Today, I had the unique privilege, thanks to my work, of attending the “Baghdad eye: Human Rights Film Festival” at the University of Baghdad. In an auditorium full of eccentric and enthusiastic students, we watched quietly as filmmakers presented their work from around Iraq and the around the world.

The morning started off with Cory Taylor’s film on the Czech Republic’s Velvet Revolution of 1989, “The Power of the Powerless;” and though it might seem odd to some that films from other countries would be shown in a place like Iraq which has plenty of contemporary examples of human rights issues, I realized that by showing these films from around the world to all these passionate young intellectuals, one might hope to inspire them by giving them an outside view and new ideas to follow or emulate. The film showed the power of nonviolent resistance, something which could make all the difference in the lives of these students and in making changes within their own country.

The films that followed, “Speak Your Mind” by Emad Ali and “Sing Your Song” by Omar Falah, were great examples of the obstacles, often violent ones, faced by musicians and journalists in Iraq. Stories of death threats, dead friends, local censorship by provincial counsels but despite all that there is a will to bring back the culture and heritage being smothered by ignorance and bigotry. And despite the risks there is a will to continually work towards transparency and true freedom of speech.

In my line of work and past experience there is a part of me that is cynical about the resolve of many people in the developing world to improve their lives and those of others, but during these few hours I did see a few who are willing to meet the challenge and hold out hope for a better future for themselves and those around them.