Human Rights Watch Film Festival: Child Abuse & Terrorism + Soccer-Playing Sex Workers

The Railroad All Stars by Chema Rodriguez

Directed by Chema Rodríguez, Estrellas de La Línea / The Railroad All Stars traces the lives of a plucky group of prostitutes who live in dismal conditions near a railroad in Guatemala City. Determined to bring some dignity to their lives – and to get publicity for their cause – they form a soccer team, “Estrellas de la Línea.”

As a result of the girls' sexy jokes, the film's dialogue milks humor out of the situation while news commentators indulge these unlikely soccer players with amused encouragement.

It's easy to sympathize with the team members who express their frustrations about their situation. It's equally easy to admire the dedication of girls who study or work during the day, even while working as prostitutes at night or whenever they can. Genuine tears provide evidence that the girls do not like what they do, but abuse, police corruption, and social prejudice deny them the opportunity to improve their lives.

The Railroad All Stars heightens the contrast between their poverty-stricken homes and exotic locations they have always dreamed of visiting. Such scenes are supported with appropriately varied musical background (by Paulo Alvarado and Michel Peraza) – some of the best moments evoking the jaunty humor of the context.

The Railroad All Stars is in Spanish with English subtitles. Although the subtitles could have been more clearly outlined and timed more appropriately, Chema Rodríguez tackles the subject with such appealing humor and insight that his film is well worth watching.

The Railroad All Stars was featured in the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival held in London at the end of March.

© Rosemary Westwell

Estrellas de La Línea / The Railroad All Stars (2006). Dir. / Scr.: Chema Rodríguez.

Rosita (2005)

Dir.: Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater. Scr.: María López Vigil


Rosita by Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater

Rosita was a 9-year-old Nicaraguan girl who liked drawing colorful pictures. One day, this young girl's life was drastically changed when, on the way to school, she was invited into her neighbor's house and was raped.

Barbara Attie and Janet Goldwater's powerful documentary Rosita captures the drama of the defiled child and of her shocked parents. While the Nicaraguan government, the Catholic church, and the media attempt to interfere in the lives of Rosita's family, others fight to ensure that the girl's parents will have the final say on whether their daughter should go through with the pregnancy. Initially, the family believes they have no choice – even though their daughter could die while giving birth – but they eventually learn that they can have a say in the eventual outcome.

Throughout the chain of events, we are reminded of the presence of the girl by a carefully worded script that phrases statements and questions the way a pregnant 9-year old would ask.

As part of London's Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, which runs from 21-30 March, Rosita will be screened on Tuesday, 27 March, at 18:30 and on Wednesday, 28 March, at 18:15, at the Ritzy cinema Brixton 08707 550062 The filmmakers will be present at the screening.

Hot House (2006). Dir. / Scr.: Shimon Dotan.

Hot House by Shimon Dotan

When Hot House was shown as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in London, it was received by the audience in stunned silence. The chilling reality the film portrayed made it almost impossible for us to extricate ourselves from its powerful message – there was too much to think about; we could not drag ourselves back easily into our world of banal complacency.

Written and directed by Shimon Dotan, and produced by Arik Berbstein, Jonathan Aroch, Dikla Barkal, and Shimon Dotan, Hot House presents a number of Palestinian male and female inmates in the Ber Sheba, Ashkelon, Hadarim, and Megiddo prisons in Israel. These inmates face the camera with confidence, announcing their sentences and crimes of terrorism as symbols of their patriotism and courage. With intellectual frigidity they pledge their existence to what they believe to be their Palestinian cause. In their minds, sending suicide bombers to kill a maximum number of Jews is a legitimate and significant act of political endeavor.

With considerable pride, witness after witness testifies to their allegiance to this mindset. Asked if they felt remorse after the death of innocent children, they immediately answer, “Of course not.” The same individuals who express love for their own families smile proudly at the idea of their own children becoming suicide bombers for the sakes of their cause. We are also shown scenes of young inmates educating themselves, learning Hebrew, and taking university degrees. This is no ignorant population.

Within the walls of these prisons an extension of the Palestinian state is being established, maintained, and developed with a certain amount of compliance by the Israeli guards. More experienced prisoners lead a population in the region of 8,000, establishing a governmental structure that replicates Palestine itself, communicating frequently with the world outside by secret messages, smuggled mobile phones, and other undisclosed methods.

Ron Klein's music adds considerably to the chilling effect. As the witnesses speak of their commitment to their intransigent beliefs, uneasy tones hover as a constant message in the background.

With unequivocal clarity Hot House brings into the open the ongoing conflict of interests that exist in the powder keg that is the city of Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside. The struggle for Palestinians and Israelis for their right to land and a living remains unresolved while one culture is dominated by another, and while injustices remain unattended and unresolved.

Hot House is in Hebrew, Arabic, and English, with English subtitles.

© Rosemary Westwell

Arts Critic Rosemary Westwell has written for several publications, including “The Independent” and “Musical Opinion.”

Human Rights Watch Film Festival website.

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1 Comment to Human Rights Watch Film Festival: Child Abuse & Terrorism + Soccer-Playing Sex Workers

  1. N Brunet

    Is Railroad All-Stars available anywhere in French or with French subtitles?