Published on March 15, 2014
E-TEAM documents a specialized branch of Human Rights Watch’s renowned on-the-ground work to defend and protect human rights worldwide. Erol Foundation awarded a 2014 grant to HRW for its research on human rights abuses in the United States related to incarceration of probationers and predatory lending practices on Native American reservations. As we enter into a new partnership with the organization this year, we are eager to learn more about different sectors of their work.
In January, we were invited by Roco Films to attend a screening of E-TEAM at Sundance and were captivated by the stories not only of the footage from the field, but the courage required by each of the Human Rights Watch researchers to carry out assignments. The film received critical praise and an award for excellence in cinematography at the Sundance premiere. The Sundance Festival website gives a synopsys of the film, which has not yet been made available for wide release:
“When atrocities are committed in countries held hostage by ruthless dictators, Human Rights Watch sends in the E-Team (Emergencies Team), a collection of fiercely intelligent individuals hired to document war crimes and report them to the rest of the world. Within this volatile climate, filmmakers Ross Kauffman (Born into Brothels) and Katy Chevigny (Election Day, Deadline) take us to the frontline in Syria and Libya, where shrapnel, bullet holes, and unmarked graves provide mounting evidence of coordinated attacks conducted by Bashar al-Assad and the now-deceased Muammar Gaddafi. The crimes are rampant, random, and often undocumented, making E-Team’s effort to get information out of the country and into the hands of media outlets and criminal courts all the more necessary.”
To gain additional insight into the methods HRW uses to ready its front-line researchers for the field, we also attended an Emergencies Division training led by Associate Director for Program and Emergencies Anna Neistat and Emergencies Senior Researcher Ole Solvang. We left with a clearer understanding of how HRW conducts human rights investigations. We also had a chance to meet Anna and Ole—stars of the E-TEAM film and lead HRW field researchers—and hear about their time at the scene of unfolding human rights crises in Syria.
Last week, our friends over at Amplifier Strategies attended a special screening of E-TEAM at the Delancey Screening Room in San Francisco. They shared our enthusiasm for the film, and we look forward to putting our heads together over other opportunities for engagment around the issues raised by HRW’s documentary.