“Who killed my brother?” The story of Luciano Arruga

By Njomza Miftari 

“Enforced disappearances” is a phrase that is not frequently mentioned in the European human rights context, however, this is not the case in regions such as Latin America where enforced disappearances has dreadfully impacted thousands of families in the last decades. “Who killed my brother?”, is a documentary directed by Ana Fraile and Lucas Scavino which sheds light on the issue by following the story of Luciano Arruga. The story of Luciano Arruga is about a 16-year-old boy who went missing on the 31st of January 2009 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The documentary follows the events carried out by his sister Vanesa Orieta who desperately seeks to find justice for her missing brother. It is evident from the beginning that her fight would not be an easy one but she is a force to be reckoned with. Her support grew stronger throughout the years with friends and families of Luciano joining Vanesa’s cause and together being able to organize collective demonstrations, demanding action by institutions and making sure their voices were being heard. She also travels to Geneva where she meets with Sara Oviedo, Vice-Chair of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in order to bring attention to her case and to discuss the lack of due diligence by Argentina at an international platform. It is an emotional journey but nonetheless a necessary one on her path to justice.


Copyright Pulpofilms

In 1980, the Commission of Human Rights (Human Rights Council) established the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to assist families in determining the fate or whereabouts of their family members who had reportedly disappeared. According to their report in 2009, the number of cases reported to the working group from Argentina from 1980 is 3,449 cases.  According to the Arruga family, although it has been 35 years of democracy in Argentina, the case of Luciano and other cases of enforced disappearances shows that Argentina is having the same practices similar to a once known dictatorship: kidnapping, torture, killings and disappearances. Democracy has been mainly sporadic, or worse, it has come in a wave of segregation and oppression among favela and ghetto areas.


Copyright Pulpofilms

The documentary shows the intense repercussions that remain among the family and friends of the disappeared and more importantly providing better insight to a situation that is yet to be understood by nonnative Argentinians. The lack of transparency from institutions and high level of corruption are some of the factors underlined in this documentary. For instance, Vanessa describes her experience at the police station, when Luciano was initially arrested prior to his disappearance, that, upon her arrival she had heard Luciano yell from the holding cell “Take me out of here, they are beating me to death.”   

On the 31st of January 2019, it was the 10 year anniversary of Luciano Arruga’s disappearance where Vanessa and hundreds of other people (as seen from the picture below) marched in General Paz y Mosconi in solidarity with friends and families of victims who have disappeared.


Copyright Canal Abierto 

The documentary will be screened on the 9th of February 2019, 19:00 hrs at Filmhaus Nürnberg during the Lateinamerikafilmtage in Nuremberg, Germany. Pulpofilms is also looking to partner with any organization who is willing to screen the documentary and raise awareness. For more information, please see the links below:

ana@pulpofilms.com

www.pulpofilms.com

https://www.facebook.com/Pulpofilms/

https://www.facebook.com/LucianoArruga/

 

 

Women are heroes by JR

By Juliette Remond-Tiedrez 

I went to JR’s exposition Momentum at the Maison Européenne de la Photographie (in English European House of Photography) in Paris mainly because I was interested in one of his projects: Women are heroes.

Maybe I should warn you that, if you decide to go to this exhibition after reading this article, you shouldn’t be surprised if there are only a few pieces of art from Women are heroes at the Maison. This is, first, because Momentum gathers many of JR’s projects and, second, because one who is aware of JR’s style would know that you can find his art mostly outside museums: because “in the street, we reach people who never go to museums”.

I should perhaps explain how JR works for you to understand why his artwork is outdoors. JR is an anonymous 35 years old French photographer who prints large black-and-white images and pastes them on buildings, lorries or other constructions that are in public locations. So for example, in Women are heroes, JR decided to photograph the faces, and more specifically the eyes, of women from all over the world and then to paste them on different constructions, like, in the below photo, on the houses in a favela.


