The Human Rights Watch Film Festival, in its 11th year partnering with Balboa Park’s Museum of Photographic Arts, is returning to San Diego virtually in February.

Because the festival has moved to a digital platform due to the ongoing pandemic, from February 2 through 8, viewers from across the United States will now be able to view the event’s five films, whose topics include LGBTQ+ rights, systemic racism and immigration.

“At a time when many of us feel isolated, the world needs to hear stories of people standing up, fighting back and communities coming together — stories that reflect the justice movements and conversations that are happening right here in our own communities,” said Jennifer Nedbalsky, Deputy Director, Human Rights Watch Film Festival. “

Among the featured films is “Missing in Brooks County,” a documentary about people who go missing trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border and about the loved ones they leave behind.

“If the public and lawmakers understood the extent of this crisis and really understood the numbers that we’re talking about, we feel like people would be shocked,” said Lisa Molomot, co-director of the film.

The documentary focuses on a county in Texas about 70 miles north of the border where migrants, in an attempt to go around interior checkpoints set up by Border Patrol, end up in the desert. Between 300 and 600 migrants die there every year, according to the festival’s website.

Molomot and Jeff Bemiss spent years following families as they searched for answers about their lost loved ones.

“This film really shows the ultimate consequences of migration systems that put people’s lives at risk simply for moving around the world, something that is as simple, with the right paperwork, as getting on an airplane,” said Clara Long of Human Rights Watch. “There’s no reason why human mobility shouldn’t be like that for everyone.”

The issue, Long said, is that many see migration as a threat, and governments including the United States use a deterrence-minded approach that pushes migrants into more dangerous conditions.

The festival also offers discussion panels with many of the films’ directors as well as Human Rights Watch staff. The panel for “Missing in Brooks County” will take place on Thursday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m.

Tickets must be reserved online, and organizers encouraged viewers to make their reservations in advance as there are a limited number of tickets per film.

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