16th edition of the festival opens tomorrow in London this and runs to March 30.

The UK premiere of Jon Shenk’s climate change documentary The Island President will kick off this year’s edition of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in London.

Shenk’s film, which follows former President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives as he fights to convince the world’s policymakers to do something about climate change, is one of 13 UK premieres at the festival in its programme of 15 documentaries and four dramas. Many of the films will be followed by a Q&A session with the filmmaker or a panel discussion with experts and film subjects.

Guests attending the festival include Werner Herzog, who will attend the March 28 screening of his death row set documentary Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life, and Nadine Labaki, who will be interviewed by journalist Charlotte O’Sullivan following the screening of Labaki’s film Where Do We Go Now? which closes the festival on March 30.

This year’s programme is centred on four themes: development, environment and the global economy (two films, including Icíar Bollaín’s drama Even The Rain); migrants’ rights and racism (three films, including Fermand Melgar’s documentary Special Flight); personal testimony and witnessing (five films, including Carlo Augusto Bachschmidt’s documentary Black Block); women’s rights (six films, including Mimi Chakarova’s sex trafficking documentary The Price Of Sex).

“Since last year’s festival, the popular protests worldwide – from the Arab Spring to the Occupy movements – have struck at a fundamental issue of our time: increasing economic inequality and its consequences,” commented John Biaggi, Human Rights Watch Film Festival director, “our 2012 programme focuses on key elements of the current situation at both a micro and macro level”.

The festival launches tonight with a fundraising benefit and reception for Human Rights Watch at the Curzon Mayfair, London, featuring a screening of Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s 5 Broken Cameras and a panel discussion moderated by the Human Rights Watch UK director David Mepham.