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CHRA alumnus Viola Macrelli a Human Rights Lawyer reflects on her experience at the Summer School

For our fifth and final article from our ‘Alumni Blog Series’, Viola Macrelli, an alumnus from the 2021 Cinema, Human Rights and Advocacy Summer School, reflects on her experience of attending the Summer School Programme and how it has contributed to her career aspirations.

Describe yourself My name is Viola. I am Italian and I’m currently working as a lawyer in London, UK for an international law firm that focuses on group litigation against large corporations. The firm’s aim is to hold corporations accountable for any environmental and human rights wrongdoing and give more people access to justice. When did you know you wanted to be a lawyer and then pivot to a human rights lawyer? I have always wanted to help and support people with their issues, aware of the fact that in difficult situations one can feel extremely lonely. I was also keen to understand the rules of society and the world we live in. To combine my passion for law and the arts (another interest of mine), I started training to become an Intellectual property lawyer. I then worked for a well-known international firm in Milan for five years. However, during that period I felt something was missing and I realised I wanted to put my skills at the service of those who sometimes don’t have access to justice. Now, I am working in the area of Business and Human Rights, aiming at reducing human rights protection gaps in relation to corporate activities. What do you

enjoy most about your career? There is always a new intellectual challenge to overcome, an intersection of different legal systems that help foster my curiosity for new legal and cultural landscapes. In my current role, for instance, I’ve been able to travel to Brazil to interview victims of the collapse of the Fundao dam for the purposes of seeking compensation for the damages caused by the biggest environmental disaster in Brazil. And thanks to our work on this case, we have been able to give these victims an opportunity to seek justice in the UK. Why did you decide to attend CHRA Summer School in 2021? What did you enjoy most? At the time, I was looking for a course to combine my passion for visual art, filmmaking and human rights and the Summer School was the perfect match! The diversified classes were really insightful and interesting, and it was refreshing to have classmates from all around the world. The Venice Film Festival and the Q&A sessions with some of the directors were the cherry on top!

Ironically, during the Summer School, I met one of my current colleagues from my firm in London! Who would have guessed that one of my colleagues would also be attending.

What skills and competences do you think you’ve gained from the programme and were you able to use these skills at work? Last year, the programme had a particular focus on social change through videos and I think I now have the tools to understand but also design and develop a campaign of social change myself, collaborating with the right professionals along each different stage: from the concept and the script of a short video, through to the pitch of the idea and shooting of the relevant scenes, to the distribution of the content to the target audience. The Summer School gifted me with a precious opportunity to discuss important human rights issues with professionals from different backgrounds and expertise. It was enriching to see things through the eyes of filmmakers, journalists, and human rights advocates. Based on my trips to Brazil, I am currently developing a personal photography project around cities and nature and the exchange with my fellow students at the Summer School was absolutely inspiring, and nourishing. Were you able to leverage the student network for future professional development? I am still in contact with many of my classmates as part of a new collective, which (for now) means attending recurring online meetings since we all live in different parts of the world! I also have been able to give brief legal advice to some who are filmmakers on the production of their next short film.

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