Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2021

Wednesday, May 19 - Thursday, May 27, 2021

For 2021, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival presents its second 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, this year’s program of 10 films reflects the festival’s ethos of celebrating representation, and diversity of content and perspective. The festival strives to prioritize space for identities, viewpoints, forms of expertise and experiences either silenced or marginalized in the film industry, news, and media and invite you to further engage with these critical topics during our free, in-depth, live discussions that accompany each film. See below for the complete program.

Tickets are $9 for the general public, $8 for IFC Center members. A festival pass, good for all 10 films in the lineup, is available for $70. Access to screenings will be available during the film festival dates of May 19-27, 2021. Audiences also have the opportunity to join free, live online Q&A’s with the filmmakers, Human Rights Watch experts and special guests.

Check out a special welcome letter from our Human Rights Watch Film Festival programming team.

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


Forget Me Not — Opening Night

Dir. Olivier Bernier, USA, 2021, documentary, 100min

Live online Q&A with filmmaker Olivier Bernier and guests on Wednesday, May 19, 8:30pm (EDT)

As 3-year-old Emilio is ready to start school, his family finds itself cornered in the United States’ most segregated education system – New York City public schools. They fight for their son’s right to an inclusive education – where Emilio and other children with disabilities would be taught alongside their classmates without disabilities.


200 Meters

Dir. Ameen Nayfeh, Palestine, 2020, narrative, 96min. In Arabic with English subtitles

Live online Q&A with filmmaker Ameen Nayfeh and guests on Sunday, May 23, 2pm (EDT)

Mustafa and his wife Salwa are from two Palestinian West Bank villages only 200 meters apart but split by Israel’s separation wall. One day Mustafa gets the call every parent dreads: his son has been in an accident and is in the hospital. Mustafa will do anything to reach him, and after being denied access through the checkpoint on a technicality, he embarks upon a journey to cross the border illegally.


A Once and Future Peace

Dir. Eric Daniel Metzgar, USA, 2021, documentary, 95min.

Live online Q&A with filmmaker Eric Daniel Metzgar and film participant Saroeum Phoung on Sunday, May 23, 8:30pm (EDT)

How much is our society willing to invest to truly change the trajectory of our communities for the better? In Seattle, communities are working to break the cycle of incarceration. A promising new restorative justice program based on Indigenous peace-making circles aims to bring healing to families and communities while reforming the justice system.



Dir. Jennifer Redfearn, USA, 2020, documentary, 85min.

Live online Q&A with filmmaker Jennifer Redfearn and guests on Thursday, May 30, 8:30pm (EDT)

In a midwestern US state caught between the opioid epidemic and rising incarceration of women, three unforgettable mothers – Tomika, Lydia, and Amanda – prepare to rejoin their families after years of separation.


Bajo Fuego (Under Siege)

Dirs. Sjoerd Van Grootheest & Irene Vélez-Torres, Colombia, 2020, 85min.

Live online Q&A with filmmakers Sjoerd van Grootheest & Irene Vélez-Torres and guests on Saturday, May 22, 8:30pm (EDT)

Abandoned farmers in the coca-growing region of Colombia are forced to organize and fight for a living while in a continued state of war.


Daughter of a Lost Bird  — Closing Night

Dir. Brooke Pepion Swaney, USA,  2021, 66min.

Live online Q&A with filmmaker Brooke Pepion Swaney and film participant Kendra Mylenchuk Potter. Moderated by Matika Wilbur and Adrienne Keene, hosts of podcast “All My Relations” on Wednesday, May 26, 8:30pm (EDT) 

Kendra Mylnechuk Potter was adopted into a white family and raised with no knowledge of her Native parentage. Serving as both investigator and witness, this beautifully personal film documents Kendra on her journey as a new mother to discover her Native identity.


In The Same Breath

Dir. Nanfu Wang, USA, 2021, 95min.

Live online Q&A with filmmaker Nanfu Wang and Human Rights Watch, Asia Division, China Director, Sophie Richardson on Monday, May 24, 8:30pm (EDT)

In The Same Breath, directed by Nanfu Wang (One Child Nation), explores the parallel campaigns of misinformation waged by the Chinese and US leadership and their devastating impact on millions of lives since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.


The Return: Life After ISIS

Dir. Alba Sotorra Clua, Spain, 2021, 90min. In Arabic with English subtitles

Live online Q&A with filmmaker Olivier Bernier and guests on Thursday, May 20, 5pm (EDT)

A unique portrait of a group of Western women who pledged their lives to ISIS, but now want to return home to restart their lives. While facing hostile journalists and governments who have left them de-facto stateless, the women confront their truths and try to heal from their trauma in a locked camp in northeast Syria, with the help of Kurdish women’s rights activists.


Tacheles – The Heart of the Matter

Dirs. Jana Matthes & Andrea Schramm, Germany, 2020, 104min. In German, Hebrew and English with English subtitles

Live online Q&A with filmmakers Jana Matthes and Andrea Schramm, film participant Yaar Harell, and Human Rights Watch, Germany Director Wenzel Michalski on Saturday, May 22, 2pm (EDT)

A painful confrontation with history opens up old family wounds as 21-year-old Yaar asks: what does the Holocaust have to do with me?



Dir. Ashley O’Shay, USA, 2020, 86min.

Live online Q&A with filmmaker Ashley O’Shay and film participants Bella BAHHS & Janaé Bonsu on Thursday, May 20, 8:30pm (EDT)

A profound and necessary story ripe for a countrywide, and indeed a world-wide, reckoning with racial injustice. After two Black Chicagoans, Rekia Boyd and Laquan McDonald, are killed by police, the Movement for Black Lives demands justice and organizes to challenge an administration complicit in violence against its residents.