Background to the Trust

The Human Rights Media Trust is a non-profit organisation that formed in 2004.


For the first decade the objectives of the Trust were to partner and support initiatives related to human rights film and media projects. This included social impact campaigns and supporting production of human rights films and related film projects. A strong component of the work of the Trust over this period was directly related to developing and sustaining a culture of human rights in the film and television industry by giving training and employment opportunities to black youth, women and groups under-represented in film. The Trust also had an objective of developing audiences for human rights cinema. Much of this work took place via the annual Tri Continental Human Rights Film Festival, the Bi-Annual People 2 People Documentary Conference, production of television series, Alexandra My Alexandra, and in terms of Human Rights intervention work, through the initiation of Filmmakers Against Racism (FAR). The latter was in rapid response to violent xenophobic attacks that took place in 2008. The FAR films were a true collaboration between filmmakers and a range of social justice organisations wanting to make an impactful intervention to a societal crisis. The film screenings of this series provided a platform for education, planning and debate. The films made it into millions of homes via TV broadcast by the public broadcaster and continue to be used by schools and educational institutions to stimulate discussion on how do we as a society, explain and mitigate against xenophobia.

2014 – 2019

In 2014 a new decade of the Trust began, and with it a new and urgent campaign, the Marikana Support Campaign (MSC). Alongside MSC, the Trust ran a film impact campaign for the documentary, Miners Shot Down. The film and the MSC involved strong collaborative partnerships between a diverse range of organisations and individuals to call for legal justice for the murdered victims of a police shooting during a miners’ strike in 2012, and their families. The groundbreaking campaign raised awareness of enduring inequality in the extractives industries in South Africa, and critically, contributed to a significant realignment within South Africa’s socio-political landscape. The film and campaign went on to win several international awards, including the BritDoc Social Impact Award in 2015.

The work undertaken by the Trust during this period required a new focus, shifting the original objectives of supporting equality and a culture of human rights within the film industry to that of using film and creating strong partnerships to tackle social injustices in contemporary South African society. This is a post-colonial country, with deep layers of oppression inherent in the economic structures that continue to overspill into everyday life, impacting most harshly on working class black women and youth. However, it can no longer be argued that South Africa is an emerging democracy. This means the state, and the governing party that led the country into liberation, can no longer be exonerated from the unsustainable levels of inequality, poverty, gender based violence and corruption.

The Trust focused during the 2014 – 2019 period on projects that held the past and present in equal balance – effectively projects that argued that our democracy was failing to safeguard rights, and to protect the vulnerable. Instead of creating a society that was getting better, the projects the Trust supported during this era exposed that at best we were trapped in an unequal status quo, and at worst, we were moving backwards. The upward spiraling of youth unemployment, untenable gender-based violence, corruption and collapse of functioning state institutions, illustrates a society that is heading towards a crisis, rather than one that is moving towards more freedom, equality and stability.

2019 – 2024

In 2018, the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), released the Global Warming of 1.5C report, arguing the need for all countries to do everything in their power to keep within 1.5C of warming by end of century by drastically reducing carbon emissions. The report outlines the consequences of not acting swiftly and paints a terrifying picture of a world that is no longer fit for human habitation if the science and data is ignored. The Southern African region is a climate crisis hotspot, meaning this region is vulnerable to rising temperatures, droughts, coastal and inland flooding and climate shocks. This is not a projected situation, but one that is current.

In acceptance that the climate crisis is a threat multiplier, hitting vulnerable people hard and exacerbating all existing oppression, this issue becomes central to the protection of human rights, including the right to life itself.

Therefore, during the period 2019 – 2024, the Trust will be focusing on media projects with the following Aims and Objectives:


To produce and support media projects with strong overarching social impact goals.

To use the craft of filmmaking to support a culture of human rights and democracy.


  1. Non-fiction feature length and short version films and visual media that directly support climate crisis mitigation and adaptation themes.
  2. To foreground the climate crisis and environmental collapse in media projects that involve other human rights issues, including gender based violence, HIV, and migrants’ rights.


Trustees are

Rehad Desai – Chair

Zivia Desai Keiper – Treasurer

Michael Dixon – Lawyer

Terry Bell – Political Journalist

Dylan Valley – Filmmaker and Lecturer

Shaeera Kalla – Researcher and Activist

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