South-African Navi Pillay special guest at Amnesty-night Movies that Matter Festival 2016

For the 18th edition of the Movies that Matter Festival, Navi Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, will launch Amnesty International’s prominent main programme A Matter of ACT on Saturday 19 March with the screening of Hooligan Sparrow, which will be attended by one of China’s most well-known lawyers Teng Biao and Chinese director Nanfu Wang.

The following documentaries will be screened as part of the A Matter of ACT programme. The activists present will be taking part in the post-screening debates.

*Hooligan Sparrow (opening film)

New York-based Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows a group of activists under the guidance of Haiyan Ye (Hooligan Sparrow), as they protest against a school headmaster and government official who has sexually molested six under-age girls in a hotel room. As a consequence, Sparrow is arrested and detained. Lawyer Teng Biao will attend the screening.

*Saudi-Arabia: A Wind of Change

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most secret and radical countries in the world. It is the last remaining country on earth where women are not allowed to drive. How do these fifteen million women live? What challenges do they face? What progress are they witnessing? Director Sylvain Lepetit traveled to the kingdom to report on the gender issue. Ensaf Haidar, the wife of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, will attend the screening.

*Chechnya, War without Trace

Documentary maker Manon Loizeau returns to Chechnya ten years later. The traces of the two recent wars with Russia, in which 20 percent of the Chechen population was killed, have been erased. Since Ramzan Kadyrov came to power eight years ago, he holds the Chechen Republic in his iron grip with the support of Russia. His fear-based rule is characterized by using disappearances, torture, death squads, and false allegations of terrorism or possession of drugs. Activist Oleg Khabibrakhmanov will attend the screening.

*A Sinner in Mecca

Filmmaker Parvez Sharma is a practicing Muslim and a homosexual. In order to fulfil his religious duties he goes on Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca in Saudi-Arabia, one of the most repressive countries in the world, where gays can be sentenced to death. Unique report of his visit to the Holy City and the intriguing world of pilgrimage. As a devoted believer, he grapples with the question whether he can be a good Muslim while being homosexual.

*A Good American

Documentary by Friedrich Moser in which former high-ranking NSA analyst William Binney claims to have developed a cheap and effective system (Thin Thread) to monitor internet data that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Motivated by personal ambition and corruption the NSA decided to replace Thin Thread with another, much more lucrative system. After more than thirty years of service, Binney left the NSA in 2001 when his system was used for the large-scale wiretapping of American citizens.

*7 Days in Syria

Newsweek’s Middle East correspondent Janine di Giovanni goes on a seven-day journey across war-torn Syria together with photo journalist Nicole Tung. The film, directed by Robert Rippberger, zooms in on Syrians who try to survive amid chaos. Her friend, American photographer James Foley, was detained and beheaded by IS two weeks before Di Giovanni’s departure. She also has a conversation with Steven Sotloff, who was arrested and killed shortly after her stay in Syria.

*Kingdom of Shadows

67-year old nun Consuelo Morales defends the interests of families whose members have been killed or who have disappeared during the violent Mexican Drug War. Director Bernardo Ruiz links the story of Consuelo up with that of a special narcotics agent at the US-Mexico border and a peasant in Texas who used to work as a drug smuggler during the American ‘Just Say No’ period.

*They will have to kill us first

Mali has been the theatre of a bloody since 2012. Islamic militias of the MNLA (Mouvement National de Liberation de L’Azawad) have taken control of parts of northern Mali and introduced sharia law there. Consequently, music was banned. Director Johanna Schwartz follows a number of musicians that go underground to seek refuge. Singer Fadimata ‘Disco’ Walet Oumar flees to Burkina Faso, where she helps women in refugee camps by singing songs with them. 


Eighteen-year-old Sonita dreams of becoming a rap artist after fleeing from Afghanistan to Iran. However, her family wants to marry her out. How can Sonita make her dreams come true? Against her will, director Rokhsarah Gaem Maghami gets directly involved in answering that question. At the midpoint of the film Sonita makes an impressive and dramatic rap video. Zoë Adams, Sonita’s mentor and CEO and co-founder of The Strong Heart Group, will attend the screening.

*No Rio e No Mar!

Documentary by Jan-Willem den Bok and Floor Koomen about the protest of the Quilombo fishermen (descendants of the runaway slaves in the colonial period) against the polluting petrochemical industry on the island of Maré in the Bay of All Saints. Highlighting modern-day racism in Brasil – environmental pollution often affects non-white communities –, the film follows activists Eliete Paraguaçu and Marizelia ‘Nega’ Carlos Lopes. Attorney Marcos Souza Brandão da Silva will attend the screening.

Movies that Matter Festival

The Movies that Matter Festival is the annual film and debate festival on human rights and social justice in The Hague. It offers screenings of some seventy documentaries and movies by inspired filmmakers who set themselves apart by the cinematographic quality and compelling content of their productions and thus stir debate on a just world. The festival also features talk shows, debates, musical performances and art expositions. The 18th edition of the festival will take place from 18 to 26 March in Filmhuis Den Haag and Theater aan het Spui.

A Matter of ACT

Together with Amnesty International, A Matter of ACT presents ten documentaries about human rights defenders who will be attending the festival. These films provide an impressive insight into the lives and work of human rights defenders throughout the world. The documentaries and their protagonists compete for two A Matter of ACT Awards: the Golden Butterflies for best film and the Human Rights Award. The A Matter of Act programme is sponsored by Amnesty International and the Gieskes-Strijbis Foundation.

The Movies that Matter Festival’s main partners are Amnesty International and vfonds. The festival receives funding by the city of The Hague, ASN Bank, VSB Fonds, Fonds 1818, Fonds 21 and the Democracy & media Foundation. Dutch broadcaster VARA and Trouw newspaper act as its media sponsors.

Go to for the programme and tickets