By Pia Cabrera

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is back in Toronto for its 12th year, with a powerful lineup of eight films that tell extraordinary stories of struggle, survival and hope. The festival aims to draw attention to human rights violations worldwide through brave and bold films from several countries. I had the opportunity to see the screening of the feature documentary, Uyghurs: Prisoners of Absurd at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

The gripping and enlightening documentary tells the story of the group of men (Uyghurs) who were imprisoned in Guatanamo Bay as part of the United States’ indiscriminate War on Terror. Director Patricio Henriquez follows the journey of three men, and illustrates their lives through pain, survival and injustice. It focuses on every detail, from beginning to end, highlighting the injustices they endured for more than a decade and how it all happened. It shines light on the fight against terrorism and global injustice, the tension between China and the Uyghur population.

The documentary is both fascinating and moving. It opened my eyes to the Uyghur community and why the 22 men chose to flee the country. With multiple twists and turns that are sadly true, viewers can’t turn away from the screen. Every moment is thrilling, and one can’t help but put oneself in the shoes of these men and wonder how they must have felt, imprisoned half of their lives due to injustice.

After viewing this documentary, most people will definitely have a different opinion towards the Uyghur community.