Veteran documentary filmmakers Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier will become co-chairs of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival Toronto following the departure of long-time chair Helga Stephenson after 17 years.
Baichwal (pictured left) and de Pencier (right) are known for their trilogy of films about the degradation of the planet: Manufactured Landscapes (2006), Watermark (2013) and Anthropocene: The Human Epoch (2018).
Stephenson joined the Toronto International Film Festival in 1978 and shepherded it as director during its formative years in the 1980s and ’90s. She later served as CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.
In 2015, Human Rights Watch honored Stephenson — who brought the film festival to Toronto — for her long-time service to the organization at a film festival opening night reception and screening.
Stephenson, along with entertainment lawyer Divya Shahani, have recently been named co-chairs of Toronto training and skills development center POV.
“It was an honor and privilege to work on this festival for which I am very grateful,” said Stephenson in a statement. “I wish Jennifer and Nick the same rich rewarding experience that comes with working for Human Rights Watch. The festival is in excellent hands.”
The incoming co-chairs added: “We are both honored and thrilled to be part of the HRW family and to champion film as a catalyst for social justice and meaningful change. It won’t be easy to fill the shoes of the formidable Helga Stephenson, but we are looking forward to serving this cause that we are deeply committed to.”
The Human Rights Watch Film Festival is an annual event in more than 20 countries around the globe. The global festival wrapped its Toronto edition on Feb. 4. It included six films in a new partnership with Hot Docs, which included new daytime screenings.