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Stories from Quick Reads

Venezuela's Oscar Entry Speaks an Indigenous Language

Lo que lleva el río (“Gone With the River”), from Cuban-Venezuelan filmmaker Mario Crespo Dauna, is a Venezuelan film shot almost entirely in Warao, the language spoken by the people indigenous to the Orinoco River Delta. The film is Venezuela's entry to the Academy Awards for Best Foreign-Language Film.

According to , who wrote in Remezcla:

The story follows an indigenous woman named Dauna who is marked by difference within her community. Torn between her love for Tarsicio or her desire to pursue studies outside of her village, Dauna’s decision to challenge the expectations of her traditional culture lead to suffering and, ultimately, reconciliation.”

The film was selected as part of the Berlin Film Festival’s groundbreaking NATIVe showcase, earlier this year. Here is the trailer:

Unlivable Conditions in Macedonian Student Dorms Worsen

The Student Plenum, a grassroots movement fighting for the rights of university students in Macedonia, published new photos of the unlivable conditions that students in Macedonia's capital of Skopje live in. The movement has steadily been following the situation in the state-owned student dorms and has called on the state several times to improve basic hygiene and safety conditions in the student living quarters. Student Plenum recently informed the public that the living conditions and structural safety of at least one of the largest student dormitories in Skopje has worsened since and has reminded that the government promised to fully reconstruct the dorms more than a year ago, after being shamed in international media.

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In the accompanying text, Student Plenum indirectly address the new institution of special public prosecutor, which is supposed to handle corruption cases that the regular public prosecutor in Macedonia actively ignores.

Домовите се распаѓаат исто како и системот во државата, но ние сè уште немаме добиено нов специјален студентски дом за да се спасат студентите живи од бедата во која живеат и која се руши околу нив.

Ова е блокот В во студентскиот дом “Гоце Делчев”, во кој пред некој ден како што може да се види на сликите се срушил дел од кровот во еден од ходниците.

Овојпат немало повредени. Дали и наредниот пат нашите колеги ќе бидат еднакво среќни или пак до тогаш ќе добијат нов (специјален) студентски дом?

Student dorms are falling apart just like the state system and we have not received a new special student dorm to save the students’ lives from the misery in which they live and which crumbles around them.

This is the Block V of the “Goce Delchev” student dorm. The ceiling fell in one of the hallways a few days ago.

This time no one was injured. Will our colleagues be so lucky the next time or by then will they get a new, (special) student dorm?

Could Using a Cell Phone in Iran Put You in Business with “Terrorists”?

U.S. lawmakers consider placing Iran's Revolutionary Guards as "terrorist'' organization, impeding international trade with Iran post-nuclear sanctions relief. Image by Kamyar Adl (CC BY 2.0).

U.S. lawmakers consider placing Iran's Revolutionary Guards as “terrorist” organization, impeding international trade with Iran post-nuclear sanctions relief. Image by Kamyar Adl (CC BY 2.0).

Could using a cell phone in Iran entangle you with ”terrorists”?

This might be the case if Iran's Revolutionary Guards who control the country's telecommunications monopoly are designated as “terrorists”. This is a possibility being discussed as U.S. politicians and lawmakers consider how stringently to impose economic sanctions on Iran once the sanctions related to the country's nuclear program are removed. The passing of the 14 July nuclear accord signed in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 is becoming more of certainty after Democratic senators filibustered Republican efforts to block the deal on 10 September.

In a recent New York Times article, the newspaper's chief military correspondent Walter Gordon explains the promises President Obama had to make to skeptical Democrats he needed on his side. To this effect, the President has emphasized that the United States would increase sanctions on Iran's activities related to terrorism in the region, as well as human rights abuses.

Designating the Revolutinary Guards as “terrorists” is a way U.S. lawmakers are proposing to take this a step further. Amendments to sanctions on Iran would discourage business with any Iranian firm with an association with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps through the designation.

Many have already predicted the Revolutionary Guards stand to benefit the most from nuclear sanctions relief on Iran, as they maintain a foothold in crucial sectors of the country's economy, including construction, communications, banking and energy. The Guards also have a minority stake, or influence through membership or executive positions in hundreds of Iranian companies across a wide range of sectors.

