In this article the author explores what feature-length films of the kind that are shown in human rights film festivals contribute to human rights culture. Analyzing films that feature victims (including, in some detail, Sonita) and perpetrators (notably, The Act of Killing), the author argues that a viewer is called on to identify with the protagonist who drives forward a narrative of self-responsibilization—regardless of any commitment she or he may make then to either organized political action or to ethical deconstruction of a film’s narrative. It is principally through work on the self to become a subject of human rights that human rights films are contributing to human rights culture—in advance of a global community of citizens and institutions that might regularly and routinely secure human rights for all.
Film That Brings Human Rights to Life
Kate Nash is professor of sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Faculty Fellow at the Center for Cultural Sociology, Yale University. She has written and published widely on political sociology and on the sociology of human rights, including The Political Sociology of Human Rights (2015) and The Cultural Politics of Human Rights: Comparing the US and UK (2009).