Monday 14 November
Son of Babylon
Dir: Mohamed Al-Daradji (Iraq)
Northern Iraq, 2003. Two weeks after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Ahmed, a 12-year-old boy begrudgingly follows in the shadow of his grandmother. On hearing news that prisoners of war have been found alive in the South, she is determined to discover the fate of her missing son, Ahmed’s father, who never returned from the Gulf war. From the mountains of Kurdistan to the sands of Babylon, they hitch rides from strangers and cross paths with fellow pilgrims on all too similar journeys. Struggling to understand his grandmother’s search, Ahmed follows in the forgotten footsteps of a father he never knew. This journey will lead the boy to come of age.
Tuesday 15 November
Strangers No More
Dir: Karen Goodman (United States of America)
In the heart of Tel Aviv, there is an exceptional school where children from forty-eight different countries and diverse backgrounds come together to learn. Many of the students arrive at Bialik-Rogozin School fleeing poverty, political adversity and even genocide. Here, no child is a stranger. Strangers No More follows several students’ struggle to acclimate to life in a new land while slowly opening up to share their stories of hardship and tragedy. With tremendous effort and dedication, the school provides the support these children need to recover from their past. Together, the bond between teacher and student, and amongst the students themselves, enables them to create new lives in this exceptional community. Short Documentary Academy Award winner 2011.
Teta, Alf Marra (Grandmother, A Thousand Times)
Dir: Mahmoud Kaabour (Lebanon)
Teta, Alf Marra puts a feisty Beiruti grandmother at the centre of brave film exercises designed to commemorate her many worlds before they are erased by the passage of time and her eventual death. Teta Fatima is the 83-year old matriarch of the Kaabour family and the sharp-witted queen bee of an old Beiruti quarter. With great intimacy, the film documents her larger-than-life character as she struggles to cope with the silence of her once-buzzing house and imagines what awaits her beyond death. Meanwhile, her beloved violinist husband (deceased 20 years) is both an essential absence and presence. His features manifest through the face of their filmmaker grandson while his previously unpublished violin improvisations weave through her world and that of the film. Teta, Alf Marra brings together grandfather, grandmother and grandson in a playful magic-realist documentary that aims to defy a past death and a future one.
Wednesday 16 November
Enemies of the People
Producers: Thet Sambath (Cambodia) / Rob Lemkin (United Kingdom)
The Khmer Rouge ran what is regarded as one of the twentieth century’s most brutal regimes. Yet the Killing Fields of Cambodia remain unexplained. Until now. In Enemies of the People the men and women who perpetrated the massacres – from the foot-soldiers who slit throats to the party’s ideological leader, Nuon Chea aka Brother Number Two – break a 30-year silence to give testimony never before heard or seen. Unprecedented access from top to bottom of the Khmer Rouge has been achieved through a decade of work by one of Cambodia’s best investigative journalists, Thet Sambath. Sambath is on a personal quest: he lost his own family in the Killing Fields. The film is his journey to discover not how but why they died. In doing so, he hears and understands for the first time the real story of his country’s tragedy. After years of visits and trust-building, Sambath finally persuades Brother Number Two to admit (again, for the first time) in detail how he and Pol Pot (the two supreme powers in the Khmer Rouge state) decided to kill party members whom they considered ‘Enemies of the People’. Sambath’s remarkable work goes even one stage further: over the years he befriends a network of killers in the provinces who implemented the kill policy. For the first time, we see how orders created on an abstract political level translate into foul murder in the rice fields and forests of the Cambodian plain.
Thursday 17 November
The Lost Girls of South Africa
Dir/Producer: Deborah Shipley (United Kingdom)
Producer: Xoliswa Sithole (South Africa)
A child is raped in South Africa every three minutes. The Lost Girls of South Africa is a timely and revealing feature length documentary that offers a privileged glimpse into what life is really like for young girls growing up in South Africa. It follows the stories of four girls, aged 11-13, who become victims of child rape, looking at the experience and its aftermath through their eyes and in their words. The girls involved in this film, along with their mothers, were all extensively consulted about the implications of taking part in this film, and being identified. It was explained to them that while the film would not be sold to South African television, it was still likely that their pictures would be accessible on the internet in SA. We were very clear about this, but they were equally clear that they had a right to tell their story, and wanted to, in order to try to reduce the likelihood of it happening to other girls.
Friday 18 November
I was Worth 50 Sheep
Dir: Nima Sarvestani (Iraq)
I Was Worth 50 Sheep is the story of a brave girl, Sabere, and her struggle for life. Through the prism of her family this heart-rending and thought-provoking film brings the tragedy that is Afghanistan vividly to life. Sabere, has a price on her head. When she was just ten years old she was sold to a man forty years her senior. After seven years of confinement and abuse she escaped to find temporary refuge in a women’s sanctuary. Now she again has a price on her head as her husband will kill her on sight. The camera picks up Sabere at the point where she has re-made contact with her family. She faces the decision of whether to stay in the safety of the sanctuary or whether to rejoin her family. For the family it is a dangerous game of cat and mouse as they move from location to location, always trying to stay one step ahead of her murderous husband. Only divorce can set Sabere free. But Islamic law will only grant a divorce if she can bring her husband to court. But there is a problem. Her husband is a Taliban man far beyond the reach of the law. With desperation mounting, Sabere’s step-father proposes an audacious plan. They try to mount a “sting” that would simultaneously capture her husband and free Sabere from his clutches. But for it to work, Sabere will have to meet her husband. And all the while the family dreads receiving the telephone call that will seal the fate of Sabere’s ten-year-old sister. I Was Worth 50 Sheep is a simple and moving story of one family’s struggle to survive. It was filmed over a period of two years in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, by award-winning director Nima Sarvestani.
Saturday 19 November
Dir: Martin Baer and Claus Wischmann (Germany)
Kinshasa Symphony shows how people living in one of the most chaotic cities in the world have managed to forge one of the most complex systems of human cooperation ever invented: a symphony orchestra. This is a film about the Congo, about the people of Kinshasa and about music. Among the people guiding us through the city are bread salesgirl Chantal Ikina, electrician and hairdresser Joseph, artisan Albert Matubenza and preacher Armand Diangienda. What they all have in common is their love of music. This is a film about a city in Africa, its citizens – and the music they perform: Handel, Verdi, Beethoven. Kinshasa Symphony shows Kinshasa in all its diversity, speed, colour, vitality and energy.
Sunday 20 November
War Don Don
Dir: Rebecca Richman Cohen (USA)
In the heart of Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, United Nations soldiers guard a heavily fortified building known as the “special court.” Inside, Issa Sesay awaits his trial. Prosecutors say Sesay is a war criminal, guilty of heinous crimes against humanity. His defenders say he is a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace to Sierra Leone. With unprecedented access to prosecutors, defence attorneys, victims, and, from behind bars, Sesay himself, War Don Don puts international justice on trial for the world to see – finding that in some cases the past is not just painful, it is also opaque.