Predictions for an Opposition Party Win in Trinidad & Tobago's General Elections

By midnight Trinidad and Tobago time, the country should know which political party will form its next government. As predicted, it has been a tight race — out of just over a million eligible voters, the Elections and Boundaries Commission (EBC) has thus far tallied over 400,000 votes. Many seats have already been declared, but two critical marginal seats, St. Joseph and La Horquetta/Talparo, both in the east Trinidad, are still up for grabs.

As expected, the two Tobago constituencies have gone entirely to the opposition People's National Movement (PNM).

Should the PNM win the two marginal seats — and by all appearances, they are poised to claim victory for at least one of them, St. Joseph — they will have beat the incumbent by 23 seats to 18 — a slim majority, but a win nonetheless. Some media houses and pollsters have been taking the liberty of calling the election in favour of the PNM, even though final numbers have not yet come in:

The still-sitting prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, retained her seat by a definitive margin:

As things stand now, it looks as though her victory may remain limited to her personal triumph in the constituency of Siparia and the ‘safe seats’ that her party enjoys in east and central Trinidad.

The Happiest Countries in the World Are All in Latin America

Gallup interviewed 150,000 adults in 148 countries, asking such questions as, “Did you smile or laugh yesterday?” and “Did you learn or do something interesting yesterday?” to build a positive-experience index. Surprisingly, the leading countries in terms of positive emotions were all in Latin America, from Paraguay to Nicaragua, according to Quartz.

The survey used a scale from 0 to 100 and found that the world’s positive-experience index average for 2014 was 71/100—”the same as 2013, and just about what it’s been since 2006.”

The country with the least positive emotional score was Sudan (47/100). Happiness levels are also low in Tunisia, Serbia, Turkey, and others, apparently thanks to war and other forms of political instability.

In Bolivia and El Salvador, for example, 59 perecnt of respondents replied “yes” to all of the questions about both positive and negative emotions, which gives these nations particularly high “emotional” scores.

Search Coordinator for Ayotzinapa Students Assasinated

Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, coordinator of the search for the 43 Ayotzinapa teachers’ college students, was assasinated in Mexico.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, 45, was found dead last weekend in a taxi he owned with a gunshot to the head.

In response to authorities’ lack of action against organized crime, he founded a self-defense group in 2013 in the Mexican state of Guerrero. A year later, the group formed a commission to launch the search for the 43 students of the rural teachers’ college in the community of Ayotzinapa who disappeared on September 26, 2014.

The BBC interviewed him about the search:

The activist never found the students, but thanks to his efforts, the search discovered 129 bodies which have been turned over to the authorities for identification.

Meet Sam Wakoba of TechMoran Blog

Bloggers Association of Kenya profiles Sam Wakoba who runs Techmoran blog. Techmoran won the award for the Best Technology Blog in Kenya this year:

We caught up with Sam to get some insights into his blogging journey.

Who is Sam Wakoba, in a few words?

Sam Wakoba is a humble and hardworking Kenyan, passionate about bettering lives in any way he can. He believes that, with the right information, anyone can be empowered to become a better citizen, employee or business person. My calling has been to dedicate my life and time to empower communities. This is just the start.

How did you come up with the name for your blog. Why ‘TechMoran’?

A Moran is a warrior and tour guide in the Maasai community. As tech ‘Morans’ we want to protect our local tech ecosystem as well as guide those who are new to it. International media covers African tech in a bad way – focusing more on NGO backed companies. We want to show the world everyday innovations in Africa hence protect the entire ecosystem

HRW Research Finds Media Freedom in Western Balkans Under Serious Threat

After almost a year of research in the region and in-depth interviews with over 80 journalists, editors, and independent media owners, Human Rights Watch released a report in July 2015 stating that media freedom in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia are under threat.

The report's findings include impunity and lack of action by authorities for threats, beatings, and even murders of journalists and media workers in these countries, citing that political interference and financial pressure through heavy fines and vague laws are often imposed on independent media in these countries.

