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DID YOU READ

Hope and Despair at the Human Rights Watch Festival

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By Andrea Meyer

IFC News

Everybody’s doc-crazy these days. On the heels of popular nonfiction crowd-pleasers like “Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Super Size Me” and “March of the Penguins,” it’s become clear that documentaries aren’t just for lefty film geeks in Birkenstocks anymore. If that weren’t enough to start a movement, we find ourselves in a highly politicized climate in which everybody’s fired up — about Darfur, global warming, the price of gas, immigration, drilling in the Arctic, Iraq, Iran, bad behavior in the White House…just to name a few of the issues keeping folks up at night.

While many audience members are beginning to appreciate quality documentaries — and their serious, issue-oriented narrative counterparts — for the smart, informative and engrossing entertainment they can be, many have watched these films for decades. Human Rights Watch is an organization dedicated to protecting human rights through the investigation of human rights violations, advocacy and building awareness around the world. With the Film Society of Lincoln Center, the organization is hosting the 17th annual Human Rights Watch International Film Festival at the Walter Reade Theater from June 8-22. With that kind of pedigree, the festival invites the hardest hitting and most artistically accomplished narrative and documentary films that dare to tackle the issues concerning the world today.

The festival opened on June 8 with a benefit screening of Zach Niles and Banker White’s “The Refugee All Stars” about a band created by six Sierra Leonean musicians living in a refugee camp in the Republic of Guinea after being forced to flee their country’s brutal civil war. Infused as much with heartache as it is with music, the film explores the ways that art can bring a sense of hope and purpose even in the most dismal circumstances.

The films in the festival span the world, exposing injustice, devastation and the hope that seems to always endure. Lucian Muntean and Natasa Stankovic’s “Punam” introduces us to a nine-year-old Nepalese girl who takes care of her two younger siblings while her father works ceaselessly to earn enough money to send his children to school. Another nine-year-old girl is the focus of Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater’s “Rosita,” about a poor Costa Rican family fighting for the right for their daughter, who became pregnant after she was raped, to get an abortion, and finding themselves the focus of a battle involving two governments and the Catholic Church. Spanish director Manel Mayol’s “Switch Off” tells the story of the Pehuenche-Mapuche people who have lived in Chile’s Ralco valley for centuries, until Spain’s hydroelectric company built a dam in 2004, flooding the valley and forcing the people from their homes.

All the films in the festival cover compelling territory, but other standouts include Anthony Giacchino’s “The Camden 28,” about a group of Vietnam protesters who in 1971 broke into draft offices to destroy government records and save men from having to fight, and “Iraq in Fragments,” James Longley’s award-winning triad of stories about ordinary people finding ways to survive in various corners of the war-torn country. Narrative highlights include Adrian Shergold’s “Pierrepoint,” based on the true story of England’s celebrity hangman who hung over 600 people between 1934 and 1956, and director Michael Winterbottom’s latest (co-directed with Mat Whitecross), “The Road to Guantanamo,” another true story about four Muslims who were arrested in Afghanistan and held for two years without formal charges at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The film won the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2006 Berlin Film Festival.

If all these films seem a bit depressing, the message of “The Refugee All Stars” can be helpful: That the human spirit soars even from the darkest depths, a motto that extends to some of the other films represented here. Avner Faingulernt and Macabit Abramzon’s “Men on the Edge — Fishermen’s Diary” is about a beach on the Gaza/Israel border where Palestinian and Israeli men fished together from 1999 to 2003. Roy Westler’s “Shadya” follows a Muslim girl from a small village in Israel who in spite of family and social pressures becomes a World Champion in karate. And Simone Aaberg Kaern and Magnus Bejmar’s “Smiling in a War Zone” tells Aaberg Kaern’s story. She is a pilot who against all odds — and breaking the laws of several nations — travels 6000 kilometers from Denmark to Afghanistan in a rinky-dink plane to meet and inspire Farial, a girl she read about who dreams of becoming a pilot.

For more information, visit www.hrw.org/iff.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

Uncle-Buck

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…