Short Film Festivals on Minorities and Human Rights in Iraq

Baghdad, 27 August 2019 - As part of its work on enhancing equality and countering discrimination, in particular in relation to ethnic and religious minorities, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) through its Human Rights Office in United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) held a national short film competition and festival on Minorities and Human Rights in Iraq, and from March to August 2019 held 36 short film festival events.

With support from the Norwegian Government and the Iraqi film industry, short-listed films were screened by Iraqi implementing partner Art City Film and TV Production during the 3By3 Film Festival in Baghdad from 3-5 March 2019. This was the beginning of a nation-wide campaign where the Iraq Human Rights Office promoted the rights of minorities and human rights through film. Over 4158 Iraqis watched the leading short films in 17 out of the 19 governorates of Iraq. Social media and television coverage reached thousands more.

The short films sparked discussion on human rights concerns that need to be addressed including enforced disappearances, protection of minorities and discrimination. In addition to screenings in the Governorates of Iraq, leading short films were shown by OHCHR at events in New York, events in Baghdad, including a gathering of 350 youth hosted by the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, to raise awareness about human rights concerns of minorities and wider human rights issues in Iraq.

The 24 films on Minorities and Human Rights were reviewed by a panel of three independent and impartial international judges. The judges awarded first place to an animation film “My Music” that celebrates the resilience of the artistic community during war by telling the story of a pianist. In second place was “Black Lens”, a powerful film on freedom of expression and the corrosive effect of corruption on the exercise of human rights. “Give Me My Chance”, a film about the ingenuity of a poor child who sneaks into a school to participate in a mathematics class too third place. The directors of all three films secured film grants to assist with the costs of production of their next film projects. These and other costs associated with the Minorities and Human Rights section of 2019 3By3 Film Festival were funded by the Norwegian Government.

The films sparked vibrant discussion among diverse Iraqi audiences including representatives of Iraqi minorities, religious and tribal leaders, women who head their households, film makers, human rights defenders, academics, local mayors, police, university students, and disability advocates. A wide range of responses to the films were provided during panel discussions and from audience members during question and answer sessions. Participants also emphasized that discussions following the screening of the films enabled a forum for open discussion about human rights issues and concerns in Iraq, including the rights of minorities, gender-based violence, accountability for conflict atrocities, discrimination and accountability.

Many participants praised the use of short films as an effective vehicle for raising awareness about important human rights issues in Iraq. For example, some called for a greater focus by film makers on solutions to human rights problems in Iraq, including the right to fair and public trials, the prohibitions against slavery, servitude, torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (including coercive interrogation), human rights violations committed online, climate change and its impact on enjoyment of human rights, the right to peaceful assembly, child labour, the right to health, the impact of pollution on enjoyment of human rights, discrimination against women in recruitment and the workplace, restrictions of freedom of movement imposed on many women and girls, denial of human rights through lack of basic services, the needs of the disabled, and weak government institutions which leave human rights including due process unprotected in some areas, allowing militias and tribes to fill the void.

Audiences across Iraq were also given the opportunity to vote for their favourite short film. In contrast to the verdict of the judges at the 3By3 Film Festival, “Cinderella” received the most votes at 32 out of 36 film screening events. This Iraqi retelling of the classic children’s story highlights the plight of a girl who is orphaned by war and raised by her grandmother. The young actor who played Cinderella addressed the Najaf Film Festival in April. Her powerful performance was recognized by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq in Baghdad, during a ceremony in March where the directors of the top three films, as selected by the judges, received their film grants.


Below are descriptions of some of the most inspiring short films made by Iraqis for these festivals.

 

Identity tackles several current human rights concerns in Iraq, including violence against women and children and the need for identification documents to access basic services, including education. Lack of identification documents presents significant challenges for minorities displaced by war, including female headed households. Women and children living in IDP camps without identification documents are particularly vulnerable.

 

 


My Music celebrates the resilience of the artistic community during war. It tells the story of a pianist who tries to block out the noise of war. International judges at the 3BY3 Film Festival (March 2019) awarded My Music first place in the Minorities and Human Rights Category of the festival.

 

 

 


Mirrors/Reflections
This film highlights the challenges faced by Iraqi women and girls seeking to exercise freedom of choice. The film depicts some of the harmful consequences that can follow when they try to exercise basic rights.

 

 

 


Black Lens took second place at the 3By3 Film Festival for its powerful depiction of the corrosive effects of corruption on Iraqi society and the exercise of human rights including the right to life and freedom of expression.

 

 

 

 

 


Haa, is a film about the challenges faced by many Iraqi women and girls who must navigate tradition and culture in pursuit of their goals, in this case a university education. It is dedicated to “every Iraqi girl fighting for her dreams.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Colours depicts discrimination by an adult against a child from an Iraqi minority community. This stands in contrast to the response of nearby children who transform the situation.

 

 

 

 


Give Me My Chance, is a film about the ingenuity of a poor child who sneaks into a school to participate in a mathematics class. It achieved third place at the 3By 3 Film Festival.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Malouka is a confronting film about the psychological impact of forced marriage on Iraqi children, especially girls.

 

 

 

 


Cinderella is, by far, the most popular short film of Iraqi audiences at short film festivals held by UN Human Rights. This Iraqi retelling of the classic children’s story highlights the plight of a girl who is orphaned by war and raised by her grandmother. The young actor who plays Cinderella addressed the Najaf Film Festival in April 2019. Her powerful performance was recognized in March 2019 during an award ceremony at the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq in Baghdad.

 

 


The Missing casts a spotlight on the impact of enforced disappearances on loved ones of the missing. Set at the Baghdad train station, it depicts the prolonged suffering of a grieving wife who waits for years for her husband to return from a war in Fallujah. Displaced by war, a family must traverse a hostile environment as hostilities continue around them.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Abyss is an animation film made in the Kurdistan region.

 

 

 

 

 

 


See the video on the Festival at https://youtu.be/nbZ9wrAqKcU
See the clips from selected movies at https://youtu.be/v2WTesOqNTM
See the speech of UN Human Rights Chief, Danielle Bell, at launch of 3x3 Film Festival | Baghdad, 3 March 2019 at https://youtu.be/gB2DuEPcaRc

Additional Info

  • Agency: UNAMI

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