The Form and Content of Human Rights Film: Teaching Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower

How to Cite

Hamblin, S. (2016). The Form and Content of Human Rights Film: Teaching Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower. Radical Teacher, 104, 38–47.


This essay argues that the consistent association of human rights film with historical accuracy as a means of raising awareness has led human rights education to focus on filmic content, with fiction films being used primarily as case studies about particular atrocities or as opportunities to discuss more general ethical issues. While the subject matter of human rights films is certainly a major component of human rights education, I maintain that this singular focus prohibits students from examining how a film is situated within a specific matrix of geopolitical power relations and cultural presuppositions. This presumption of truth thus normalizes a westernized worldview, obscuring its ideological foundations and the geopolitical structures that give human rights discourse its universality and function. Using Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower as a teaching case study, this essay demonstrates how an attention to stylistic and generic conventions helps us understand how a film may educate about a particular human rights issue while at the same time propagate the very logics of geopolitical inequality that are implicated in its emergence.


Bronkhorst, Daan. “Human Rights Film Network: Reflections on its History, Principles and Practices.” “Workshops.” One World 2004. 2003. Web. July 15, 2015.

Burres, Bruni and Heather Harding. “Human Rights Filmmaking Today.” Visual Anthropology 9 (1997): 329-333. Print.

Chaudhuri, Shohini. Cinema of the Dark Side: Atrocity and the Ethics of Film Spectatorship. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2014. Print.

City of God. Dir. Fernando Meirelles. Perf. Alexandre Rodrigues, Alice Braga, Leandro Firmino, and Phellipe Haagensen. Miramax, 2002. DVD.

Edelman, Murray. From Art to Politics: How Artistic Creations Shape Political Perceptions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. Print.

Fariña, Juan Jorge Michel. “A model for teaching bioethics and human rights through cinema and popular TV series: A methodological approach.” Counseling Psychology Quarterly 22.1 (2009): 105-117. Print.

Freitas, Maria-Eugdnia. “Human Rights Films: Issues and Definition.” Journal of Islamic State Practices in International Law 1.2 (2005): 28-48. Print.

Goldberg, Elizabeth Swanson. Beyond Terror: Gender, Narrative, Human Rights. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2007. Print.

Human Rights Film Network. “Charter: 2.3 Human Rights Films.” Human Rights Film Network. April 18, 2004. Web. July 15, 2015.

Human Rights Watch. “Film Festival.” Human Rights Watch. 2015. Web. July 15, 2015.

Ledbetter, Mark. “Do Not Look at Y/Our Own Peril: Voyeurism as an Ethical Necessity, or To See as a Child Again.” Ethics and Images of Pain. Ed. Asbjørn Grønstad and Henrik Gustafsson. New York: Routledge, 2012. 3-14. Print.

Linfield, Susan. Cruel Radiance: Photography and Political Violence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. Print.

Lucas, Peter. “Human Rights Films Seeding Peace Education: Case Study of Brazil.” Film, Politics, and Education: Cinematic Pedagogy Across the Disciplines. Ed. Kelvin Shawn Sealey. New York: Peter Lang, 2008. 107-24. Print.

Sliwinski, Sharon. Human Rights in Camera. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2011. Print.

Swimelar, Safia. “Making Human Rights Visible through Photography and Film.” The SAGE Handbook of Human Rights. Ed. Anja Mihr and Mark Gibney. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2014. 413-32. Print.

Tascón, Sonia. “Considering Human Rights Films, Representation, and Ethics: Who’s Face?” Human Rights Quarterly 34.3 (2012): 864-883. Print.

---. Human Rights Film Festivals: Activism in Context. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2015. Print.

West, Joan, and Dennis West. “Blowing the Whistle on Sex Trafficking: An Interview with Larysa Kondracki.” Cineaste 36:4 (2011): 10–15. Print.

The Whistleblower. Dir. Larysa Kondracki. Perf. Rachel Weisz, David Strathairn, Nikolaj Lie Kass, Anna Anissimova. Samuel Goldwyn Films, 2010. DVD.