2020 Human Rights Film Festival

Partnering with Amnesty International

Sunday 20 to Wednesday 23 September

Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

This Festival is our most ambitious project to date and will run over four days. The schedule is a rich one, covering a diverse range of issues that are both topical and thought-provoking.


We're delighted to partner with Amnesty International and the independent film-makers who've shared their films with us.  We have secured a range of excellent presenters and some will also offer post-film Q&A. 

These films are open to the public and free (koha), but please check the ratings guidelines before bringing under 13-year olds. (Note: ‘E’ rating means ‘Exempt’, a classification often used for films which are primarily to inform or educate rather than entertain).

See below for more information about each screening.


Amnesty International is a global movement of individuals who protect and defend human rights. It campaigns for justice wherever it has been denied and protect people, defending their right to freedom, truth and dignity.

It does this by investigating and exposing abuses, mobilising its movement of over 8 million supporters from 150 countries worldwide to take action. It sends experts to investigate and report wherever human rights abuses occur, working with thousands of international media outlets to expose the guilty and call them to justice.

It supports advocates and activists defending human rights in their own countries, including here in New Zealand. It puts pressure on offending governments, groups and individuals to ensure they uphold, create or change laws to protect human rights. It educates present and future generations, so that one day, the dream of human rights for all can become a reality.

Amnesty International is impartial and does not accept any money from governments or political parties. This allows it to maintain full independence from any governments, political ideologies, economic interests or religions.

As the featured movies highlight, human rights abuses can occur anywhere, including in our own neighbourhood. 

Amnesty’s impact here in Ōtautahi Christchurch includes advocacy for the Syrian Refugee community, campaigning on behalf of brave human rights defenders like the Christchurch Regional Team's prisoner of conscience Gao Zhisheng, and amplifying human rights in general through its ACTivate radio show on Plains FM.


Sunday 20 September @ 2pm


Leon Lee | 2018 | 75 mins | Canada | E

Letter from Masanjia begins when mother of two, Julie Keith, finds an SOS note in a box of “Made in China” Halloween decorations from an Oregon Kmart. The desperate note was written by a political prisoner, Sun Yi, from inside China’s north-western Masanjia labour camp. On the crumpled page that travelled over 5000 miles, Sun details how he was jailed for his spiritual beliefs and subjected to torture and brainwashing tactics. His message goes viral and leads to an examination of the labour camp system.


Peabody award-winning filmmaker, Leon Lee, is a political émigré – unwelcome in his home country because of his exposure of China’s human rights abuses. In Letter from Masanjia, Lee teaches Sun Yi to use camera equipment via Skype and for over a year, Sun Yi secretly captures harrowing footage of his daily life as a human rights defender, leading up to his tense run from the Chinese authorities. Meanwhile, just outside Portland, Julie Keith is struggling with her own dilemmas as a mother newly embroiled in this cause. Together, these two help to expose China’s ongoing persecution against millions whose ideology differs from that of the Chinese government. 


Letter From Masanjia is a bracing reminder of our sometimes blinkered approach to globalization and the effects of simple actions." – LA Times

View the trailer at


Monday 21 September @ 7.30pm


Will Watson | 2019 | 92 mins | NZ | M

Soldiers Without Guns looks at the fascinating story of how the Bougainville civil war ended due to the NZ led ‘Operation Bel Isi’.


After 10 years of war, 14 failed peace agreements and 20,000 people dead, New Zealand stepped in with an unorthodox yet unprecedented style of peacekeeping. The NZ Defence landed in the warzone without weapons, in a determined effort to unite the people in peace. Instead of guns, they took guitars, cultural understanding and women’s empowerment


The Bougainville Civil War erupted when Bougainvilleans rose up against the might of the Australian owned Panguna copper mine that had destroyed their environment, taken their land and divided the people.

Deciding to take guitars instead of guns they were able to bring the warring parties together with music and cultural connection.  However when a New Zealand diplomat’s helicopter was shot out of the sky by rebel forces, the whole peace process was suddenly thrown into jeopardy. Journeying through a series of knife-edge negotiations, tense situations, and high level political maneuvering, this is the story of how peace was won and operation Bel Isi came to be considered one of modern history’s most successful peacekeeping missions.

"An engrossing and fascinating film. Go see it." The Herald


View the trailer at


Tuesday 22 September @ 7.30pm


Feras Fayyad | 2017 | 104 mins | Denmark/Syria | R16

2018 Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature and winner of the Grand Jury documentary prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Syrian filmmaker Feras Fayyad’s breathtaking work — a searing example of boots-on-the-ground reportage — follows the efforts of the internationally recognized White Helmets, an organization consisting of ordinary citizens who are the first to rush towards military strikes and attacks in the hope of saving lives. Incorporating moments of both heart-pounding suspense and improbable beauty, the documentary draws us into the lives of three of its founders — Khaled, Subhi, and Mahmoud — as they grapple with the chaos around them and struggle with an ever-present dilemma: do they flee or stay and fight for their country? 

“A masterpiece.” Nick Fraser, The Guardian

View the trailer at


Wednesday 23 September @ 7.30pm

Guy Hircefeld, a Guy with a Camera (short film) ~ NZ Premiere

Andrés Gallegos | 2018 | USA | 12 mins 

Guy Hircefeld, a veteran who served in the Israeli military at the start of its occupation of Palestine in the 1980s, now fights against Israeli occupation, ethnic cleansing and environmental warfare. His only weapon is a camera.

View the trailer at



Molly Stuart | 2019 | 75 mins | USA | E

Like all Israeli youth, Atalya is obligated to become a soldier. Unlike most, she questions the practices of her country’s military, and becomes determined to challenge this rite of passage. Despite her family’s political disagreements and personal concerns, she refuses military duty and is imprisoned for her dissent. Her courage moves those around her to reconsider their own moral positions and personal power. Objector follows Atalya to prison and beyond, offering a unique window into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the perspective of a young woman who seeks truth and takes a stand for justice.


“Atalya is a remarkable young woman, exhibiting a rare courage. Watching her family transform as a result of the catalyst of her conviction was utterly inspiring.”  Ayelet Waldman, New York Times Best Selling Author

View the trailer at