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Of human bondage

Six documentaries over two days speak of ‘human rights’, and how in many parts of the world they are an alien and ignored commodity, writes Pankaja Srinivasan

Photo: M. Periasamy

A scene from the documentary ‘The Hands of Che Guevara’ Screened at the Human Rights Film Festival organised by Konangal

Equality, justice, freedom, dignity…Do all human beings enjoy these basic rights? Not quite. In the real world, some people, nations and communities are more equal than others; might is almost always right; and, discrimination on grounds of cas te, creed, colour, religion and gender is rampant.

Rights and wrong

The unfairness of it all was sharply brought into focus recently in a two-day film festival called “Human Rights in Frames”. It was organised jointly by the Konangal Film Society, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Coimbatore, and Breakthrough, an international human rights organisation. Six documentaries were screened.

At the Ashwin Hospital Auditorium, where the event was held, a slogan taped to the wall read, “Rights are not something to be given to people, they are something that can’t be taken away”. Nice as it sounded, the films showed how in parts of the world people were routinely stripped of or denied even the most fundamental of rights.

Manipulated media

Independent Intervention focused on the U.S. media coverage of the Iraq war. It showed how the war was ‘sanitised’ by vested interests and how the media became a ‘conveyor belt for lies and propaganda’. But, some independent journalists put their lives on line and portrayed what was really happening. There is footage in the documentary that Americans back home were never allowed to see. Violation of the Geneva Conventions, use of chemical weaponry, and human rights abuse, by the invading forces were commonplace, but the corporate-controlled media only projected what it wanted people back home to see and hear. But, this tribe of independent journalists dared to ask uncomfortable questions and expose unsavoury facts.

A hope for freedom

I want to be a pilot is a starkly simple and moving narration in 12 minutes of Omondi, an orphan in a desperately poor slum in Kiberia, East Africa. AIDS has claimed his parents and he is HIV positive. His dream is to become a pilot and fly away from his life of pain and misery.

Addiction, poverty and as an outcome of these, a tattered social fabric leaves teenage boys in a delinquents home in Iran. Some of the inmates share their experiences, emotions and pain in It’s always late for freedom.

It is a lament for lost childhood, yet holds out hope for freedom.

Freedom fighter Vs terrorist

Leila Khaled Hijacker throws up questions on the thin line dividing freedom fighting and terrorism. An extraordinary woman, Leila challenges the ‘popular’ views on terrorism. While she condemns the death of civilians no matter where they are from, she says her country men reserve the right to defend and fight for their motherland, just the way any other nation would. And, if it means she had to hijack a plane to draw international attention to the Palestine problem, so be it.

The women’s kingdom documents one of the world’s last matriarchal societies in remote China. While opening up to the outer world has brought some advantages, the women now have to contend with pollution, exploitation and an invasion of the modern world’s ideas of women, beauty and family.

A search for the severed and missing hands of Che Guevara is the subject matter of The hands of Che Guevera. It follows a number of remarkable people who risk their lives to recover and protect the iconic revolutionary’s hands.

To know more, visit Konangalfilmsociety.blogspot.com

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