In several cases journalists said they have continued to experience physical violence and abuse after their initial attack, again, often with impunity for their assailants. Journalists reporting on war crimes or radical religious groups in BiH, Kosovo and Serbia said authorities downplayed the seriousness of online threats they had experienced.[…]

Inefficiency and severe backlogs in the four justice systems impede timely adjudication of legal cases. Cases tend to drag on for years, creating an environment that can be used to the advantage of those who seek to stifle critical reporting through criminal acts of intimidation.

Human Rights Watch's key recommendations to authorities and governments in the four countries in question following this report include public and unequivocal condemnation of all attacks against journalists and media outlets and assurance of swift and thorough investigations into all such incidents, as well as prompt and impartial investigations into all attacks and threats against journalists and media outlets, including cybercrimes. The international human rights watch dog has also recommended that the European Union, to which all four of these countries are currently aspiring, the OSCE and the Council of Europe pay closer attention and take additional steps to urge relevant authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia to react appropriately to media threats and ensure a safe environment for journalists to work in.

An Amazon Tribe's 500-Page Traditional-Medicine Encyclopaedia

The Amazon Rainforest supports millions of plants that could be vital ingredients in still-undiscovered medications. For that reason, many pharmaceutical companies and even the US government are currently funding projects to study the indigenous plant knowledge of native shamans and healers in the area, and develop new drugs.

The Matsés people, who live in Peru and Brazil, have created a health encyclopedia more than 500 pages long cataloging their traditional medicinal practices, preserving ancestral knowledge for younger generations. The majority of the shamans are old and without apprentices. So when they die a vast knowledge also disappears.

But, in order to avoid bio-piracy, this information remains with the Matsés people; it is only accessible in the native tongue and is only distributed within the tribe’s villages. Protective measures also include: “no scientific names are used to identify local plant species, and no plants will be pictured in detail, so as not to be identifiable to outsiders.”

“The [Matsés Traditional Medicine Encyclopedia] marks the first time shamans of an Amazonian tribe have created a full and complete transcription of their medicinal knowledge written in their own language and words,” Christopher Herndon, president and co-founder of Acaté, told Mongabay in an interview.

According to Pachamama Alliance, a global community focused on creating a sustainable future, the health and wellbeing of the Western world, often comes at a high price for indigenous peoples. As pharmaceutical companies have realized that their research generates better outcomes if they co-operate with indigenous people and tap into their wisdom, rainforest tribes are at risk of losing control over their resources.

Once the pharmaceutical companies have developed the drug, they file patents claiming exclusive rights to the medical use of the plant – hence limiting or even denying access to the plants that indigenous peoples have relied upon for centuries.

That's why in 2010, the tenth Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted the Nagoya Protocol on Access and Benefit-Sharing. It specifically addresses the issue of bioprospecting and the rights of indigenous peoples to access to forest resources, intellectual property, and adequate compensation.

Acaté, a San-Francisco-based non-profit, assisted the five shamans who compiled the encyclopaedia. In the encyclopaedia, each entry is categorized by a disease name and features explanations of how to recognise the disease according to symptoms, understand its root causes and know how to prepare medicine from specific plants to use as treatment. The entries also make readers aware of alternative therapeutic options.

The idea behind the project is to make the tribes less dependent on conventional doctors and western drugs, while maintaining their self-sufficiency.

Muhammadiyah Wants Indonesia be a Key Player in the World

Indonesian President Jokowi attends the national congress of Muhammadiyah. From the official Facebook page of Persyarikatan Muhammadiyah.

Indonesian President Jokowi attends the national congress of Muhammadiyah. Photo from the official Facebook page of Persyarikatan Muhammadiyah.

Muhammadiyah, one of Indonesia’s largest Islamic organizations, is officially holding its 47th congress in Makassar, South Sulawesi, this week. President Joko Widodo and several ministers, as well as ambassadors from neighbouring countries, attended the opening ceremony at Karebosi field on Monday, August 3.

Indonesia is the world's largest nation with a Muslim-dominated population. In recent years, the government has actively promoted the idea of a modern and moderate Islam amid the rise of extremist religious movements in the region and other parts of the world.

Muhammadiyah is an influential Islamic organization in Indonesia which claims to have a membership of 55 million aside from owning thousands of schools, clinics, and hospitals across the country. It has partnered with the government in endorsing Indonesia as the voice of moderate Islam.

