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Bringing Life to Human Rights Abuses with a Multi-functional Drupal Site

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) Film Festival brings to life human rights abuses through storytelling in a way that challenges each individual to empathize and demand justice for all people.

HRW needed a multi-functional site to support their International Film Festival held in various cities across the globe. The information architecture and visual design was developed by a design agency in order to present festival information in a distinctive, location-centric manner - making each city’s page look and feel like a unique festival unto itself. The overall technology challenge was to build an interface around a flexible architecture that would support a true content-driven framework that could be reused and extended each subsequent year.


To ease integration with their existing Drupal 6 site, we built a system and framework on Drupal 6 by leveraging many contributed modules and creating custom modules. With this new framework, the HRW team can create individual sites for each year’s Film Festival, create schedules for each city, provide background information on films, and allow their internal staff to easily manage ticket availability and venue information. In order to present this information with optimal flexibility, we built many key interfaces using custom queries and bespoke interfaces.

Further, as a part of the requirements, it was important to ensure strong compliance and coding standards since HRW had such an extensive history with Drupal and wanted to ensure that any additional work continued to be done in a supportable and sustainable way.

The older Film Festival event pages had a lot of information for each movie and showing – too much in fact – making it difficult to distinguish one film from the next. We created a JavaScript overlay with a movie’s teaser in it, so that when the mouse rolls over, the full teaser for the film pops up. The movie information and times display in the teaser without taking up space on the page itself - making the page shorter and easier to navigate.

The event page combines venue, date, city, film and tag information all in a single display, by utilizing custom queries and storage behind the scenes. Although it was one of the most challenging pieces to build, the effort was well worth it. The information is now presented in an organized, user-friendly, and easy-to-digest format.


In addition, we rewrote how cities and films are displayed on the cities’ page to make it more intuitive on the back-end for site administrators/editors. Administrators can now enter details on cities simultaneously on a single screen, along with information regarding dates, venues, and films. On the front end, the page intuitively displays the size of the festival in the corresponding city (through relative sizing of the city name), timeframe, and information about the venues.


Overall, we were able to create an extensible framework using Drupal that helped the HRW team highlight premium content through their International Film Festival website, drive users to take specific actions, and hook them to keep coming back with new content.

North Point Solutions was among the finalists in Acquia's inaugural Partner Sites of the Year award program for its work on HRW Film Festival. Alex Mamut and Matt Galvin of North Point contributed to this post.

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