Jan. 18 2012 12:03 PM

Our top three picks of San Diego events this week

The Price of Sex, playing at the Human Rights Watch Festival

Watching human rights

In exposing the brutality of war, exploitation and repression, sometimes journalistic dispatches and United Nations reports aren’t enough. Sometimes documentary film is able to turn statistics and testimony into a human drama that inspires action.

This is especially true when a documentary examines its subjects not only as victims, but as the complex beings they are, with individuality or “agency,” as Huma Ahmed-Ghosh, a professor in San Diego State University’s Department of Women’s Studies, calls it. A great example, Ahmed-Ghosh says, might be Love Crimes of Kabul, the first film of six in the annual Human Rights Watch Film Festival, which runs from Friday, Jan. 20, through Monday, Jan. 23, at the Museum of Photographic Arts (1649 El Prado in Balboa Park). Love Crimes follows three jailed women in Afghanistan as they face trials for crimes such as running away from home and adultery.

“It does not show the women as being what, in the West, would be ‘poor, pathetic women,’” says Ahmed-Ghosh, who’ll partake in a post-screening Q&A. “They’re very open and smart and funny, which is something we don’t associate with Muslim women in general.”

Other films include Granito: How to Nail a Dictator and When the Mountains Tremble, related films recording the Guatemalan government’s genocide of Mayan people. Two films deal with the so-called War on Terror: If a Tree Falls, about the Earth Liberation Front, and You Don’t Like the Truth, which is structured around Guantanamo Bay security-camera footage. Eleven videos shot by teenagers will be screened on the final day.

“Hopefully, people will see these films and bring them back to schools and the community and use them as tools for social change,” says Ethan van Thillo of San Diego’s Media Arts Center, who’ll speak after Monday’s Youth Producing Change program.

Admission is $8 per film or $35 for a festival pass.

Ready for RAW?

Explosive physical storytelling that might make you say, “Oh my!” That pretty much describes the upcoming. MALASHOCK/RAW2: STRIPPED dance performances. Happening at Malashock Dance Studio (2650 Truxtun Road in Point Loma’s Liberty Station) at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 21, and 7 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 22, dancers from Malashock Dance and Tijuana’s Lux Boreal will present new work that’s described as gritty, provocative and edgy. Choreographer Michael Mizerany’s piece, for example, looks at the darker side of passion and desire. You can erase the images of dainty ballerinas gracefully prancing across the stage and replace it with sweaty, seductive and sensual dancers proudly displaying their raw, powerful athleticism. If last year’s sold-out RAW performances are any indication, get your ticket ASAP. $18.

Folksy funk

Back in the day, most Mexican cumbia artists wore cowboy hats and pumped accordions. Today, the hipper ones have ditched the cowboy hat and traded the accordion for a sampler. Still, while the costumes and instruments are different, the genre’s pumping rhythm is still as dance-floor-ready as ever. So, don’t come to The Loft at UCSD at 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 20, expecting to be a wallflower. Mexico City’s Mexican Institute of Sound infuse their catchy hip-hop / pop sound with cumbia rhythms and other folk elements. Openers Mexican Dubwiser, from L.A., use synths and processed drums to make reggae grooves and folksy ballads. And San Diego’s Cumbia Machin get groovy with a mix of samplers and live drums. $4-$15.

Does your event deserve to be in our top three? Email our events editor, Alex Zaragoza. You can also bug her on Twitter.