Nine human rights films at the Screening Rights Film Festival

Screening Rights Film Festival

This year’s Screening Rights Film Festival is taking a bold new direction. The West Midlands human rights and social justice film festival, running from October 26 to 29, is adopting the theme “The Dreams of Others”. Here are nine human rights films not to be missed.  

This year’s Screening Rights Film Festival will be held across two venues, MAC Birmingham and Warwick Arts Centre, from October 26 to 29. From student protesters to war survivors to activist artists to LGBTQ+ pioneers, the Screening Rights Film Festival 2023 celebrates radical imagination, utopian thinking, and pockets of refuge and freedom through cinema from Ukraine, Palestine, Armenia, Uzbekistan, India, China, UK, US, and the Netherlands. 

This year, the programme explores the subversive and explosive but also reparative and life-saving political potential of dreams. Here are nine human rights films not to be missed…  

Photo Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Collection of Cindy Sherman, Collection Elizabeth Wollheim, Courtesy of Katherine Cummings

Casa Susanna

Dreaming as an escape from the violence of the cisheteronormative ‘reality’…

Sébastien Lifshitz – Documentary

In the 50s and 60s, deep in the American countryside at the foot of the Catskills, a small wooden house with a barn behind it was home to the first clandestine network of cross-dressers. Diane and Kate are now 80 years old. At the time, they presented as men and were part of this secret community. Today, they relate this forgotten but essential chapter of the early days of trans-identity. It is a story full of noise and fury, rich in extraordinary characters, including the famous Susanna, who had the courage to create this refuge that came to be known as Casa Susanna.

Find tickets for this film here.

Still from We Will Not Fade Away

We Will Not Fade Away

Dreaming as a way of evacuating from war-torn Ukraine…

Alisa Kovalenko – Documentary

In the bleak setting of wartime Ukraine, five teenagers start to seriously think about their future. Their energy, enthusiasm, and hope allow them to fully live out their last golden hours of childhood despite the circumstances. The members of this imaginative band of dreamers paint, take photographs, or fantasise about acting careers or becoming the next Elon Musk. They rebel, ride on the waves of adventure, walk into minefields and sunbathe by a local lake. They dream of escaping not only from the war, but also – like teenagers all over the world – from the boredom of a small town. Then, unexpectedly, an opportunity arises to embark on a long journey all the way to Nepal. Will their dream of conquering the world come true?

Find tickets for this film here.


Still from Ertak


Dreaming as a way of evacuating the legislatively and societally oppressive state of Uzbekistan…

Kamila Rustambekova – Film

Featuring ambient music, soft palette and lots of greenery, Ertak is a story of a boy and his mother coming to terms with his sexuality in the legislatively and societally oppressive state of Uzbekistan.

Find tickets for this film here.

Still from Aurora’s Sunrise

Aurora’s Sunrise

Dreaming as a reclamation of history and land through bold reenactments…

Inna Sahakyan – Partially animated documentary

This sweeping biopic, which spans Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Norway, and the USA, follows the Armenian genocide survivor Aurora Mardiganian (1901-94) on her quest for safety, freedom, agency, and redemption. After a narrow escape from death at the hands of the Ottoman soldiers, Mardiganian makes her way to America, where she acts and writes her way out of trauma by authoring a book of memoirs and reenacting her life in a silent film. The film has since been lost, but the director of Aurora’s Sunrise Inna Sahakyan fills these gaps with exuberant animation, which, when combined with the previously unseen real-life interviews with Mardiganian, fittingly collapse the line between fiction and reality.

Find tickets for this film here.