Brazil, Rio de Janeriro, Favela Morro da Providência, 2008

JR explains that he dedicated his Women are heroes project to women and women only because he wanted to pay tribute to “those who play an essential role in society but who are the primary victims of war, crime, rape and political or religious fanaticism”and because, “through the woman’s conditions, sometimes you realise the conditions of the country”.

The project, which includes the gigantic photographs that were taken and pasted throughout the countries JR travelled, a movie, but also pictures of the photographs themselves which can be seen at the Momentum exhibition or online, is a powerful one.

It is powerful,  first of all, because of its universality. From 2007 to 2010, JR went to Brazil, Cambodia, India, Kenya, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. The focus, however, is not on where the photos have been taken but rather the women themselves. In the documentary one can guess where they are, but never does JR put a label or a title saying which country he is in. This creates a feeling that the women’s stories could be anyone stories, wherever they are. And the project became truly international when, back from his travels, JR shared his pictures and stories with all of Paris during La Nuit Blanche (The Sleepless Night).


France, Paris, Ile Saint-Louis, 2009

Furthermore, the project deals with a range of topics going from the violence in the favelas, the repression of the civilian population by the government, sexual violence, forced marriage, to poverty. This makes the project even more interesting, in my opinion, as it doesn’t “discriminate” an issue as being less important than another one. JR is not here to decide if he wants to give time to rape or gang violence, or doesn’t do a hierarchy between them, he just gave the floor to those women who then chose what they want to talk about.

I personally find the project powerful also because I feel that the images JR creates couldn’t be stronger. For example, in the documentary, a woman explains that her neighbourhood is being destroyed because of agreements between the local authorities and an enterprise that is interested in the land. And, as the buildings of the neighbourhood are torn down by bulldozers, one can see that the face of the woman, which has been pasted on a wall, is being hammered by a man who is trying to demolish the building. The message couldn’t be clearer: as the man destroys the buildings, he destroys the woman and all of the other inhabitants of the neighbourhood. Another example is the story told by one man in the Kibera slums, Kenya, concerning what the President said that there were no humans in those slums, only cows and pigs. But seeing the eyes of the women pasted on houses and trains, looking at sky from the slums, it cannot be said anymore that there are no humans living in the slums. When a dozen eyes stare at you from Kibera or from the favela, you have to look back and notice them. Tere is no possibility to deny them anymore.

 


Kenya, Kibera Slum, 2009

And finally, I find the project even more powerful because of the story of one of JR’s piece of art. Still as part of the project, JR pasted eyes on the containers of a ship leaving France for Malaysia. While on its way, the ship met with a boat full of migrants coming from the Libyan coast, rescued them and dropped them in Syracuse, Italy. As mentioned earlier I liked that Women are heroes touched upon a number of issues, and here, without the artist even wanting it, the piece of art dealt with a new issue: migration. The symbol of a Women are heroes eyed boat rescuing migrants at sea is particularly beautiful.


France, le Havre, 2014

I should probably conclude this article by saying that I, of course, recommend Momentum but I above all recommend following what JR is doing because, as I explained before, his art cannot only be found indoors, in a museum. If you, reader, decide to go to the exhibition you will only see a few pictures and small models of what the street artworks looked like. But hopefully this post will have helped you to understand what hides behind those women’s eyes and what the bigger picture is.

And in any case, the exhibition is worth going to as nearly all of JR’s projects have a social aspect behind them, a bottom line that seems to be that he wants to change the world, little by little, through art. You can, for example see his famous Chronicles of Clichy Montfermeil, a place where two teenagers died electrocuted after hiding in an electric plant station because they were fleeing from the police, his animated Guns in America animated fresco, his anti-segregation I Am a Man photograph, etc.