No fewer than 6,000 people are participating in this year's congress, in addition to another 300,000 cheerleaders who aren't formally registered as participants, but will nonetheless enliven the event.

In addition, the chairmen of Muhammadiyah's special branches—present in 16 countries—will also be attending, along with several sister organizations who chose the name Muhammadiyah. While these sibling organizations don't have the same structural organizational relationship Muhammadiyah has in Indonesia, they do develop the same religious ideas, the same strategy of struggle, and even the same logo. The branches include representation in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Mauritius. Guests of the Community of Sant’Egidio, the organization's Catholic community (based on Rome) also attended.

The event is held concurrently with the congress of First Century of Aisyiyah—a women's organization of Muhammadiyah—and will take place over five days.

With a large population and abundant resources, Muhammadiyah has pledged to encourage Indonesia to emerge as a key player in the world. That promise was made by Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah.

The theme of the congress is the “propagation of enlightenment towards Indonesia progression”. Muhammadiyah wants to establish Indonesia as a country that is also founded by Muhammadiyah, which bound together communities even before the country was born.

Prof Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah.  Photo from the group's official Fcebook page

Prof Din Syamsuddin, chairman of Muhammadiyah. Photo from the group's official Facebook page

Participants of Muhammadiyah’s Counseling Meeting

The congress ends today, August 7, with a closing ceremony attended by Indonesian vice president HE Jusuf Kalla.

 

Moroccan Royal Motorcade Runs Down By-Stander

Moroccans are sharing links for a video showing a car which is part of a royal motorcade ferrying Moroccan King Mohammed VI running over a man in Tangiers during the visit of French President Francois Hollande.

Samia Errazzouki tweets:

Hollande was in Morocco for a two-day visit and was met by Moroccan King Mohammed VI on Saturday. The video shows a vehicle in a motorcade with its doors open run over a by-stander moments after the King and his guest passed. The waving cheering crowds then start screaming.

The video was uploaded by Tanja7.com on YouTube and has been viewed more than 31,000 times so far.

It is not clear what happened to the passer by.

Why the Start-Up Pitch in Zimbabwe Is a ‘Waste of Time’

Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha, a communications officer for HIVOS (full disclosure: HIVOS is one of Global Voices’ sponsors) explains why Zimbabwe must ditch the start-up pitch:

The start-up pitch, which involves making a rapid fire presentation of an idea followed by a question and answer session involving selected judges, is increasingly a waste of time and non-efficient in propagating the tech start up ecosystem in Zimbabwe.

The start-up pitch is based on the traditional business planning methodology and ignores the fact that start-ups are in essence an exercise in exploration, that cannot in an way provide full proof answers. One of the most mundane questions asked at start up pitches is: how will you make money? Really? Not all ideas are geared at making dollar bills from word go. The right question is how is your idea of service and how are you planning to grow it in that manner.

Understandably, tech entrepreneurship is a hit-or-miss proposition but using pitching as a determinant of entrepreneurial success especially in a tech deficient context like Zimbabwe is simply a wastage of time, passions and resources.

The reason why the pitch model is favoured is that it allows for the evaluation of a large number of ideas in a short period of time. But in sifting through many ideas in a short time, a lot is missed that is key to making an entrepreneurial idea succeed particularly in the Zimbabwean context where a lot of data that is key to the tech ideas is missing.

Minority Women Communicators Conference Looks To ‘Occupy the Media and Internet’ in Mexico

The official announcement has been made for the Second Conference of Women Communicators of Indigenous and African Descent. The conference, whose slogan is “We occupy the media, we occupy the internet”, will take place October 6-10, 2015, at the Centro de las Artes CASA (CASA Arts Center) in San Agustín Elta, Oaxaca, Mexico.

