Freddie Machin_120920_152-C (1)
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By Freddie Machin

Through live performance, ice&fire draws attention to human rights abuses all around the world. But for the individual here in the UK it can often feel we have little agency in affecting the course of national or international decision making.

The most frequent question posed by audience members following any ice&fire production is an angry, passionate and sometimes resigned “but what can I do to help?” How can we overcome human rights abuses on the other side of the world, or even have our objections heard?

Coming to London for its 19th instalment this March, the Human Rights Watch Film Festival presents 15 award-winning documentary and feature films to inspire anyone who has ever asked that question.

Human Rights Watch is a leading organisation committed to defending and advancing the cause of human rights globally. Their festival this year brings together stories from Sudan to China and Afghanistan to Brazil celebrating the power of individual and community efforts to effect change.

Festival director John Biaggi says “This year’s festival features many determined, brave individuals…who have made huge personal sacrifices to bring about change

Wim Wenders’ documentary about legendary Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado opened the festival at the British Museum this week, highlighting a strong Latin American focus with films from Columbia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru all being featured.

Meanwhile, Beats of the Antonov celebrates cultural expression amid the complex realities of a divided Sudan. This screening at the Ritzy will be followed by a live performance from Minnjiaraby, a band founded in 2001 by Senegalese guitarist, singer and composer Abdoulaye Samb

All of the screenings at the Barbican, Curzon Soho and Ritzy Cinema Brixton will be accompanied by a Q&A. The notorious Yes Men will be in attendance at the screening of their film The Yes Men Are Revolting to talk about their own brand of culture jamming activism. For those who can’t get to London in person, selected films from the festival will also be screened on

Also part of the festival is a Guardian Masterclass featuring the techniques and strategies Human Rights Watch themselves used to investigate and expose the invisible humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic.

So frequently is ice&fire approached by willing and frustrated audience members that we created a document called ‘11 Things You Can Do’. Featured in it is one of the most underrated actions we can achieve on a daily basis – to talk. Talk to friends and colleagues about the stories that need our attention, and challenge myths, rumours and misconceptions when we encounter them.

So if there’s one thing you can do to help this week, it is to bear witness to one of the films at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and talk about what you’ve seen.

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