#metoo allegations rock the ballet world

By Nolwenn Guibert

Ballet was born during the Renaissance in the courts of Italy and developed further under Louis XIV of France. Different “schools” or artistic methods later evolved in Russia, Sweden the United Kingdom, and the USA. Tradition is central to the teaching and transmission of ballet. Ballet students around the world perpetuate this tradition by being trained from a very young age usually by former professional dancers who have also gone through the same rigorous training. They are taught discipline, resilience, and the respect for hierarchy. Even today, at the school of the Paris Opéra Ballet, ballet students stop in their tracks in the corridors to courtesy to adults. Professional ballet is highly competitive and requires the very best of the mind and the body. Hundreds of young dancers compete for spots in professional ballet schools and the top companies. The competition is even tougher for female ballet dancers than it is for males as there are fewer aspiring male dancers. Further, save for a few notable exceptions, company directors and high profile choreographers are still predominantly male.

It is in this context that in 2018, allegations of harassment, including sexual harassment, started emerging in world renowned companies when usually silent dancers started making their individual and collective voices heard.

At the beginning of 2018, New York City Ballet, one of the top ballet companies in the USA, was left without an artistic leader when long-serving ballet master Peter Martins retired after the company received allegations of sexual harassment and physical and verbal abuse by him. Mr. Martins vigorously disputed the allegations and in February, an independent inquiry ordered by New York City Ballet found the claims could not be corroborated. However, inquiry’s findings have been disputed and the allegations left a stain on the reputation of the company.

A few months later, a former student of the School of American Ballet, the top ballet school in the USA that feeds into New York City Ballet, filed a lawsuit against New York City Ballet, alleging the sharing of sexually explicit photos by male dancers, including her ex-boyfriend and principal dancer, Chase Finlay, and an “uncontrolled fraternity house environment”, in which the company “encouraged and permitted its male dancers to abuse, assault, degrade, demean, dehumanize and mistreat its female dancers and other women”. She argued that a “fraternity like atmosphere permeates the ballet and its dancers and embolden them to violate the basic rights of women.” Finlay resigned from New York City Ballet in August after the investigation was launched. The other two dancers were suspended. New York City Ballet management stated that it has taken appropriate disciplinary action against the named dancers and bears no liability for the actions specified in the complaint.

During the company’s fall fashion gala, the dancers took to the stage and rallied behind principal dancer, Teresa Reichlen, who addressed the company’s tumultuous year and stated: “We will not put art before common decency or allow talent to sway our moral compass.” She spoke of “the high moral standards that were instilled in us when we decided to become professional dancers” and affirmed that “each of us standing here tonight is inspired by the values essential to our art form: dignity, integrity, and honour.”

Similar discussions are being held outside of the USA. In March, Christopher Hampson, artistic director of the Scottish Ballet argued that there must be a wider conversation about “people skills” in the ballet world. He himself has witnessed dancers humiliated, harassed and threatened.

At the Paris Opera Ballet, one of the oldest and most conservative ballet companies, a recent leaked 200-page internal survey details grievances against former star and current artistic director, Aurélie Dupont. Of the 154 dancers interviewed, 77% say they were victims of moral harassment or that they saw moral harassment and 26% say they were victims or witnessed sexual harassment.  After almost three months of silence, Dupont promised to meet individually with each of the dancers and to commission an external audit. While the dancers deemed that these measures are promising, 2019 will be a test year for companies around the word in a balancing exercise between preserving the tradition and foundation of ballet and ensuring the fair and adequate treatment of dancers.

 

Expressing the Complexity of Gender Based Violence through Art and Poetry – An Emotional Journey

By Andrea Breslin

Last week I attended the launch of an Art and Poetry Exhibition on Gender Based Violence in Inspire Gallery, in Dublin City Centre. This exhibition was developed to coincide with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November) and more generally the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence. The exhibition, a mix of the art work of Marjorie Laville Pain and the poetry of the staff of Trócaire, a humanitarian and development NGO headquartered in Ireland, explores the issue of gender based violence in a way that is subtle in certain ways, yet incredibly striking in its impact.