According to the announcement, the conference “looks to foster an exchange of experiences in order to reflect on the challenges and difficulties of the work of women communicators, to delve into topics such as gender and inter-culturalism in the media; community media and legislation; political participation and the empowerment of women, and the use of TIC (Information and Communication Technologies) for communication strategies”:

Mujeres que participan en proyectos comunicación, procedentes de comunidades indígenas y afrodescendientes de México y Centroamérica, se reunirán para potenciar el uso de herramientas digitales y transformar la información en acción; generando estrategias de comunicación al servicio de sus proyectos…

Women who participate in communication projects, are of African descent or come from indigenous communities in Mexico and Central America, will gather to improve on the use of digital tools and to put the information into action by generating communication strategies to use in their projects…

The requirements for participation are:
  • Comprometerse a participar durante los 5 días del Encuentro.
  • Trabajar o colaborar en la actualidad y de manera continua en proyectos de comunicación (radio, fotografía, video documental, etc).
  • Pertenecer a alguna comunidad / pueblo indígena o afrodescendiente de México o Centroamérica.

• Commit to participating during the five days of the conference.
• Currently and continuously work or collaborate on communication projects (radio, photography, documentary video, etc.).
• Must be of African descent or come from an indigenous community in Mexico or Central America.

To apply, please fill out the online form available here.

How Do You Say ‘Bro’ in Latin America?

The Bromap: How do you say “bro” in Latin America?

The Facebook page for Pictoline, a highly visual site for news and information, shared this map with the different ways people in Latin American countries say “bro”, short for brother in English. While in Mexico they use wey and pata in Peru, it's pana in Venezuela and parce in Colombia.

You Can Also Demand Justice for the Journalists Killed in Mexico

More than 500 journalists, writers, artists and defenders for freedom of expression from around the world wrote an open letter to the president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, in which they called for explanations on the murder of Rubén Espinosa and all other journalists killed in the country, according to the blog Journalism in the Americas.

On July 31, photo journalist Rubén Espinosa was found dead along with four women in a Mexico City apartment. Upon receiving death threats, he fled from Veracruz, where 14 other journalists were killed in recent years, to Mexico's capital last June with the purpose of protecting his integrity.

The letter says:

Since 2000, dozens of journalists have been killed in Mexico, and approximately 20 more remain disappeared. The great majority of these crimes have never been prosecuted”…

… Mr. President, we urge you:

1. To guarantee the immediate and effective investigation of the assassination of Rubén Espinosa and the shameful number of journalists in Mexico who have met the same fate, and the thorough investigation of state and municipal officials who, in each case, may have been involved.
2. To undertake an immediate review of the procedures established to protect reporters’ lives, and to make a swift and effective commitment to guarantee and protect freedom of expression in Mexico.

The letter has the support of PEN and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). People like Mexican actor Gael García Bernal, Indian writer Salman Rushdie, American journalist Christiane Amanpour and hundreds of journalists, writers and artists have signed the open letter, and now you too could also add your name.

Iraqi Startups One Year After the Rise of ISIS

Ahmed Marwan shares stories about a few Iraqi startups one year after the rise of ISIS, at Wamda.

He explains:

But what is more uncertain than calculating the success probability of a startup working in a city less than 50 km away from the turmoil caused by ISIS?

That is exactly what it’s like to be an entrepreneur in Baghdad: they’re operating under conditions of extreme uncertainty.

Marwan sites a few examples of Iraqi startups and concludes:

These young guys and the other entrepreneurs have proved one thing: entrepreneurship in Iraq has unlimited potential in the face of adversity.

The pressing security situation, Iraq’s financial crisis and damaged infrastructure, investors’ unfamiliarity with startups, and other big obstacles are all valid arguments for the doubters and naysayers in the debate about the future of entrepreneurship in Iraq.

But entrepreneurs beg to differ and they keep doing what they are best at: surviving in this brutal market and striving to make a name for themselves.

The ‘Escopetarra': A Killer Instrument

If you believe that nothing good can come from a rifle, then you have to get to know the “escopetarra”—a hybrid that transforms two “lethal” weapons (an AK-47 and a guitar) into an instrument of peace. “Escopetarra” is a Spanish blend that combines the words “escopeta” (shotgun) and “guitarra” (guitar).

In his Spanish-language podcast, Colombian musician César López talks about how he created the instrument, tracing it from the moment of its conception to all of the technical issues he faced creating it, as well as its characteristic sound.

