Impugning Impunity: ALBA’s Human Rights Film Festival Denounces Violence and Inequality

December 8, 2015
By and

ALBA’s fifth annual Human Rights Film Festival featured 21 documentary films from 12 countries (four world premieres, 12 New York premieres). The Randall Award went to Among the Believers, about radical Islam and a charismatic cleric in Pakistan.

Still from “Cast in India.”

Still from “Cast in India.”

Over four days, New Yorkers had the chance to enjoy artistic and provocative explorations of some of the world’s most pressing problems—racism, political oppression, refugee crises, and religious fanaticism—at the 2015 edition of ALBA’s Human Rights Film Festival. Spectators were also treated to uplifting portraits and inspiring stories of human rights activists working with drug addicts, the disabled, ex-convicts, and gang violence, as well as to films that chronicled the rich history of activism and civil disobedience in a wide range of countries and contexts. Though astoundingly diverse in topic and tone, practically all of the films screened at Impugning Impunity share a basic desire: to document and denounce the violence and inequality generated by globalization.

It’s an honor to be a part of this!” —Dan Schioler, director of Then, Then, Then

Still from “Among the Believers.”

Still from “Among the Believers.”

The festival showcased the wide variety of documentary styles that co-exist today, ranging from the didactic use of montage and voice-over, reminiscent of the heyday of social documentary in the 1930s and of Latin American Third Cinema in the 1960s, to films that eschew the voice-over and instead let the images and the voices of the cinematic subjects speak for themselves. This “insider view” style is favored by both of the films that received this year’s prizes: Best Short, Cast in India, whose stunning imagery (subdued colors, pans and close-ups), and minimal dialogue (of workers in a factory in Howrah, India, manufacturing manhole covers for New York City), is so effective precisely because of the lack of “outsider” commentary; and the winner of the annual Harry Randall Award, Among the Believers, which lets the teachers and pupils at the Red Mosque madrassa in Pakistan, and girls denied education because of the closure of their schools due to threats from the Taliban, tell their own stories. The award is named after Harry Randall, head of the photographic unit of the Fifteenth International Brigade. Presenting the award was his daughter, Sue Phillips Randall.

“Impugning Impunity is one of the best and most authentic human rights film festivals in New York” —Derek Shuman, historian

Two other films that let the images speak for themselves dealt with Spanish subjects: one, Bury Them and Keep Quiet, about the vast and systematic theft of babies that plagued Spain from the onset of the Franco regime and, most shockingly, well into the years of the democratic transition, and another, What Remains, about an exhumation of a mass grave of Franco’s victims in Abenójar, Ciudad Real, Spain.

“Ordinary people can change the world.”—Mary Dore, filmmaker

Some of us recall how at an Annual Event some 10 years ago, the normally eloquent Lincoln vet Moe Fishman was at the podium making remarks, when he stumbled on a word, and just couldn’t get it out: “global, globaz, glozbal…” And then, without missing a beat, he quipped “it was so much easier when we just called it imperialism.” ALBA’s annual film festival honors the human rights legacy of the vets by putting the focus squarely on the often invisible “collateral damage” of the process of globalization, which only seems like a harmless word.

Jo Labanyi and James D. Fernández are members of ALBA’s executive committee and colleagues in NYU’s Spanish department.

Harry Randall Award Jury: cinematographer Rachel Anderson [First to Fall]; actor and director Gael García Bernal [Motorcycle Diaries, Babel]; novelist and journalist Francisco Goldman; and documentary filmmakers Patricio Guzmán [Nostalgia for the Light] and Sam Sills [The Good Fight].  

Harry Randall Award Presented by: Sue Phillips Randall

Sponsor: Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York State Council on the Arts
With the support of the Puffin Foundation, Instituto Cervantes, Pragda, Ambulante, and Balance Water

Special thanks to the Instituto Cervantes and its Director, Ignacio Olmos


Marina Garde, director and producer
Yehudit Mam, programming director
Liana Katz, festival assistant
Pablo Guerrero, technical advisor
Nancy Saleme, visual designer
Galeria Galou, graphics
Dancing Diablo Studio, festival intro design
Ramón Fernández: Projectionist

Official Selection:

Then Then Then / DanielSchioler / Canada (2015)

Bury Them and Keep Quiet / Anna López Luna / Spain (2014)

100 Second Chances / Drew Dickler & Jacob Hochendoner / USA (2014)

Keeping Balance / Bernhard Wenger / Germany (2015)

Natural Life / Tirtza Even / USA (2014)

612 Words on Wire / Cecilia González Rufo / Spain (2014)

Among the Believers / Directed by Hemal Trivedi & Mohammed Ali Naqvi, Produced by Jonathan Goodman Levitt & Hemal Trivedi / USA (2014)

Stopover in Pajol / Mahamoud Ibrahim / Comoros-France (2014)

Power and Impotence: A Drama in 3 Acts / Anna Recalde Miranda / France-Paraguay (2015)

Cast in India / Natasha Raheja / USA (2015)

Daisy and Max / Jennifer Taylor / USA (2015)

In the Image / Judith Montell & Emmy Scharlatt / USA (2015)

She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry / Mary Dore / USA (2015)

Once Upon a Time There Was a Man / Siavash Jamali & Ata Mehrad / Iran (2015)

Black Square / Nikoloz Bezhanishvili / Georgia (2015) / 52min

The Dictator’s Hotel / Florian Hoffmann / Germany (2015)

Too Small to Swing a Cat / Marie Bakke & Ines Gerber / USA-China (2015)

Time Simply Passes / Ty Flowers / USA (2015) / 53min

What Remains / Lee Douglas & Jorge Moreno Andrés / Spain-USA (2015)

Tell Spring Not To Come This Year / Saeed Taji Farouky & Michael McEvoy / U.K. (2015)

Poverty, Inc. / Gary Null / USA (2015)

Film Festival Photo Gallery