Human Rights in Isolation – Top 15 recommendations to keep your mind active

Posted on Monday, May 11th, 2020

Lockdown doesn’t mean ignoring human rights. We may not be able to stage protests or attend in-person meetings, but we can collectively raise awareness and share in the stories that inspire us.

Here’s our Top 15 list of Human Rights related books, documentaries, films and webinars to keep your mind active and remind us why we are committed to change. @ us on social media with your thoughts and any more recommendations!

1. Crip Camp (Netflix, 2020)

Crip Camp is an eye-opening documentary, which traces the disability-rights movement. It begins by focusing on New York summer camp, Camp Jened, set up to for teenagers with disabilities, running from the 1950s through to the 1970s, but as the film progresses it becomes clear this camp stands for something much greater – the breeding ground for a generation of activists that struggled for disabled rights and brought about victory for human rights.

2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (Book, 2015)

Written as a letter from a father to his son, Between the World and Me follows Coates’ own journey as a black man in America. The book provides an honest and raw insight into important issues such as race, racism, deprivation, privilege, and poverty through his own personal experiences.

3. When They See Us (Netflix, 2019)

This gripping but harrowing Netflix miniseries tracks the events on and following the 19th April 1989 in Central Park, New York. The story of the ‘Central Park 5’ and their wrongful imprisonment indicates how important a rights to a fair trial are, and how racial discrimination can operate within the law.

4. A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtmenache (Book, 2004)

Set during the Rwanda genocide, this book exposes the reader to issues of poverty, ignorance, global apathy and media blindness, while at the same telling a simple ‘human story’.

5. How To Brainwash a Million People – (BBC Documentary, 2019)

This documentary gets the closest to revealing the current situation for Uyghur Muslim’s in China’s Xinjian province. Deprived of the most basic human rights and enslaved in ‘re-education camps’, the documentary is a brave piece of journalism and has inspired people across the world to campaign for the fair treatment of Uyghur’s. If not now, when?

6. Tell me why you Fled: True Stories of Seeking Refuge by Karen O’Reilly (Book, 2019)

This memoir tells the story of working with people seeking refuge – from war, torture and genocide, as part of a personal journey of discovery and meaning. The author describes the unexpected connections she makes with the refugees she works with: from the Somalian woman who, pitying her, prays for her to find a husband, to the suspected Rwandan génocidaire who argues with her about soccer and makes her undrinkable coffee. In so doing, she helps the reader understand that refugees are not a category but human beings.

7. The Ratline, by Philippe Sands (Podcast series, 2018)

The author of East West Street traces the stories of the original human rights heroes and villians, the travails of whom helped form the modern international human rights framework. Essential listening for those interested in the question ‘how did human rights law come about in wake of the Holocaust?’.

8. To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee (Book, 1960)

Despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial discrimination, Harper Lee’s classic makes Human Rights issues enjoyable to read and think about. This page-turner also touches on issues of gender and compassion for others, and is absolutely required reading for young people looking to understand and fight for equality.

9. COVID – 19 and International Law: What went wrong and what can we learn from it? (Webinar, 2020)

Philippe Sands and the international health law expert and WHO former legal counsel Gian Luca Burci discuss the role of international law in the Covid crisis. What has the virus revealed about international co-operation, and how can we go about picking up the pieces?

10. Z – (film, 1969)

This classic political thriller based on the Greek Military junta between 1967-1974 tells an important story about the importance of political freedoms, the right to self-determination and the dangers of excessive police power. Combines important political messages with real drama and may make you angry and grateful at the same time

11. The Land Drenched in Tears – Söyüngül Chanisheff (Author), Rahima Mahmut (Translator)

This book is an incredibly moving history of the tumultuous years of modern China under Mao’s rule, witnessed, experienced, and told through the personal lens of an ethnic minority woman, who endured nearly 20 years imprisonment and surveillance regime as a result of her political activism in Xinjiang, or East Turkistan, located in the far west of China.

12. Angry Men (Film, 1957, Sidney Lumet)

A gripping and unique court-room drama film released in 1957 but no less relevant today. This Sidney Lumet classic reveals the challenges of consensus building and the role of the individual’s past experiences in decision-making. Crucial for appreciating how one person can create significant change, and for checking the self in our own decisions.

13. Documentaries on the Uyghur Crisis

René Cassin will not stand idly by given what we know about the treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Province. Our Jewish experience and values forbids it. To get informed, here are two documentaries outlining what is happening, and which give a face to the suffering taking place. Sign up to our newsletter and events to keep informed and find out what you can do to bring about change.

14.  The White Helmets (Netflix).

Our Education and Community Engagement Officer Moses said: ‘This documentary hit me right in the chestplate. It gave me a real sense of why mothers could possibly put their children in boats and across the seas, and how perverse it can be to accuse victims of persecution and war of abusing our system. It also inspired me to do something about it, to leave my comfort zone and to sacrifice my time to help others.

15. Adam Wagner’s Better Human Podcast

This podcast is both accessible and informative, exploring the role of Human Rights in this new Coronavirus context but also addressing the simple and crucial questions of what Human Rights actually are, where they came from and how they operate. Essential listening.