New York-based non-profit Human Rights Foundation has just closed their “Davos for Dissidents” conference – the Oslo Freedom Accords. Their founder, and self-admitted driving egotist, Thor Halvorssen, has spent the show on theatrical matters, having Friederike Krum sing the aria made famous by the Shawshank Redemption after presentations by a group of dissidents with nearly a century of experience behind bars or in house arrest.
And he’s exhausted, exuberant, and angry. Halvorssen sees his mission in life as one of directing a spotlight, of shining the light of truth and public opinion into the darkest corners of state-sponsored human suffering. Unlike most of the “crisis set,” Thor Halvorssen exudes a boundless energy, rather than cynical world weariness. He doesn’t spare the knife when it comes to discussing his self-appointed peers, who go after the low hanging fruit of democratic governments, where the risk of being jailed or beaten is significantly less.
Halvorssen comes off as a man who’s consummately busy, running the Human Rights Foundation while also producing films and chairing the Moving Pictures Institute…in addition to globetrotting to conferences in Geneva, sharing drinks with survivors of the Charlie Hebdo attacks and coordinating staffers quick to identify new inflection points, and new cracks in the armor of secrecy surrounding the dictatorships that, next to sleep, seem to be his greatest foe. He’s constantly checking on something, be it his phones (he carries five) or his laptop (he has three), and his interests are all over the place. He’s currently excited about taking a classic Heinlein novel, “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and adapting it into a movie with Bryan Singer in the director’s chair.
Halvorssen’s concerns about human rights come naturally to him; they’re something of a family tradition. His great grandfather, the Norwegian consul to Venezuala, turned Caracas into a safe harbor for Norwegian shipping when the Germans invaded Norway – down to pummeling Nazis when they objected. His father was charged with ending Venezuela’s drug trade, and suffered years of torture in prison for finding corruption and standing up to it. His mother was wounded by gunfire when protesting Hugo Chavez.
Halvorssen simply lives up to their example, and, with a director’s art, is using the only tool he knows works: Theatricality, and a willingness to direct the spotlight on the victims of repressive regimes the world over.
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