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Human Rights Watch Film Festival unveils a new prize dedicated to Time Out’s founder

The winner of the first Tony Elliott Impact Award is a shocking must-see doc

Phil de Semlyen
Written by
Phil de Semlyen

This year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival has a new centrepiece. The Tony Elliott Impact Award, named after the Time Out founder and long-time human rights advocate, is awarded to the festival’s best documentary

And the inaugural winner is Myanmar Diaries. A remarkable piece of guerrilla filmmaking that was shot in secret by an anonymous filmmaking collective, it charts the country’s 2021 coup by a military junta in visceral detail. The judging panel, which includes Elliott’s son Rufus, praised its ‘nail-biting storytelling, guerrilla inventiveness, raw courage, and filmmaking craft’. 

‘It gives me great pleasure to hear that a winner has been announced for this special award in memory of my husband,’ says Elliott’s wife Janey. ‘Tony was a great supporter of independent cinema as well as a longtime supporter of Human Rights Watch and its annual film festival. He would have been delighted to be honoured in this way.’

Now into its 26th year and supported by People’s Postcode Lottery, London’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs from March 17-25 and showcases the finest in human rights storytelling. There are ten documentaries on the line-up, covering subjects as diverse as the immigrant experience in Britain, women surfers in Bangladesh, judicial independence in Poland, and assaults on boycotting rights in the US.

‘We are living through unprecedented times, and the films in this year’s line-up speak directly to many issues we currently face,’ says festival director John Biaggi. ‘We are very proud of this year’s programme, which highlights the ability to create change through courageous individuals on both sides of the lens, and to experience what happens when solidarity turns into a resounding voice that the powers that be can’t ignore.’ 

With Covid still a factor, the festival has gone hybrid this year: there are three screenings in Barbican’s Cinema 1 with live Q&As, including the opening night gala (‘Silence Heard Loud’), closing night film (‘Bangla Surf Girls’), and centrepiece gala (‘Boycott’). All ten films will be available to viewers across the UK and Ireland on the festival’s digital platform.

The full line-up can be found on the Human Rights Watch website. Tickets go onsale on February 17 from the Barbican website.

Alternatively, if you’re willing to make a regular donation to Human Rights Watch’s work, the first 50 Time Out readers to make a monthly pledge of £12 or more will receive free virtual pass to all the films at the fest. Click here for all the info.

Human Rights Watch
Photograph: Human Rights Watch

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