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E-TEAM Exposes Real-Life Work of Human Rights Watch Workers

E-Team is a gripping film about the real-life work of Human Rights Watch workers. The film brings the work of these human rights activists out of newspaper columns and television interviews and onto the ground as these advocates risk their lives to verify human rights violations and bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

What makes this film especially compelling, is the effortless ability of the directors, Katy Chevigny and Ross Kauffman, to give a human face to the fight for human rights. The film puts audiences on the ground, and in the field with human rights workers and the victims of human rights abuses. The activists’ that are portrayed, appear simultaneously relatable and inspirational, their personal lives are intrinsically tied to their work. The film succeeds in making these advocates relatable through its exploration of the sobering parallel between the day-to-day lives of protagonists Anna Neistat and Ole Solvang, who are not only co-workers but husband and wife. Throughout the film we watch as Ana and Ole struggle to raise their child in normalcy, while simultaneously fighting to bring justice to the victims of alleged human rights violations in Syria. While trying to expose the horrific crimes against humanity, they risk their own lives, selflessly.

It is often said, that it is essential to revisit time and time again the fact that human rights violations can happen anywhere and to anyone, but we ignore the issue of human rights violations, citing our inability to act. As individuals, these excuses only serve to make us passive bystanders to injustice. We live vicariously through the media, but we distance ourselves from actually experiencing what those suffering experience daily, we choose to turn the other cheek. As the human rights workers in the films revealed, our voices are our most powerful tools. We know that the violation of human rights happens when we ignore the problem, in vain, hoping that global governments will intervene and fix the conflicts. As the film shows, time is of the essence, every minute counts. Even if we can’t participate on the ground, we can certainly use our voices to say something.

During the “Arab Spring”, a period of time between 2010-2013, in which a series of social movements and demonstrations broke out around and within member countries of the Arab league, we saw social media utilized as it was never before. Social media websites were utilized as platforms for protest, and sparked discussions that involved and reached hundreds and thousands of people around the world. According to statistics from The National UAE, “Facebook usage swelled in the Arab region between January and April and sometimes more than doubled. Overall, the number of users jumped by 30 per cent to 27.7m, compared with 18 per cent growth during the same period in 2010. In the past year, the number of users has nearly doubled from 14.8m” (Huang, thenational.ae). In addition, “During the protests in Egypt and Tunisia, the vast majority of 200-plus people surveyed over three weeks in March said they were getting their information from social media sites (88 per cent in Egypt and 94 per cent in Tunisia)”(Huang, thenational.ae) . The use of social media, aided and sustained the movements of the “Arab Spring” despite government backlash against citizens and journalists. The voices of these individuals, both citizens and journalists, were integral throughout this period of resistance.

As we have seen with the “Arab Spring”, utilizing social media, being an informed reader, and discussing topics like human rights, are not passive acts.The global citizens who act as journalists during times of conflict, are a display of human solidarity, a call for justice and a condemnation of the violation of human rights. We must realize that by fighting for human rights, we are not fighting only for human lives but also, “for the rights of individuals to live, free of fear or want, and free to exercise their rights to free speech and belief”, which are all rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

When you were a high school student did you want to be a human rights activists? As a high school student, I certainly had no idea what the job of a human rights activist might look like, much less, how vitally important their work was. This film presents a critical topic in an engaging but direct manner that is accessible to students studying human rights from the secondary to college level. The E-Team has the potential to engage students within the conversation of human rights, in a way that values and empowers their voices on a topic, that is often geared towards an adult demographic, which typically may seem intimidating and elusive. From this perspective, perhaps the most important job of the The E-Team, was not only to give a voice to human rights, but to change our perspectives of human rights work. The film accomplishes this, hrough its portrayal of its protagonists as empowered and inspirational heroes, that audiences can be inspired by. It’s films like this not only improve students knowledge of current human rights conflicts but that also shows them, that they too can do something about these issues, by bringing their own voices, and unique world views to the table. The E-Team challenges audiences not only to inform themselves about human rights issues but also to use their voices as crucial tools in the fight for human rights.

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