The Human Rights Watch Film Festival returns for its 11th year beginning Tuesday, featuring films on some of the hottest topics of our day, from systemic racism to immigrant rights.

The virtual festival, which continues through Feb. 8, will be hosted by the Museum of Photographic Arts, and includes screenings and live Q&As with filmmakers and advocates.

The goal for organizers is not only to shed light on social issues impacting the global community, but also to educate and mobilize audiences.

The featured films highlight human rights situations in the United States and around the world. Other topics include LGBTQ rights, equal access to child care and freedom of speech.

The virtual festival kicks off at 7 p.m. Wednesday with Through the Night, about a daycare center that becomes a lifeline for working-class parents in a New York community. The film won the Special Jury Prize at the DOC NYC Film Festival and was nominated for an IDA Documentary award.

Thursday’s film, Missing in Brooks County, by Jeff Bemiss and Lisa Molomot, looks at a border town in Texas and how agonizing the search can be when loved ones go missing while avoiding detection at immigration checkpoints.

The film tells the stories of families who connect with Eddie Canales of the South Texas Human Rights Center, which like San Diego’s Border Angels, assists migrants along the local border.

There is so much “fear of the other” in America, Molomot said during a recent panel in advance of the film festival. She hopes that Missing in Brooks County does what news articles and policy papers cannot – by giving viewers the chance to “experience emotionally” the pain that families suffer.

“That’s what we want to do with this film,” Molomot said.

Christopher R. Wilson, an associate director at Alliance San Diego, agrees that there’s a need to “speak to people’s hearts.”

The aim, he said, is “to fundamentally shift migration from being a threat to being a human rights issue.”

Screenings for the festival’s five films continue through Saturday, but they will be available to audiences across the U.S. from Tuesday to Feb. 8 until 11:59 p.m. PST. 

A full pass costs $40, with individual screenings priced at $9; tickets, which are limited, may be purchased on the museum site.

Discounts are available for students, seniors , military and museum members, but for those in need, festival organizers are offering codes for free admission on a first-come, first-served basis. Email filmticket@hrw.org for more information.

Note: Photo credit – Courtesy, HRWFF.

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