For my second Doc Talk devoted to this year's Human Rights Watch Film Festival (currently ongoing at NYC's Lincoln Center), I struggled with whether or not to include my thoughts on Restrepo, a documentary that I feel seems somewhat out of place with the rest of the fest and which I think definitely deserves a separate review of its own. But then I watched Enemies of the People, which like Restrepo won an award at Sundance, and which also is great enough to be given an isolated focus. And then I realized that my favorite film from the first week of the Human Rights Watch fest, War Don Don, is equally terrific.
So, I'm keeping the concentration on the event itself, which I admit I initially expected to be focused too much on docs that are ads for causes but which has shown me some really high quality works of non-fiction that must be seen in this or any sort of forum. Below I take a look at four films screening during the second half of HRW, Restrepo, Enemies of the People and the wrong-man legal docs In the Land of the Free and Presumed Guilty, which closes the fest.
The reason I think Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger's war documentary is out of place at HRW is that, especially compared to the other films I've seen from the fest, it doesn't really tackle a human rights issue. I mean, yes, war is certainly something worth fighting against in terms of its affect on human life, but war alone is not really qualified as a human rights problem unless or until ICC-defined "crimes against humanity" occur. Restrepo may feature a few scenes concerning queries from civilians regarding the capture of suspect peers, but for the most part the film concentrates on a year in the life of U.S. marines immersed in daily combat in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.