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Case Study: Human Rights Watch Film Festival New York 2023

We were thrilled to collaborate with the Human Rights Watch Film Festival team once again this year on their New York edition, focusing on various marketing activation initiatives, including social media, outreach, and email marketing. 

Human Rights Watch Film Festival bears witness to human rights violations in direct storytelling and exposé form, and creates a forum for courageous individuals on both sides of the lens to empower audiences with the knowledge that personal commitment can make a difference.

Our team delved into the film program, conducting research on each film’s themes, potential partners, and target audience demographics to kickstart our outreach efforts. Concurrently, we implemented a social media strategy and newsletter marketing campaign to engage both returning and new festival attendees with content that showcased the festival’s ethos, diverse range of human rights issues featured in the thoughtfully curated film program, and commitment to accessibility for all.

From May 31st to June 8th, the festival took place in person at the iconic cinemas, Film at Lincoln Center and IFC Center, drawing an immense turnout from the New York community who wholeheartedly supported the festival and its exceptional lineup of films.

The in-person festival commenced with a sold-out screening of SEVEN WINTERS IN TEHRAN, the winner of the Compass-Perspektive-Award at Berlinale 2023. The opening night featured a live Q&A session with Director Steffi Niederzoll, Tara Sepehri Far (senior researcher, Middle East & North Africa division, Human Rights Watch), and Nilo Tabrizy (Visual Forensics Reporter at The Washington Post). 

Three women are sat on stage in a cinema theater with a screen behind them. They are facing an audience who are sat in aisles.
Tara Sepehri Far, Steffi Niederzoll and Nilo Tabrizy on stage at Film at Lincoln Center

.On days 5 and 6, WE ARE GUARDIANS was screened, with Indigenous activist Puyr Tembé in attendance for a post-screening live Q&A. Together with the filmmakers Edivan Guajajara, Chelsea Greene, and Rob Grobman, Puyr urged the audience to chant in her native Portuguese language, saying “marco temporal não” and to “fight for us and fight for our existence” in defiance of illegal logging and deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

A group of six people are standing closely on a stage with a cinema screen behind them. There are Director style fold out chairs behind them. From left to right: there is a white woman with dark brown long curly hair, she is wearing a navy top, denim jeans and grey trainers. The person next to her is a white male with short dark brown hair, he is wearing an off white button up shirt and khaki coloured trousers and grey boots. The person next to him is a white female with long blonde hair, she is wearing a black dress, long feather earrings, a black cardigan and black shoes. The person next to her in an Indigenous female with medium length black straight hair. She is wearing a traditional headpiece and long white and orange patterned dress. The person next to her is an olive skin toned male with short dark hair. He is wearing a white button up shirt, two long beaded necklaces, a black blazer, black trousers and black trainers. The person next to him is a white female with light brown long curly hair. She is wearing a medium length green dress with a silky white and green scarf off of one shoulder. She is wearing black strappy shoes.
Frances Underhill, Rob Grobman, Chelsea Greene, Puyr Tembé, Edivan Gujajara and Translator, on stage at IFC Center

The festival concluded with a sold-out closing night screening of PAY OR DIE, a powerful film shedding light on the exorbitant cost of insulin for individuals with diabetes within the US healthcare system. A poignant live Q&A session followed, featuring Co-Directors Rachael Dyer and Scott Ruderman, as well as film participants James Holt Jnr and Nicole Smith-Holt. Nicole, who tragically lost her son Alec due to the inability to afford insulin, emphatically stated, “Access to affordable healthcare is a human right.” Her words resonated with the audience and sparked discussions about the future of healthcare affordability and the fight against big pharma companies.

The festival achieved 98% in-person occupancy, surpassing pre-pandemic levels. This outstanding success stands as a testament to the hard work of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival team, in collaboration with Together Films.

Jen Nedbalsky, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch Film Festival, said “the Together Films team knocked it out of the park this year, everything was so smooth and organized. JP and his team kept the whole operation working with tons of forward momentum, precise focus and also an open mind to try everything. We are truly elated at Human Rights Watch.”

Five people are standing closely together and smiling on a stage with a cinema screen behind them. There are Director style chairs behind them. (From left to right) the first person is a white male with short black hair and is wearing black rimmed glasses. He is wearing a light grey button up shirt, dark grey blazer and black trousers. The second person next to him is a white female with her brown hair tied in a bun style. She is wearing a black vest and cream coloured trousers. The third person next to her is an African-American male who is wearing a blue t shirt and denim jeans. His t shirt says 'INSULIN make it affordable again". The person next to him is a white female who has auburn hair and is wearing a hot pink suit with a white blouse. The last person is a white male with short light brown hair. He is wearing a dark coloured button up shirt and beige trousers.
Matt McConnell, Nicole Smith-Holt, James Holt Jnr, Rachael Dyer and Scott Ruderman on stage at IFC Center

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Together Films are a marketing, distribution, and technology company based in London & NYC serving the international film community.

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