The art work is painted by Trócaire staff member Marjorie Laville Pain, and represents the different elements and dynamics of GBV in a way that encourages interaction and debate, sparking conversations and further exploration of GBV in all its forms, and with all its wide-ranging consequences. All the poems are written by Trócaire staff, and represent both the vulnerabilities and capacities of GBV survivors, again in a way that is easy to interact with.

The exhibition overall illustrates not only the fear, control, and pain associated with gender based violence, but also, and crucially, the strength, resilience, and agency of survivors, both visually and through the effective juxtaposition of poetry, to the strength and resilience of the many women and girls directly impacted by GBV and their families and friends.

The exhibition continues until Human Rights Day on 10th December 2018, and is open to the public daily.

In addition to the artworks and the poetry, three powerful documentary animations were screened as part of the event. These animations created by Yangon Film School, in collaboration with Trócaire’s local partner Gender Equality Network (GEN), are based on separate testimonies from survivors of gender-based violence (GBV) in Myanmar. A group of students from across Myanmar were trained by Lisa Crafts, an award-winning filmmaker, animator and educator specialising in docuanimation and Paromita Vohra, an award-winning filmmaker, writer and gender activist from India.The ‘docuanimations’ were created with the support from the Heinrich Boell Foundation and SIDA.

Part of the process was to explore the nuances of gender based violence – its root causes, the emotional impact on survivors, and the way in which the structural, cultural and psychological elements of the phenomenon are interwoven. The ‘docuanimations’ then developed, aim to bring these themes to a wider audience using documentary narrative approaches using real testimony from survivors.

Ethical representation of GBV can be very challenging, and this innovative mix of painting, poetry, and ‘docuanimation’ is simultaneously striking and inspiring, and achieves communication of messages around GBV in a respectful and safe way.

 

 

 

The haunting shadows of the trauma of forced marriages during the Khmer Rouge Regime expressed through classical dance

By Nolwenn Guibert

On 16 November 2018, the Trial Chamber of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) pronounced its judgement in Case 002/02 against NUON Chea, the Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of Kampuchea and KHIEU Samphan, the Head of State of Democratic Kampuchea. In a landmark ruling, the two most senior Khmer Rouge leaders still alive were found guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Only a summary of the written Judgement is currently available to the public.

After the take-over of power of the Khmer Rouge in 1975, cities were evacuated and families were divided up by age and gender and sent to labour camps. It is traditionally estimated that about 20% of the entire Cambodian civilian population was killed during the Khmer Rouge regime between 1975 and 1979, in a vast starvation and mass killing operation. The ECCC Trial Chamber found that there existed a nationwide policy to regulate family building and marriage, which was implemented by Party cadres at all administrative and military levels. This policy was designed to replace the role of parents in the selection of a suitable spouse, to force couples to marry and produce children, for the purpose of increasing the country’s population within 10 to 15 years. In this context, an estimated half a million of surviving men and women were forced to marry and consummate their marriage. The ECCC Trial Chamber found both accused to be guilty of forced marriage as another inhumane act, a crime against humanity.

In 2017, the ECCC took part in a reparations project centered around a classical dance performance by the Khmer Arts Academy and made possible by a UN Women grant. The dance explores forced marriage under the Khmer Rouge regime and displays an exhibition of oral testimonies from survivors, many of whom have testified in Case 002/02. The dance is narrated by two characters: a couple who was forced to be married by the Khmer Rouge, but at the same time found mutual respect for each other and stayed together. A conversation starts between them exploring the different points of view involved in forced marriage.

