The ninth annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival with five new documentaries by independent filmmakers opens Thursday at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.

This year’s festival will kick off with a screening of “TransMilitary,” a documentary about transgender military personnel. The film, adapted from a 2015 Emmy-nominated short film, follows four men and women who come out to Pentagon officials in an attempt to exercise their equal right to serve.

After the screening, one of “TransMilitary’s” subjects, U.S. Army Cpl. Laila Villanueva, will join retired Army Maj. Veronica Zerrer and LGBT rights researcher Kyle Knight in a panel discussion about the film.

The festival’s other four films, which will screen Friday and Saturday, focus on the topics of masculinity, sexual assault, climate change, poverty and high school students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“Over the years we’ve seen how the power of the documentary films helps drive important conversations,” said Deborah Klochko, the festival’s executive director and chief curator. “It allows the public to pay close attention to issues that would otherwise be scrolled away. It’s the arduous investigative work of these filmmakers, human-rights advocates and journalists that inspire us to take action.”

An opening night reception for the festival will be held at 6 p.m., with the screening beginning at 7 p.m.

Single-screening tickets start at $6 and festival passes, which grant admission to all five films, start at $25. Tickets are available at the door or online at

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.