Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2020

Thursday, June 11 - Saturday, June 20, 2020

For 2020, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival presents its first full digital edition. Co-presented by IFC Center, one of the festival’s long-time cinema venue partners, HRWFF will again feature in-depth online discussions with filmmakers, film subjects, and Human Rights Watch researchers.

Available to screen across the US, the 11 films in this year’s festival are truly global in scope, and present an overriding message of hope, from reform of the criminal justice system in the U.S. to the fight for reproductive rights in Ireland and the reframing of long-suppressed yet ever-powerful indigenous voices in Peru and North America. The Festival is excited to share films that reflect a resounding global rallying cry: The will of the people shall not be ignored. See below for the complete program.

Tickets are $9 for the general public, $8 for IFC Center members. A festival pass, good for all 11 films in the lineup, is available for $70. Access to screenings will be available during the film festival dates of June 11-20, 2020. Audiences also have the opportunity to join free, live online Q&A’s with the filmmakers, Human Rights Watch experts and special guests.

To purchase tickets, for film and Q&A details, and to access program updates, click the individual film titles below or visit .

The festival plans to return to IFC Center in 2021 and beyond.


Belly of the Beast — Opening Night

Dir. Erika Cohn, USA, 2020, documentary, 82 min.

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Thursday, June 11, 8pm (EDT)

When a courageous young woman and a radical lawyer discover a pattern of illegal involuntary sterilizations in California’s women’s prison system, they take to the courtroom to wage a near-impossible battle against the Department of Corrections.


The 8th

Dir. Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle, USA/Ireland, 2020, documentary, 94 min.

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Friday, June 19, 7pm (EDT)

Capturing a crucial moment for women’s rights, The 8th tells the incredible story of how the Republic of Ireland overturned one of the world’s most restrictive laws on abortion.


Coded Bias

Dir. Shalini Kantayya, USA/UK/China/South Africa, 2020, documentary, 85 min.

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Friday, June 12, 8pm (EDT)

When MIT Media Lab researcher Joy Buolamwini discovers that most facial-recognition software misidentifies women and darker-skinned faces, as a woman of color working in a field dominated by white males, she is compelled to investigate further. Official Selection, Sundance Film Festival


Down A Dark Stairwell
Dir. Ursula Liang, USA, 2020, documentary, 83 min. In English, Cantonese and Mandarin with English subtitles

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Wednesday, June 17, 8pm (EDT)

When a Chinese-American police officer kills an innocent, unarmed black man in an unlit stairwell of a New York City housing project on November 20, 2014, communities across the city erupt with demands for legal accountability.


From Here

Dir. Christina Antonakos-Wallace, USA, 2020, documentary, 89 min. In English, German, Spanish, Punjabi, Romani, Vietnamese with English subtitles

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Sunday, June 14, 8pm (EDT)

From Here is a hopeful story of Tania, Sonny, Miman, and Akim – artists and activists based in Berlin and New York whose lives and futures hang in the balance of immigration and integration debates.


Gather — Closing Night

Dir. Sanjay Rawall, USA, 2020, documentary, 74 min.

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Saturday, June 20, 8pm (EDT)

Gather celebrates the fruits of the indigenous food sovereignty movement, profiling innovative changemakers in Native American tribes across North America reclaiming their identities after centuries of physical and cultural genocide.


I Am Samuel

Dir. Peter Murimi, Kenya/Canada/UK/USA, 2020, documentary, 69 min. In Swahili, English, Luhya with English subtitles

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Sunday, June 14, 3:30pm (EDT)

Samuel grew up on a farm in the Kenyan countryside, where tradition is valued above all else. He moves to Nairobi in search of a new life, where he finds belonging in a community of fellow queer men. Filmed over five years, I Am Samuel is an intimate portrait of a Kenyan man balancing pressures of family loyalty, love and safety while questioning the concept of conflicting identities.



Dir. Claudia Sparrow, USA/Peru, 2019, documentary, 88 min. In English, Spanish with English subtitles

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Tuesday, June 16, 8pm (EDT)

Maxima tells the incredible story of 2016 environmental Goldman Prize winner Máxima Acuña and her family. The Acuñas rely solely on the environment for their livelihood, but their land sits directly in the path of a multi-billion-dollar project run by one of the world’s largest gold-mining corporations. Winner Audience Award for a Feature Film, Hot Docs


Radio Silence

Dir. Juliana Fanjul, Switzerland/Mexico, 2019, documentary, 79 min. In Spanish with English subtitles

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Saturday, June 14, 4pm (EDT)

To millions of people in Mexico, the incorruptible journalist and news anchor Carmen Aristegui is regarded as the trusted alternative voice to official government spin, fighting daily against deliberate disinformation spread through news sources, government corruption, and the related drugs trade.



Dir. Mira Jargil, Denmark/Sweden, 2020, documentary, 78 min. In English, Danish, Arabic with English subtitles

Live online Q&A with filmmaker and guests on Saturday, June 20, 3:30pm (EDT)

This is a story of love across borders, and the compromises a family must make when it is torn apart by circumstances beyond its control.


Welcome to Chechnya

David France, USA, 2020, documentary, 107 min. In English, Russian with English subtitles

Live online Q&A on Saturday, June 13, 8pm (EDT) with filmmaker David France, author, journalist, & columnist at The New Yorker Masha Gessen, and other guests

This searing documentary, directed by acclaimed writer and Oscar®-nominated director David France (How to Survive a Plague, The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson), shadows a group of brave activists risking their lives to confront the ongoing anti-LGBTQ campaign in the Russian republic of Chechnya. Courtesy of HBO Documentary Films.  Winner, U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing, Sundance Film Festival


Human Rights Watch does not want the cost of entry to these films to be a barrier for participation in these events, so the festival has set aside a limited number of tickets per film, available on a first-come-first-served basis. If the price of buying a ticket to this film would prevent you from participating, please email and the festival will send you a free ticket code, valid while supplies last. For anyone that purchases a ticket, HRWFF appreciates your support. Your ticket purchase enables HRWFF to make tickets free for those who might otherwise be unable to watch and allows the festival to support the filmmakers for sharing their work, as well as cover the costs of hosting the films online.