The idea for the dance was first devised by Theresa de Langis, the lead researcher on the Cambodia Women’s Oral History Project. For de Langis, who spent years gathering the oral accounts of witnesses to and survivors of sexual violence during the Khmer Rouge period, classical dance was a way to reach the survivors, a lot of whom cannot read. This is added to the fact that in Cambodia, Khmer classical dance is of central importance to cultural identity and is the most revered art form. De Langis’ thoughts are shared by John Shapiro, the executive director of the Khmer Arts Academy, for whom: “Classical dance is an art form that usually depicts the stories of gods and kings. […] Taking these stories, their very personal stories of trauma, and elevating it to the level of stories of gods – it’s honouring them in a way that within their culture says this is important”.

The performance was choreographed by Sophiline Shapiro, a classically trained dancer and the artistic director of the Khmer Arts Academy, using interviews and consultations. Shapiro’s hope is both to publicly acknowledge the trauma of these victims but also to engage the younger generations that may not be familiar with this unique aspect of their country’s history in discussions on the lasting impact of forced marriages on gender relations.

 

Young Liberian artists join the debate over accountability for war-time crimes

By Felix Lüth***

The movement demanding accountability for crimes committed during the two civil wars in Liberia was recently joined by a new and somewhat unusual group – young Liberian artists. So far, the debate (see previous blog posts here and here) had been carried by established justice advocates including prominent journalists, lawyers and other Liberian and international civil society members. But during a recent 4-day Cartooning for Justice Workshop, students from the Liberian Visual Arts Academy and other young artists started to raise their voices or rather their pens.

From 1989 to 1996 and 1999 to 2003, Liberia was beset by two civil wars which were notorious for their brutality and the widespread use of child soldiers. They not only resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands but also left many Liberians mutilated and traumatized. Today, 15 years after the end of the second civil war, still no one has been held accountable in Liberia.

During the workshop, students learned storytelling and cartooning techniques and how they can use them to contribute to the ongoing accountability debate. After a brief introduction to the main philosophical approaches to the justification of punishment – often referred to as ‘theories of punishment’ – they were asked to find artistic responses through their cartoons to the question whether and why war-time crimes should be punished in Liberia today.

Cartoons? Comic strips? One may ask, what can they possibly contribute to such serious and complex questions?

The answer, I believe, is: Very much! Cartoons can exactly help with making complex issues more accessible both in terms of the message and reaching a broader audience.

 

A cartoon is a message being conveyed through a story in a sequence of drawings. When communicating a message mostly through images, we must simplify and focus on what is most important. However, when informed by in-depth research, in this case legal research on the theories of punishment and how they relate to the Liberian post-civil war context, a simple message does not have to be a simplistic one.

Cartoons cannot only make the message itself more accessible but also reach people who are not (yet) actively engaged in a public debate. This is particularly relevant in Liberia.

So far, the accountability debate has been led by senior civil society members from the capital, Monrovia. While this is of course quite normal, especially in a society like Liberia where much value is attached to respecting your elders, cartoons can help informing and engaging young Liberians who are not only many in numbers (over 63% of the Liberian population is under the age of 24) but also the future decision-makers of the country. In the same way, cartoons can help carry this important debate from Monrovia to the countryside where many of the most atrocious crimes were committed but people often have a harder time receiving and understanding written information.

In the words of one of the students: “Cartooning is also important because it gives those who don’t read and write the ability to know what is going on in Liberia and around the world.”

Finally, for many Liberians who have experienced the civil wars, it can be difficult to talk about it. Here, cartoons offer a less intimidating, more playful form of communication. In this sense, cartoons can also help bridging the generation gap between Liberians who have experienced the civil wars and those who have not.

The importance of cartoons and art in relation to debates on justice and accountability was widely confirmed by participants in the workshop, other members of society and the media.

Mae Azango, the award-winning Liberian journalist from FrontPage Africa, commented: “That [cartooning] is a very brilliant way to make the ordinary people like the market women, students, and many others understand the subject matter”.

“I think cartoons can help the situation of justice in Liberia by moving fear [from victim to perpetrator]” emphasised a student of the workshop.

“Combining art and justice is a way of igniting the flame for justice in Liberia” stated Hassan Bility, the director of the Global Justice and Research Project.

