13; seniors $11; students $9. Members, youth 16 and under, and residents of Salem enjoy free general admission.

About the Films

The Devil Came on Horseback
Thu, Jan. 17, 7 p.m., PEM
The Devil Came on Horseback
by Annie Sundberg, Ricki Stern (2006, USA/Chad, 85min. video). Unwilling to accept a desk job but desirous of "serving his country," Marine Captain Brian Steidle quits his job with the US Marine Corps and accepts a six-month post with the African Union as an unarmed military observer in the western Darfur region of Sudan. Soon after arriving in Darfur, however, Steidle realizes that things are going terribly wrong in this huge, remote province bordering Chad. Unable to intervene, Steidle uses his camera to document what some, including the US Government, have called a genocide-and which without doubt has involved what international law calls "crimes against humanity and war crimes" on a massive scale-the conflict in Darfur that has claimed at least 200,000 lives and displaced 2.5 million people since early 2003. Filmmakers Annie Sundberg and Ricki Stern's astonishing film allows us to witness Steidle's transformation from soldier to observer to witness and, finally, to activist. Steidle's journey becomes ours as the more than 1,000 photographs he took become evidence of a crisis that cannot be denied. Description adapted from the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival. Representatives from the Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur will be available for questions and discussion following the screening.

Sari's Mother
Sat, Jan. 19, 1 p.m., PEM
Sari's Mother by James Longley (Iraq, 2006, 21 minutes). This compact portrait of an Iraqi woman and her AIDS-infected son speaks volumes at a whisper.

Enemies of Happiness
Sat, Jan. 19, 1:30 p.m., PEM
Enemies of Happiness by Eva Mulvad, co-directed by Anja Al-Erhayem, (Denmark, 2006, 58 minutes). Malalai Joya became one of Afghanistan's most infamous women in 2003 when she challenged the power of warlords in the country's new government. In English, Farsi and Pashto with English subtitles.

Election Day
Sat, Jan. 19, 3 p.m., PEM
Election Day by Katy Chevigny (USA, 2007, 84 minutes). On Election Day 2004, a woman in Shaker Heights, Ohio, waits for hours in the rain with her infant child, only to discover her name is not on the voter list. In New York City, a 50-year-old ex- felon is able to vote for the first time, but will his affidavit ballot be counted?

Strange Culture
Sat, Jan. 19, 5:30 p.m., PEM
Strange Culture by Lynn Hershman Leeson (2007, 75 min. video). Strange Culture chronicles the breathtaking miscarriage of justice that has befallen Steve Kurtz, a college professor, artist, and member of the politically charged art and theater collective Critical Art Ensemble. In 2004 as Kurtz was preparing an interactive exhibition for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art that would have allowed participants to test food labeled "organic" for the presence of genetically modified organisms, his wife tragically died from heart failure. Distraught, Kurtz called 911, but when the police arrived and saw the scientific materials for the exhibition-all legally purchased-they called the FBI. Dozens of agents in haz-mat suits searched his home, impounded his computers, books, cat, and even his wife's body, and held Kurtz as a suspected bio-terrorist. Three years later, he faces up to 20 years in prison on mail and wire fraud charges relating to his acquisition of materials for the art exhibit. Filmmaker Lynn Hershman Leeson creatively enlists actors Thomas Jay Ryan, Tilda Swinton, Josh Kornbluth, and Peter Coyote to dramatize part of the story that Kurtz cannot legally discuss, while skillfully interweaving news footage, animation, testimonials, and footage of Kurtz himself-creating a fascinating, highly provocative documentary about post-9/11 paranoia and the risks artists face when their work questions government policies. Description adapted from the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.

At the Green Line
Sun, Jan. 20, 1:30 p.m., PEM
At the Green Line by Jesse Atlas (Israel, 2005, 53 minutes). At the Green Line profiles several Courage to Refuse ex- soldiers as well as Israeli army reservists and shows how each side wrestles with the effectiveness and morality of their choices.

Suffering and Smiling

Sun, Jan. 20, 3 p.m., PEM
Suffering and Smiling by Dan Ollman (Nigeria/US, 2007, 65 min., video). Focusing on the legendary African singer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti and his son Femi, Suffering and Smiling depicts the impact of their politically charged music. Following Nigeria's independence in 1960, Fela used his songs to speak out against the country's corrupt leaders. Since independence the military and political elite have enriched themselves by allowing Nigeria's oil and natural resources to be stripped by multinational corporations with little benefit to ordinary Nigerians. Fela gave voice to Nigeria's disenfranchised underclass and sang of a free and united Africa. Upon his death in 1997, Femi has continued his father's legacy. Equally passionate and charismatic, he sings about the dire situation in his country, asks why the world's most resource-rich continent has the poorest people, and struggles to maintain a vision of better days ahead for the common people of Nigeria. In English and Yoruba with English subtitles. Description adapted from the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.

The media sponsor for the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival is The Boston Phoenix.


PR Contacts:

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

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