Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
How do you deal with the threat of imprisonment for drawing a cartoon of your president? How do you survive being sent to a labour camp for telling a joke? What is the impact of being tortured for writing a poem? Or of being forced into exile for singing a song?
These are some of the stories you will encounter in AN INDEPENDENT MIND, a unique feature-length documentary inspired by one of the most fundamental and controversial of human rights: Freedom of Expression.
Through encounters with a succession of eight different characters attempting to exercise their right to freely express themselves in different parts of the world, the film explores in human terms the importance and complexities of freedom of expression and its acceptable limits. Eight individual voices that together magnify one profound central theme.
Above all, it is a film that will make you reflect – on the importance of the free dissemination of knowledge, opinion, art and, significantly, its limits.
Rex Bloomstein’s new documentary, An Independent Mind, follows eight very different people from around the world as they fight for their freedom of expression.
The subjects range from the exiled Ivory Coast singer Tiken Jah Fakoly to the Chinese sex-blogger Mu Zimei; from Burma’s political comedians the Moustache Brothers to the British historian David Irving, who has been accused of being a Holocaust denier in the past. Others include a Basque rock group, a Syrian writer and an Algerian cartoonist, all of whom have been imprisoned or silenced due to their beliefs. ‘These people are living with the consequences of their choice to speak,” says Bloomstein. ‘Through these lives, I hope that we will have a strong sense of just how vital that freedom is and the price that others will pay for it.’
Bloomstein’s film is unsettling. With no narrator to guide you or music to distract you, the stories speak for themselves, with often surprising consequences. David Irving, for example, who has written admiringly of Hitler, makes a convincing case against censorship. ‘He was very interesting indeed,’ says Bloomstein. ‘Being Jewish myself, my decision to include Irving could be seen as controversial. But I’m not supping with the Devil. I’m exploring someone who has often repellent views. Irving denies he’s a denier. Nevertheless, should he have been imprisoned? I’m not sure that he should. I happen to favour debate and challenging people like Irving.’
The director concedes, however, that ‘freedom of expression by itself cannot be unlimited. There should be a marketplace for ideas. The health of society is often determined by the width and breadth of opinions and the explorations that are available. And if people feel offended or threatened, then they must turn to the law’.
In the past, the director has won awards for his unflinching films about prisons and the Holocaust (including KZ and Kids Behind Bars). An Independent Mind is a similarly stirring, challenging piece of work. ‘I’m hoping that it will make people think about what society would be like without freedom of expression. It is a vital human right, and without it, we’re much diminished.’
“Rex Bloomstein’s thoughtful, subtle film asks what has become of one of the defining questions of our time… Excellent.”
“Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declares that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression” and it’s this that drives Rex Bloomstein’s sober and reflective documentary…..Bloomstein believes that that those that seek to defend freedom of expression should do so in all quarters, however unpalatable the sentiments.”
“’As soon as you start saying this opinion is accepted and acceptable and that opinion is not acceptable, then you are degrading society’. A laudable closing statement for this meaty film… “
“Marking the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Rex Bloomstein’s film raises issues of freedom of speech by letting various individuals relate their battle to express themselves.”