Human Rights Watch Film Festival highlights hot-button topics

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary Thursday with an impressive slate of 20 documentaries and two features, films centered on LGBT rights, the Arab Spring and the continuing struggle for gender equality across the globe, among other hot-button subjects.

It is, in other words, an ideal corrective to the escapism of summer movies, a welcome chance to experience movies that are directly engaged with the defining issues of our time.

It’s also an impressive corrective to the male-dominated film industry, as 16 of the 22 films being features are directed by women.

Things kick off with a benefit night for the organization Thursday, along with a screening of the documentary “E-Team” about HRW activists in Syria and Libya.

The official opening night is Friday, with a screening of the HBO documentary “Private Violence” about the scourge of domestic abuse.

Other notable movies screening through June 22 include “Return to Homs,” which won a documentary award and Sundance and offers an immersive look at the war-torn Syrian city.

The great George Takei is the subject of “To Be Takei,” which explores the “Star Trek” icon’s life in show business and his work as a prominent LGBT advocate.

Another HBO documentary, “Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus” features smuggled footage of the Belarus Free Theatre, which defies that country’s oppressive dictatorship. The screening on June 18 will be followed by a performance with the Free Theatre’s Oleg Sidorchik.

“Out in the Night” tells the story of the New Jersey 4, about the ramifications following a confrontation in Greenwich Village in 2006.

The Israeli documentary “The Green Prince” follows the relationship between a Palestinian informant who is the son of a Hamas bigwig and his Israeli contact. It won an audience award at Sundance.

Other notable offerings include “Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story,” about ex-NAVY Seal Chris Beck beginning life as a transgender woman, “The Homestretch,” about homeless Chicago teens and the dramas “Siddharth,”about a father searching for his son in India, and “For Those Who Can Tell No Tales.”about an Australian doctor spending the summer in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

If you go: The 2014 Human Rights Watch Film Festival runs Thursday through June 22 | the Film Society of Lincoln Center and IFC Center | ff.hrw.org/new-york