There are more AK-47s in the world than any other gun, thanks to how unusually cheap the weapon is to make. It is estimated that there are 35-to-50 million AK-47s in existence, not counting those that are manufactured illegally each year.

“Primero, el AK 47 es el arma que más muertos le ha causado al planeta Tierra en toda su historia. Es el arma que se ha usado en Sudáfrica, Medio Oriente, Centro América, en Colombia”, dijo López en entrevista con la cadena estadounidense Univision.

“First of all, the AK-47 has caused the most deaths by any weapon on the planet. It's been used in South Africa, the Middle East, Central America, and also in Colombia”, stated López in an interview with the American television network, Univision.

The first “escopetarra” was made in 2003 using a Winchester rifle and a Stratocaster electric guitar. The rifle is taken apart in a way that it is no longer considered a weapon and cannot be used as such.

Currently, about 20 “escopetarras” have been presented to prominent musicians and international leaders who stand for peace, including the Colombian band, Aterciopelados, Argentinean musician Fito Páez, and UNESCO.

Serbian Intelligence Agency Caught Inquiring to Purchase Surveillance Software

Screenshot of one of many emails from Hacking Team account manager to unknown official Serbian State Intelligence Agency email from 2012. Image courtesy of SHARE Defense, used with permission.

Screenshot of one of many emails from Hacking Team account manager to unknown official Serbian State Intelligence Agency email from 2012. Image courtesy of SHARE Defense, used with permission.

Serbian NGO SHARE Defense reported in July 2015 that leaked emails and files belonging to Milan-based software company Hacking Team (HT) published on  Wikileaks reveal that at least one Serbian security service inquired about and negotiated the purchase of surveillance software from this company in 2012. There is also evidence that one or more email accounts from the Serbian Ministry of Defense appear as trial users of the spy software made by the Italian company.

The software in question is the so-called Remote Control System, or RCS, ans essentially works by targeting the spreading of viruses on computers and mobile phones of persons under surveillance. According to SHARE Defense sources, most clients using this software are governments from around the world and their security services.

SHARE Defense's legal team also called attention to which organizations might be able to gain permission and afford the use of such software:

Share Foundation wrote about the legal framework for import of this kind of software in Serbia back in 2013 because of the “Trovicor” case, stating that rules for dual use goods must be applied and that a permit from the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications is obligatory.[…]

If we assume that certain organisations can be authorized to use this equipment, in our legal system that wouldn’t be possible without a court decision in accordance with the law. Using it in any other way would be an obvious violation of human rights which are guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and numerous international conventions.

Zambian Businessman’s Lawyers Petition GoDaddy To Pull Down News Site

Zambian citizen media website Zambia Reports is facing legal threats from a local businessman, Rajan Mahtani, is petitioning GoDaddy, the website’s hosting company, to kick Zambia Reports off of its servers.

According to the Zambian Watchdog, a rival website, Zambia Reports has been accused of publishing defamatory articles on Dr. Mahtani, who is the founder of one Zambia’s biggest indigenous banks, Finance Bank and a chain of other businesses.

A letter said to have been written by Rajan Mahtani's US-based lawyers to GoDaddy.

A letter said to have been written by Rajan Mahtani's US-based lawyers to GoDaddy. Used with permission of Zambian Watchdog.

The US lawyers have that GoDaddy cease and desist from hosting Zambia Reports and remove its contents from GoDaddy’s servers.

‘Films for Action’ Website Shares List of Top 100 Documentaries ‘We Can Use to Change the World’

After years of promotion and reviews of documentaries devoted to social change, the site Films for Action released a list of what they consider to be the 100 most influencial and provocative. From critiques to manistream media to the corporate world, passing through the ideas and solutions proposed in and by the majority world, this list of films present a wide view of ideas that many consider crucial to discuss.

The list includes documentaries like The Economics of Happiness (2011), which will be available for free in August, and The Crisis of Civilization (2011), based on the Book by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed.

Documentaries have an incredible power to raise awareness and create transformative changes in consciousness both at the personal and global levels […] All of the films have been selected because they are either free to watch online, or can be rented online. There are several films we would have loved to add to this list, but they currently don't have an accessible way to view them. As that changes, we'll be updating this list over time. Enjoy!

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