Defending Dissent: Screening and Discussion of Award-Winning Documentary, “Boycott”

October 3, 2023
6:30 P.M. ET
Malkin Penthouse, L-P-9
This event is part of the Documentary Film in the Public Interest Initiative. It is co-sponsored by the Carr Center’s Human Rights Film Series (Harvard Kennedy School) and the Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative (Religion and Public Life at Harvard Divinity School).

This event is co-hosted by the Carr Center for Human Rights and part of their Human Rights Film Series. This series aims to explore the human rights challenges faced by individuals around the world. The screening will feature both the film and a panel discussion with Julia Bacha, Brian Hauss, Diala Shamas, and Erica Chenoweth.

The film “Boycott” follows the stories of a news publisher in Arkansas, an attorney in Arizona, and a speech therapist in Texas, who, when forced to choose between their jobs and their political beliefs, launch legal battles that expose an attack on freedom of speech across the US. The film traces the impact of state legislation passed in 34 states designed to penalize individuals and companies that choose to boycott Israel due to its human rights record. A legal thriller with “accidental plaintiffs” at the center of the story, “Boycott” is a bracing look at the far-reaching implications of anti-boycott legislation and an inspiring tale of everyday Americans standing up to protect our rights in an age of shifting politics and threats to freedom of speech.

While the original anti-boycott laws passed with bi-partisan support, beginning in 2021, conservative legislators began to introduce copycat bills taking aim at boycotts of the fossil fuels and firearms industries. Most recently, legislators modified the bill once more to target those organizing for transgender peoples’ rights, abortion access and workplace equity. Since the start of 2023 alone, over 30 copycat bills have been introduced in state legislatures across the country.

The screening of “Boycott” will be followed by a robust discussion about the ongoing legal fight to protect the right to boycott in America and will include the filmmakers and film protagonists.

Since the film’s launch in 2021, “Boycott” has screened in over 130 locations from SXSW in Texas to Hot Docs in Toronto and diverse communities from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Netroots Nation, the Motion Pictures Association and more. The film has screened at prominent universities including Yale Law School, Oberlin College, Barnard College, Columbia University, Bard College and many more. Boycott has also spurred coverage in major outlets including the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, TIME and, most recently, NPR’s On the Media.


Julia Bacha is the director of “Boycott”, as well as a Peabody and Guggenheim award-winning filmmaker and Creative Director at Just Vision. Her directing credits include Encounter Point (Tribeca 2006), Budrus (Berlinale 2009), My Neighbourhood (Tribeca 2012), Naila and the Uprising (IDFA 2017), and Boycott (SXSW 2022). In addition to over thirty film festival awards, Julia is the recipient of the King Hussein Leadership Prize, the Ridenhour Film Prize, the Medal of Excellence from Columbia University and the Chicken & Egg Award. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Association’s documentary branch and has given two widely watched TED talks on nonviolent resistance.

Brian Hauss is a Boycott protagonist and senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project. Brian is the chief litigator on multiple lawsuits challenging anti-boycott legislation in Kansas, Arizona and Texas.

Diala Shamas is a Senior Staff Attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where she works on challenging government and law enforcement abuses perpetrated under the guise of national security, both in the U.S. and abroad. Prior to joining the Center for Constitutional Rights, Diala was a Clinical Supervising Attorney and Lecturer in Law at Stanford Law School, and a Senior Staff Attorney supervising the CLEAR (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility) project at CUNY School of Law. Diala has also worked on a range of international human rights issues. Shamas received her undergraduate and law degrees from Yale, where she was an editor for the Yale Human Rights and Development Law Journal. She has been published by or appeared in major news outlets, including the New York Times, The Nation, DemocracyNow!,, The Washington Post, NPR, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, This American Life, and The Intercept.

Erica Chenoweth (Moderator) directs the Harvard Nonviolent Action Lab, an innovation hub that provides empirical evidence in support of movement-led political transformation. Chenoweth has authored or edited nine books and dozens of articles on mass movements, nonviolent resistance, terrorism, political violence, revolutions, and state repression. Chenoweth maintains the NAVCO Data Project, one of the world’s leading datasets on historical and contemporary mass mobilizations around the globe.

This event is co-sponsored by the Carr Center’s Human Rights Film Series (Harvard Kennedy School) and the Religion, Conflict, and Peace Initiative (Religion and Public Life at Harvard Divinity School).