In Defense of Human Rights Filmmaking: A response to the sceptics, based on Kenyan examples

Hjort, Mette (2019) In Defense of Human Rights Filmmaking: A response to the sceptics, based on Kenyan examples. In: African Cinema & Human Rights. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, pp. 103-124. ISBN 0253039428

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Abstract

Focusing on the specific context of contemporary postcolonial Kenya, I seek to pinpoint the specific nature of problems arising from the intersection of moving image work and human rights thinking. To this end, attention is drawn to decisive differences between the often positively regarded advocacy work of specific human rights organizations and the more ambiguous realities of independent filmmakers who must navigate through a sector shaped by the collective impact of NGO filmmaking. Two quite different examples of advocacy work through film are considered: the first focuses on the rights of sexual minorities and involves collaboration between artists’ collective The Nest and UHAI-EASHRI (The East African Sexual Health and Rights Initiative), an organization that does not typically emphasize the power of moving images; in the second case, involving collaboration between the Endorois tribe, WITNESS—an “international organization that trains and supports people using video in their fight for human rights” (https://witness.org)—and CEMIRIDE (Centre for Minority Rights Development), the focus is on the rights of ethnic minorities. In both cases, human rights filmmaking is a welcome instrument in the context of specific advocacy projects, with the various partners buying into the filmmaking process on the basis of varying degrees of commitment to video- and filmmaking as such. The problematic aspects of human rights thinking with reference to film mostly arise in connection with filmmakers whose primary identity is that of filmmaker, not political activist. Analysis of the filmmaking career of Judy Kibinge, one of Kenya’s, indeed Africa’s, most accomplished women filmmakers, sheds light on the failings of a social system that gives priority to what she calls “social justice films”.

Keywords:social justice films, human rights filmmaking, Kenya, Judy Kibinge, The Nest, UHAI-EASHRI, WITNESS, CEMIRIDE
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P303 Film studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Film)
ID Code:49664
Deposited On:08 Jun 2022 13:10

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