Cartoons can play an important role in promoting inclusive and informed debates on accountability for crimes committed during the civil wars in Liberia, in particular when informed by thorough research. But the contributions by young Liberian artists are not limited to cartoons: exciting theatre and music projects on issues of justice and accountability are on the way.

The workshop was organized by a group of different partners, including students from the Graduate Institute Geneva, the Geneva-based criminal justice NGO Civitas Maxima, its Monrovia-based sister organization Global Justice Research Project, and the independent Swiss-Congolese cartoonist, JP Kalonji, and sponsored by the Kathryn W. Davis Peace Foundation. A particularly important contribution was made by Livio Silva, Master student at the Graduate Institute Geneva, who managed the project and was part of the research team.

 

*** Felix Lüth is a Legal Counsel at Civitas Maxima, a PhD Candidate at the Graduate Institute Geneva and a Swiss National Science Foundation Research Fellow at King’s College London

 

The Power of Narratives

by Njomza Miftari

Often times, human rights concerns become a hot topic when they occur in grave violations or in places far away from us but sometimes we can also learn from situations taking place in smaller communities.

On the 29th of October 2018, I attended a small exhibition in Nuremberg, Germany, where a number of master’s students organized a forum called “The Power of Narratives” to provide a space for a counter narrative regarding the controversial police operation on the 31st of May 2017 at a vocational school called “B11” in Nuremberg.

To give some background, Asef N., a 20 year old Afghan national living in Germany was arrested in his classroom in order to be deported back to Afghanistan. During his arrest, a peaceful protest emerged by his classmates, members of the public and human rights activists. Unfortunately, when police authorities were unable to carry out the arrest due to the mounting of protestors, they became violent by dragging the protests off the street.

 

This created a national debate about Germany’s migration policy, solidarity and police use of force. This national debate was made evident by the mass collection of media glued to one side of the wall.

According to Johanna Böhm, a representative from the Bavarian Refugee Council, ‘the given status of Asef N. made it obligatory to leave because his asylum application was rejected. Still there are many legal and human perspectives which the authorities could have used but the Bavarian Authorities decided to take him out of class to deport him to a country which was and is in civil war. However, the cause of the resistance was due to the fact that this was an individual who has been living in Germany for many years (at this time it was more than 5 years), who is well integrated, and was awaiting a response regarding his status application.’

Since then, a number of activists have been arrested but no repercussions have taken place against the police authorities regarding their use of force. In addition, the situation has been used by some as a political tool to name and shame activists as ‘left-wing extremists.’

But is this case unique? It is not, according to Maria Gabriela, a Master’s student of Human Rights at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg. ‘We see this happening everywhere, across Europe, South America and so on, where nationalism is tied with strong anti-migration discourse and stronger police intervention and the only way some people people feel protected is by such policies.’

Narratives form opinions, and opinions lead to different consequences. This exhibition was an impressive way to portray narratives and make us see them.

 

Dance or Die: A Story of Dance over War

By Nolwenn Guibert

“I dance to be free, to be strong, to look for a perfect world”

Dance or Die is a story of exile and survival. It is the story of Ahmad Joudeh, a Palestinian –born Syrian dancer who grew up in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus and who defied the odds of war and repression as well as a hostile father to train as a dancer. Having been sponsored by the Dutch National Ballet to train and perform in Amsterdam, Ahmad is quickly becoming a household name in the world of ballet and on social media.

The tatoo inked in Sanskrit in the nape of his neck–“Dance or Die”–takes centre stage throughout the documentary. Film director Roozbeh Kaboly shot a lot of the scenes from the back with the tatoo in full view in the foreground as a reminder that for Joudeh, dance equals life and that a life without dance is not worth living. Joudeh explains that his tatoo was an act of defiance to ISIS rule back in Syria and to ISIS’ favored mode of execution; beheading. Under ISIS rule, ballet was equated to homosexuality, which put Joudeh’s life at risk.

