Next Wednesday, the 6th annual International Human Rights Documentary film festival begins in Prague. Last year, Jeden Svet or One World attracted 22,500 people. With 156 screenings, festival organizers hope to see 60,000 visitors at the various venues around the city this year. Dita Asiedu reports:
On the opening night of the festival, the Homo Homini Award will be presented to Serbian human rights activist Natasha Kandic, for her tireless efforts to bring crimes against humanity committed in the former Yugoslavia to light. The award is given annually by the Czech humanitarian organisation People in Need to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to promoting human rights, democracy, and the non-violent resolution of political conflicts. Igor Blazevic is the director of the festival:
"What I am trying to show with the festival is that we are not really aware of the human rights violations that we are supposed to be aware of because they are covered on television every single night because the mainstream media are structured in a way that everything keeps on flowing and we somehow stop realising what the news is telling us. We switch to another channel, get something out of the refrigerator, go to the toilet, and then we come back and then we see another piece of information on the Israel-Palestine conflict, Iraq, and so on, we really do not understand and grab the reality of what the news is telling us. One World is doing exactly that - documentary film is communicating in a very successful way."
According to Mr Blazevic, the fact that renowned filmmakers such as US film promoter Robert Drew, Chilean director Patricio Guzman, and Polish documentary maker Marcel Lozinski, have agreed to be members of the jury shows that One World is well on the way to becoming one of the world's leading film festivals. For the first time, a new category "War, Film and Propaganda" will be in the retrospective part of the festival to show how audiovisual work may influence the political climate. Programme co-ordinator Tereza Porybna outlines the other thematic categories on offer:
"We have a category devoted to reconciling the past, then a beautiful category called dying at grace, which is about the way elderly people are approached in our society. We also have a category devoted to accepting otherness, where we screen films about homosexuality, mental illness, and so on. We also have this year's special, which is Docs for Kids - a category we worked out together with the Amsterdam festival ITFA and we picked up eight films that are designed for children between the ages of nine and fifteen."
Igor Blazevic: "This year for the first time, we also have a section with films that are for children in primary schools. We had developed very good co-operation with about 260 high schools all around the Czech Republic. In Prague alone, there are about ten thousand high-school students at this moment who have announced that they will come to the One World morning screenings. So, for the first time, we decided to include a programme for children in primary schools, which involves films that are not too long - about twenty minutes - and that are about children. But it's more important that they are made in a way that they address the kids and are about One World topics."
As a result of the festival's popularity, representatives of thirty other festivals around the world are scheduled to come to Prague and form the Association of Human Rights Festivals.
One World comes to a close in Prague on April 22. However, it will also be held at several other towns and cities in the country including Brno, Pilsen, Ostrava, and Ceske Budejovice.
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