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They’re Protecting Our Planet – Let’s Support Them!

The VIVX Leadership Team. Photo: Skylight

At Skylight, human rights is not something we observe once a year on International Human Rights Day. The promotion of human rights and the defense of those who uphold those rights is at the very core of who we are.

Today, we ask for your support for our human rights-centered projects that combine cinema with activism from south to north, denouncing violations yet featuring those defenders finding a way forward. After all, a Skylight shines a light into dark places, illuminating courageous stories. 

VIVX: A Mutual Support Network  

Human rights and environmental defenders are risking their lives and being criminalized for standing up, being heard, modeling leadership, and contributing to movements. 

To address growing threats to grassroots human rights and environmental advocates, particularly in Guatemala, Colombia and Mexico where we run our SolidariLabs program, we created the Virtual International Volunteers Xchange (VIVX). VIVX is a mutual support network of filmmakers and activists who together create tools such as an app and short documentaries that strengthen the links among those who defend human rights and our planet. 

As the pandemic has been used by governments to further isolate defenders and escalate the threats against them, the VIVX leadership team gathered in Mexico to plan the launch of the app. The ultimate goal for Skylight is for the VIVX model to be replicated throughout Latin America and beyond as a new tool for promoting civic engagement and social protection of environmental and human rights defenders. Stay tuned as the network builds and rolls out!

Tiichajil_Good Life 

Watch Tiichajil_Good Life (4 mins)

When we were asked by the Smithsonian Institution and The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture to create a short film based on our current collaboration with Maya communities in the US, we turned to the protagonists of our feature film Borderland to cultivate ideas. The resulting film explores an indigenous future around the Maya concept of tiichajil (good life) and defying borders to form indigenous solidarity south and north. 

Tiichajil_Good Life asks the fundamental question of what indigenous future do we imagine? And in the context of the recent COP26, this question is crucial not only for the survival of indigenous peoples, but for the survival of the world,” wrote María Aguilar in El Periódico (Guatemala).

To bring these concepts to life, Saba, a graffiti artist from the Navajo Nation/Jemez Pueblo painted a huge permanent mural demonstrating the power of art in visualizing a collective indigenous future. Tiichajil_Good Life premiered at the Smithsonian last month and will remain as part of the FUTURES exhibit for the next 18 months. Already more than 40,000 people have seen the exhibit in its first 18 days!

Pamela Yates

Pamela Yates is an award-winning film director and the co-founder of Skylight, a not-for-profit media organization that for over 35 years has combined cinematic arts with the quest for justice to inspire the defense of human rights. Skylight’s films and programs strengthen social justice movements and catalyze collaborative networks of artists and activists.

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