The documentary contains a number of powerful artistic moments, from Joudeh dancing in the rubbles of the Yarmouk camp near Damascus and the ruins of Palmyra before his departure to The Netherlands to the Esplanade du Trocadero in Paris to a duo on Italian TV with Roberto Bolle–one of the world’s most acclaimed ballet dancers–danced to the live performance of Sting’s Inshallah, another story of exile.

 

One can only be drawn to Joudeh’s inate sense of movement and artistry and the total passion he puts into his dancing.

On a more personal level, the documentary portrays Joudeh as a dedicated, fun and hard working young man but also as an individual struggling with the traumas of war and exile and having a father who never supported his son’s passion. At times, the melancholy in Joudeh’s eyes takes over the light that shines through when he dances.

Joudeh’s reunion with his father at a German refugee center is an intimate moment shared before the camera. It marks a moment of anticipation and hope, which comes back later in the film when Joudeh’s father watches him perform, probably for the first time, and one can see the sheer pride in a father’s teary eyes as well as regret for the years lost.

Joudeh is a gifted dancer and a wonderufl advocate of peace through art. He will undoubtedly go on to touch many audiences throughout the world. I hope he also finds his peace.

For those reading the blog in The Hague, Ahmad Joudeh will be performing on Sunday 15 April at 16h at the Universal Sufi Center for an event entitled “The Music of Life: Dance for Peace”.

The documentary “Dance or Die” premiered on 18 March in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, as advertised here on Creating Rights.

 

 

“The Vast Mystery Of Who You Are (Part One)” by Kim Yaged, a conversation on identity and otherness

By Manon Beury

Last year, Nicola Popovic interviewed award-winning writer Kim Yaged for Creating Rights in a rousing portrait where the artist explained how her involvement in social justice is reflected in her work. Kim’s new play, “The Vast Mystery of Who You Are (Part One)”, will be performed at the New York Live Arts on Friday 13 April 2018 at 7pm as part of the Downtown Urban Arts Festival. An opportunity to discuss her new projects and elaborate on the concept of building your empathy muscle that she developed.

“The Vast Mystery of Who You Are” is a two-act play, directed by Rebecca Cunningham and featuring 4 actors. Only the first act will be showed on Friday (“Part One”). The premise of the first part rests on a woman who identifies as queer. She meets someone at a sex party in Berlin and discovers that this person considers herself third gender. Kim Yaged lived in Berlin for two years and a half and wrote “The Vast Mystery of Who You Are” during that period. In a lot of ways, it is about the community that she met there but the European location is also useful to distance the play from a critique of US politics.

Act One and Act Two feature the same actors playing different characters in two completely different stories. The audience sees the same bodies playing people who don’t seem connected, reinforcing the idea that “we are all in each other.” A common trend in Kim’s work is identity and otherness, which refer to her idea of building the empathy muscle that was developed in her portrait on Creating Rights. “All of us can relate to the feeling of being other or outside, ultimately we are just people.” She shows people that others in the world don’t have much access to, people whose lives and behaviours might seem fun and far to us, but aren’t.

Working with diverse mediums such as theatre, dance or animation, Kim looks for the best way to tell a story and the best way to invite people to reflect upon difficult or heavy topics. She sees her work as a way to getting across cultural understanding, an invitation to a conversation.

While the project “Let’s be one Hand” continues to live online, Kim’s attention is now focused on a new play: “The Suicide Blog,” a thriller about a Pakistani American who is diagnosed with a terminal illness. The character starts a blog where she writes incendiary political opinions and discusses her plan to commit suicide before she dies of this illness. And then she is kidnapped. The play deals with issues such as terrorism, gun control, obsession with social media, multiculturalism and how Muslim communities are read in the media. “It’s a play about now.”