Still from Foragers


(As above) Dreaming as a reclamation of history and land through bold reenactments…

Jumana Manna – Documentary

Foragers depicts the dramas around the practice of foraging for wild edible plants in Palestine/Israel with wry humour and a meditative pace. Shot in the Golan Heights, the Galilee and Jerusalem, it moves between fiction, documentary and archival footage to portray the impact of Israeli nature protection laws on these customs. The restrictions prohibit the collection of the artichoke-like ’akkoub and za’atar (thyme), and have resulted in fines and trials for hundreds caught collecting these native plants. For Palestinians, these laws constitute an ecological veil for legislation that further alienates them from their land while Israeli state representatives insist on their scientific expertise and duty to protect. Following the plants from the wild to the kitchen, from the chases between the foragers and the nature patrol, to courtroom defences, Foragers captures the inherited love, joy and knowledge in these traditions alongside their resilience to the prohibitive law. By reframing the terms and constraints of preservation, the film raises questions around the politics of extinction, namely who determines what is made extinct and what gets to live on.

FORAGERS / اليد الخضراء / Trailer from jumana manna on Vimeo.

Find tickets for this film here.

Still from RAFTS


Dreaming as a way of healing after the worldwide pandemic and a source of calm in the eye of the storm that is the global climate crisis…

Rory Pilgrim – Performance

In moments of change and transition, what supports us and keeps us afloat? A raft is the simplest and most fragile vehicle of survival on open water. Ancient as human language, rafts are still needed during urgent crossings. From the Abrahamic story of Noah’s Arc to the idea of Earth as a lonely life raft floating in space, the symbol of a raft has often represented the ultimate preserver of life.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, artist and composer Rory Pilgrim develops RAFTS as the second chapter in a body of performance, film and sonic work exploring how the climate crisis relates to support structures in our everyday lives. The commission is narrated by the voices of eight residents of Barking and Dagenham from Green Shoes Arts: Hugh, Carina, Liam, Butterfly, Katy, Dee, Mark, and Eddie, who each in their own way reflect on what the symbol of a raft means to them.

Find tickets for this film here.

Still from A Night of Knowing Nothing

A Night of Knowing Nothing

Dreaming as flickering between political melancholia and undying idealism…

Payal Kapadia – Autofictional narrative/documentary

Payal Kapadia’s black-and-white autofictional narrative intersperses a fictitious story of two film students who love each other but are separated by the caste system with raw documentary footage of student protests and police brutality in the streets of Delhi. At once dream-like and harrowing, A Night of Knowing Nothing blurs the line between real memories and fantasies, offering a unique, highly unconventional insight into the political imaginary of the anti-government Indian youth.

Find tickets for this film here.

Still from The Exiles

The Exiles

Dreaming as flickering between political melancholia and undying idealism…

Violet Columbus and Ben Klein – Documentary

In 1989, documentarian, activist, and iconoclast Christine Choy filmed the leaders of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement following the June 4th massacre. Midway through production, the project was abandoned and the footage was all but forgotten. Directors Violet Columbus and Ben Klein follow Choy as she returns to the never before seen archive, and the stories of three key figures during the protests, who remain political exiles to this day.

Find tickets for this film here.

Still from White Balls on Walls

White Balls On Walls

Dreaming as in sounding a wake-up call for the euro-centric, patriarchal contemporary art institutions… 

Sarah Vos – Documentary

Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art wants to become more diverse and inclusive. But how to go about that? An honest look behind the scenes into the sometimes-fraught process taking place in many public institutions.

Find tickets for this film here.

Find the full Screening Rights programme here.

Get involved 

 SRFF 2023 is looking for volunteers—film buffs, socially-engaged citizens, or both—in Birmingham, Coventry and the immediate vicinity, who could greet guests, redistribute flyers and questionnaires before and after screenings, lend a hand during the after-screening discussions, and provide some on-site photos and videos for the festival’s social media accounts. They are offering free tickets for festival screenings and can cover travel expenses. Email Misha Zakharov at and Pablo Alvarez Murillo at for more details. 

In concurrence with this year’s programme, the festival is particularly keen on working with volunteers from the following backgrounds: 


  • students

  • LGBTQ+ and more specifically trans persons

  • climate activists

  • contemporary art aficionados

  • Indian diasporas

  • Mainland Chinese, Taiwanese and Hong Kongese diasporas

  • Central Asian and more specifically Uzbekistani diasporas

  • Armenian diasporas

  • Arab and more specifically Palestinian diasporas

  • Ukrainian diasporas

  • and any other related communities.