The artist-activist group DAKILA opened the 5th edition of the Active Vista Human Rights Festival on November 22 at the Shang Cineplex, Shangri-La Plaza to an audience of mostly human rights defenders and representatives of government, diplomatic community, civil society, media, academe, artists and youth through the Philippine premiere of the documentary film, MOTHERLAND by US-based Filipina filmmaker, Ramona Diaz.

The festival kicked off with the opening of the exhibit, Moving Pictures: Artists for Human Dignity, that featured photos of stories of struggle for human dignity as captured by the lens of 14 of the best photo journalists and visual artists of the country – AG Sano, Efren Ricalde, Eloisa Lopez, Geloy Concepcion, Hannah Reyes Morales, Jes Aznar, Luis Liwanag, Nana Buxani, Neil Daza, Nikki Luna, Raffy Lerma, Ricky Rocamora, Veejay Villafranca and Xyza Bacani.

According to Active Vista ED Leni Velasco, “this edition of the Active Vista comes in a very challenging time when there is an overwhelming attack on human rights and dignity, that the mere mention of the word human rights invite not only fear, discomfort, mockery and cynicism but also animosity and alienation. The Active Vista hopes that through the power of these different art forms as platforms, we may be able to bring a better public understanding of human rights through the narratives of human struggles.”

The opening film, Motherland (Bayang Ina Mo), won the Jury Prize for Commanding Vision at the prestigious Sundance International Film Festival and was the only Filipino film this year that was showcased at the Berlin International Film Festival. The filmmaker, Ramona Diaz, is known for her documentary film, Imelda. Several reproductive health advocates and women’s rights organizations such as Grrrl Gang Manila, the Purple Ribbon Network, the Reproductive Health Advocacy Network (RHAN), Likhaan Center for Woman’s Health, the Filipino Freethinkers and the Forum for Family Planning and Development, collaborated to organize its Philippine premiere. The film explores raising awareness about the plight of millions of Filipino women as they deal with childbirth and motherhood, but it also sheds light on the ongoing debate around the country’s controversial Reproductive Health Act.

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According to Earnest Zabala of Grrrl Gang Manila, “As a feminist collective, Grrrl Gang Manila aims for reproductive justice. We believe that everyone should be able to decide if or when to be a mother, and when you do become one, to have the social, economic and political conditions to have a healthy birth and raise your children without fearing for their safety or lives. This should not just be a matter of access to health or respect for individual rights: It’s about having a whole society designed to respect and support motherhood and parenting for all Filipinos, both rich and poor, rural or urban, and whether it’s your first child or fifth,”

The screening of Motherland coincides with the on-going 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence campaign of the United Nations and the recent announcement on the findings by the Food and Drug Authority of the 51 contraceptive products covered by the TRO of the Supreme Court as non abortifacient or cannot cause abortion.  According to Dr. Junice Melgar of Reproductive Health and Advocacy Network (RHAN), “With the recent developments in the FDA certification and re-certification of contraceptives as non-abortifacients, LIkhaan, as the RHAN secretariat, joins Dakila and its partners in showing the grim realities of women whose rights to family planning have been unrecognized or even violated through Motherland, a multi-awarded documentary film by Ramona Diaz in the Active Vista Human Rights Festival.”

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In addition, Active Vista ED Leni Velasco shared: “This year’s theme for Active Vista is truth awakening and like the women in the film, our country is on the edge of birthing. Only if we struggle shall we forge the social change we all aspire. At this time when democratic spaces that protect our human rights are under attack and when false news, historical revisionism and alternate truths are used to drown our rights and freedoms, this festival is a weapon that builds an army of advocates that will defend human rights on line and on ground. We are in the penumbra of history. Those who refuse to step out of the shadows shall never see the light.”

The Active Vista Human Rights Festival happens from November 22 – December 10 and shall feature film screenings in theaters, schools and alternative spaces; the theater play Tao Po, the Moving Pictures exhibit, film talks and human rights workshops, a youth empowerment summit, a bike ride and the Alab ng Puso concert to usher the celebration of International Human Rights Day on December 9.

For festival schedule, visit www.activevisa.ph.