 

“The Vast Mystery Of Who You Are (Part One)”, New York Live Arts, NYC, on Friday 13 April 2018 at 7 PM.

Movies that Matter 2018 – Creating Rights’ selection

By Manon Beury

Every year at the end of March, the festival Movies that Matter comes to The Hague, The Netherlands, and reminds us that camera is a powerful weapon against social indifference. During this year’s edition, more than 70 movies about human rights will be screened between March 23 and March 31, 2018. As the explicit goal of the festival is to stir debate and promote human rights education, the festival offers also a forum for discussions, debates and diverse occasions to meet with human rights defenders, filmmakers, experts, politicians, journalists and representatives of the civil society.

Camera Justitia

Camera Justitia is a programme of Movies that Matter specifically focusing on the worldwide fight for justice. Sofia Stolk, coordinator of the programme for the second consecutive year, described it for Creating Rights in this post last year. In 2018, four documentaries and four fictions will reflect on legal dilemmas, truth-finding, international law and the fight against impunity.

As part of the Camera Justitia programme, a Masterclass will be delivered by Kathryne Bomberger, Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP).

The ICMP has been active in some 40 countries. It provides technical assistance to governments in locating, recovering and identifying missing persons and supports institutional capacity building, public involvement and addressing the needs of justice. Kathryne Bomberger has led the development of the organisation since 1998. She will talk about the work of the ICMP using excerpts from the films Truth Detectives and Armed to the Teeth, both nominated for the Camera Justitia Award.

The full documentary Truth Detectives will be screened at 13:30 on Thursday 29th March, before the Masterclass taking place at 16:00 in Theater an het Spui, The Hague. Built on reports from Ukraine, Colombia, Israel, Syria and Mali, the film explores how the latest technologies are combined with the findings of citizen journalists and investigators, to combat impunity and injustice. Tickets are available at the festival’s box office. The Masterclass is organised by Movies that Matter in cooperation with the T.M.C. Asser Institute. It will take place on Thursday 29th March at 16:00 in Theater an het Spui, The Hague. The event is free of charge.

Creating Rights’ selection

Our team has selected six movies related to human rights and justice in their relationship with art.

  • The Congo Tribunal, Milo Rau (Documentary): Swiss theatre director Milo Rau stages a fictitious court to search for truth and justice in the deadly conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Involving actual protagonists, it becomes clear that the country is trapped in a complex web of exploitation, corruption and violence that is very hard to escape.
  • Naila and the Uprising, Julia Bacha (Animation): The story of the first Palestinian intifada, and the key role women played in it. Central to the story is activist and feminist Naila Ayesh, who was imprisoned twice for her resistance to the Israeli rule of the occupied Palestinian territories. The women’s struggle to be free from occupation paralleled their fight against male domination.
  • The Poetess, Stefanie Brockhaus/Andreas Wolff (Documentary): Hissa Hilal, a 43-year-old woman from Saudi Arabia, achieved international fame when she was one of the few women to compete in a televised talent search for Arabic poets. Her poetry is controversial: she criticizes extremist fatwas and is an advocate of women’s rights.
  • Truth Detectives, Anja Reiss (Documentary): All over the world, people are combining the latest technologies with the findings of citizen journalists and investigators, to combat impunity and injustice. They have one goal above all: denying perpetrators the chance to deny. Fascinating reports from Ukraine, Colombia, Israel, Syria and Mali.
  • Delicate Balance, Guillermo García López (Documentary): Three stories from different continents about the present and future of mankind, including an interview with the former president of Uruguay, José Mujica, as a common thread. His ideas about modern society, in which economic interests prevail over human values, are the unifying factor.
  • Tehran Taboo, Ali Soozandeh (Animation): Animated film in which the lives of three women and a young man intersect in the schizophrenic society of Teheran, the capital city of Iran. Everything prohibited and taboo – sex, drugs, adultery and corruption – lurks behind the illusory façade of the strict Islamic country.