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A Film’s Human Rights Odyssey

While we are making our films we always have a primary audience in mind, but in the case of State of Fear we had two. One was the Peruvian people, as we wanted our film to perpetuate the landmark examination of a war on terror revealed in the Final Report of the Peruvian Truth & Reconciliation Commission.

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The other was the U.S., because we felt Americans needed to see the tragic consequences of the Peruvian experience with their war on terror, full of alarming parallels to the U.S. approach to terrorism after 9/11. What we hadn’t anticipated was how much the findings of Peru’s Truth Commission would resonate with audiences around the world the use of fear of terrorism by elected leaders to expand their power was brought up in every Q&A at film festivals all over the world — when a student raised this issue after our screening at the Stalker Human Rights Festival in Moscow, Pamela commented that she thought that’s why our film had been invited, and the ensuing cheering and uproar caused the nervous festival director to shut down the Q&A!

In the 2 years since It’s release, State of Fear has resonated with human rights defenders throughout the world. It’s been translated into 48 languages and broadcast in 157 countries, and has been selected to participate in dozens of international human rights film festivals, including:

  • It was the “Opening Night” Film at the 2005 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York and was selected for their US traveling film festival.
  • It was chosen as “Best of Fest” at the 2006 Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in London.
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  • It received the “Audience Award” at the 2005 Amnesty International EXPOSE Film Festival in Los Angeles and was selected to be on the AI traveling film festival.
  • It was an Official Selection of the 2005 Stalker Human Rights Film Festival in Moscow.
  • It toured major Human Rights festivals of European cities the entire month of March 2006, including London, Amsterdam, The Hague, Paris, Geneva and Bologna.
  • It was selected to open the First Brazilian Human Rights Film Festival in 2006, screening in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, and Recife.
  • It received the 2006 “Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Video” from the Council on Foundations.
  • A special screening of State of Fear was held at the headquarters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
  • It was selected to screen at the 2006 Human Rights Defenders Forum at the Carter Center in Atlanta, hosted by President Jimmy Carter and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Barbour.
  • It was invited by Spanish Judge Baltazar Garzón to participate in Transatlantic Dialogues, a symposium he held at NYU Law School. The symposium will become part of a book.

Examples of how State of Fear has been embraced by human rights activists:

  • The Peruvian National Human Rights Coordinator, comprising 63 human rights organizations throughout Peru, is using State of Fear as an educational tool to maintain awareness of the findings of the Peruvian Truth Commission, and is will distribute 1,000 DVDs of the Quechua-language version of State of Fear throughout the Andes, in the areas most affected by the violence.
  • After the arrest of ex-President Alberto Fujimori in Chile when he attempted to return to Peru, Peruvian national television station Canal 7 broadcast State of Fear multiple times to remind the general public of the atrocities committed during Fujimori’s authoritarian regime.
  • While the Chilean government is considering Peru’s request to extradite Fujimori, Peruvian human rights activists have held screenings on State of Fear in Chile to educate the Chilean public on the findings of the Peruvian Truth Commission regarding Fujimori’s regime.
  • After State of Fear screened in Nepal at the Films South Asia festival in 2005, Nepali human rights defenders produced a Nepali-language version of the film and distributed over 200 DVDs to pro-democracy and human rights activists throughout Nepal.
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  • In Russia human rights organizations have been using the Russian-language version of State of Fear to illustrate the dangers faced by a democracy when leaders use fear of terrorism to consolidate authoritarian power especially as it pertains to Putin’s policy towards Chechnya.
  • In Northern Ireland State of Fear is used as an educational tool in ongoing efforts to establish a Truth Commission.
  • In Colombia State of Fear is being used by human rights activists to explore conflict resolution methods to bring an end to 50 years of violence in the war-torn country.

Theatrical release and television broadcasts of State of Fear:

  • National Geographic Channels International broadcast State of Fear in 154 countries in 45 languages reaching 170 million homes. It was selected to launch the first season of the NGCI series “No Borders.”
  • State of Fear had It’s theatrical premiere in New York City at the Film Forum.
  • It went on to showcase in 45 American cities. In addition, the film was selected to tour in 8 cities on the 2006 Southern Circuit-Tour of Independent filmmakers.
  • The History Channel en Español (US) launched It’s 2006 fall season with State of Fear.
  • Sundance Channel will premiere the English version of State of Fear in Fall 2007.
  • More than 300 US universities and colleges have purchased the State of Fear DVD.

And it’s not over – the next stop for State of Fear is the Montreal Human Rights Film Festival at the end of March! We are deeply grateful for the incredibly valuable consultation we received from the International Center for Transitional Justice and so many other wonderful advisors all along the journey of making State of Fear, and for the generous support we received from the Ford Foundation, the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, and the United States Institute of Peace. Here is a brief trailer of State of Fear:

Paco de Onís
paco@skylight.is

Paco is the Executive Director at Skylight.

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