Film & TV Muse

Film as Activism: Yorktivist Human Rights Film Festival 2022

Elizabeth Walsh speaks to Yorktivist about their upcoming virtual film festival

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Image Credit: Yorktivist

A new human rights based film festival is taking place online this week from 1–6 February. The aim of the festival – which is organised through a collaboration between the Centre for Applied Human Rights at the University of York and the York Human Rights City Network – is to celebrate films and art that recognise human rights. One of many highly anticipated showings include Waiting for Anya, based on Michael Morpurgo's story and written by Yorkshire screenwriter Toby Torlesse. Muse caught up with a spokesperson for the festival to find out more about the process behind what promises to be a thought-provoking week.

1) How did the idea for the Yorktivist Human Rights Film Festival  come about?

The Centre for Applied Human Rights ran a very successful annual film festival which petered out around 2017. So there is a rich tradition with the University, but this online festival aims to re-launch the human rights film festival with a new platform.

2) What was the inspiration behind the festival?

Trying to improve on what's been done before. We held a very small-scale festival in 2018. It had some brilliant highlights, such as a live theatrical performance by the Once Seen Theatre Company but the audience was tiny. It was apparent what we could do to improve the festival. 2019 we did not get it off the ground and of course 2020 and 2021 don't count. Here's hoping 2022 is back to improving on what came before.

Credit: Sergio Falchi

3) Why do you think that it’s important to look at human rights through the medium of film?

Human rights is a universal concern, and if they aren't, they should be. Most human rights film festivals are exclusively for documentary films, but Yorktivist embraces a wider scope. In the face of shrinking civic spaces for human rights activists around the world, the arts increasingly provide a safe space for human rights activism. The films featuring in this year's Yorktivist are testament to that dynamic. We have documentary-style films, but we also showcase films with storylines that are works of fiction, because sometimes the point you need to make about human rights can be safely expressed through metaphor.

4) If this festival is successful do you have any long term plans for the future?

The plan is for the festival to continue annually if we can keep it viable. We have had very good conversations with other local organisations who have been extremely supportive. Special thanks must go to Cherie Federico, founder of York's wonderful Aesthetica International Film Festival, for being so kind and supportive with helpful advice.

5) Is there anything else you would like Nouse readers to know?

Please take a look at the festival webpage! All films are free for the audience to view online during the festival. As well as the films, we have two excellent MasterClasses, and four exciting panel discussions. All are timed early in the evening in the hope of making it easier for people to login in and watch at the end of a "regular" working day.

More information about the festival including the schedule can be found here:

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