Huffpost Arts

10 Films Every Human Rights Advocate Should Watch

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HRW

The 25th edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival is set to launch next month, bringing 11 days worth of visual storytelling to theaters in New York City. Centered around five themes -- Armed Conflict and the Arab Spring; Human Rights Defenders, Icons and Villains; LGBT Rights; Migrants’ Rights; and Women’s Rights and Children’s Rights -- the festival will pay homage to justice advocates and icons across the world.

The festival began over two decades ago, as a series of films shown in a small NYC theater, but has since grown to accommodate over 100,000 viewers in 20 cities around the globe. According to the HRW, the festival's programming committee screens more than 500 films and videos to create the final program. This year, the event will host 20 documentaries and two fiction films, including 16 features by women.

Ahead of the official launch date, June 12, we've put together a list of 10 films to watch out for during the many screenings and premieres. Here are 10 films every human rights activist should watch:

1. Sepideh -- Reaching for the Stars (Denmark/Iran/Germany/Norway/Sweden) The story of a teenage girl named Sepideh, living in a rural village outside of Tehran, who dreams of becoming a famous astronomer. The documentary tackles gender roles in Iran while showcasing one young woman's ambition and strength in the face of her family's discouragement, university pitfalls and societal expectations. Directed by Berit Madsen.

Sunday, June 15, 9:15 pm, IFC Center; Saturday, June 21, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center

2. Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus (US/UK/Belarus) Made up of smuggled footage and uncensored interviews, this documentary gives audiences a glimpse into Belarus' dissident movement as it takes the shape of stage performances and public activism. Directed by Madeleine Sackler.

Wednesday, June 18, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center

3. Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story (US) A veteran shares her story moving from one identity, a former U.S. Navy Seal named Chris Beck, to another, a transgender woman named Kristin Beck. Directed by Sandrine Orabona and Mark Herzog.

Saturday, June 14, 7:00 pm, IFC Center; Monday, June 16, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center

4. A Quiet Inquisition (US) Here you'll meet OBGYN Dr. Carla Cerrato, who must navigate the perilous territory of Nicaragua's anti-abortion policies, which prohibit abortion, even in cases of rape, incest, or when a woman's life is at stake. Directed by Alessandra Zeka and Holen Sabrina Kahn.

Sunday, June 15, 8:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center; Friday, June 20, 7:00 pm, IFC Center

5. Scheherazade's Diary (Lebanon) This "tragicomic documentary" follows women inmates in Lebanon as they stage a theater/drama therapy project titled "Scheherazade in Baabda," revealing personal stories of domestic violence, failed relationships and traumas associated with motherhood. Directed by Zeina Daccache.

Sunday, June 22, 6:30 pm, IFC Center

6. Siddharth (Canada/India) One father's desperate journey to locate his son, a 12-year-old boy who was sent to work in another province to support his family, but did not return and is feared to have been kidnapped or trafficked. Directed by Richie Mehta.

Saturday, June 21, 9:00pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center

7. The Supreme Price (US) The film covers the evolution of the Pro-Democracy Movement in Nigeria and efforts to increase the participation of women in leadership roles. Directed by Joanna Lipper.

8. Private Violence (US) Questioning the accepted discourse on domestic violence, the documentary introduces audiences to two women survivors who advocate for justice while exploring "the fact that the most dangerous place for a woman is her home." Directed by Cynthia Hill.

Friday, June 13, 7:00 pm, Walter Reade

9. The Beekeeper (Switzerland) This is the touching story of Ibrahim Gezer, a Kurdish beekeeper from southeast Turkey who, robbed of his family, possessions and 500 bee colonies, moves to Switzerland to make a new life. Directed by Mano Khalil.

Monday, June 16, 9:30 pm, IFC Center; Tuesday, June 17, 6:30 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center

10. Abounaddara Collective Shorts from Syria (Syria) The Abounaddara Collective is a group of filmmakers who came together in 2010 to help provide an alternative image of Syrian society, one not seen in mainstream media. This portion of the festival will showcase 90 minutes of their short films.

Thursday, June 19, 7:00 pm, IFC Center

BONUS: To Be Takei (US) The George Takei retells his experience as a child forced into Japanese-American internment camps and how racism, as well as homophobia, have affected his life and career. Directed by Jennifer Kroot.

Sunday, June 15, 6:00 pm, Film Society of Lincoln Center

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival will run from June 12 to June 22, 2014. See a complete schedule of screenings here.