Between Hope and Despair
The movies selected for competition at this year’s documentary film festival (pushing eighteen in 2016, which means it has come of age) are (again) addressing some elementary, seemingly never-ending social issues and interpersonal relations: the issue of censorship and tampering with historical facts (Censored Voices), the vital need for remembrance and admonition (The Fog of Srebrenica), the unalienable right to freedom and free speech (Sonita), the eternal and perpetually relevant issue of migration and social exclusion (Lampedusa in Winter) and the oft painful segregation among the young people, the ascendant ‘culture’ that separates the winners from the losers (Children of Transition).
The best human rights film award will again be presented in association with the Amnesty International Slovenia. Nevertheless, it is not only the competing films that examine these issues. A good documentary film will almost invariably, regardless of its overriding theme, include scraps of material touching on human rights. An excellent example of such picture is the festival’s concluding film, attractively titled Chuck Norris vs Communism. Although giving an impression of revolving around escapist entertainment, the story about bootleg VHS tapes, mostly Hollywood movies, smuggled to socialist Romania, the collective illusions about Western lifestyle, bears unmistakable traces of civil disobedience and the genesis of something greater that sparked the coming social changes in late 1980s.
On the other hand, human rights can be an elusive concept, normally addresses in connection with minorities, the oppressed or underprivileged people. Disclosing the pitfalls of democracy, the political power persecuting one kind of extremism (radical Islam) after a traumatic event (9/11) while disregarding or tolerating others (e.g. neo-Nazism), Welcome to Leith shows how indifferent legislation can turn things upside down and choose to protect extremism.
We live in a complex and ever more corrupted world, which does not mean that we should abandon all hope. True, the finest documentaries have never idealised our world, but it’s nice to see that some hope can be nonetheless found in a problematic situation. A portrait of a multiethnic community in Queens, New York City, In Jackson Heights deals with the daily ails of predominantly overworked and indebted inhabitants of this community. However, Frederick Wiseman’s film is a beautiful example of multicultural collectiveness and solidarity, similarly to Garage 2.0 that harbours the idea about a closely-knit community and communication in the face of corporative logic and cut-throat sale. Centring on the other side of the coin, How to Change the World eloquently spotlights an organisation (Greenpeace), idealised and considered a model of perfect harmony by the general public and the media, whose system can become equally destructive with mounting conflict and prevailing personal interest.
There’s only one world, but there are increasingly more truths and ways to find hope in the midst of despair. This is also one of the main goals of the 18th DFF.
CD Film Programme Director
Dear film lovers,
We look forward to being in your company again: this year, Amnesty International Slovenia (AIS) will choose the best human rights documentary for the eighth time. During these years, we have gotten to know many extraordinary individuals. Artists who use documentary film for social critique and as a call to action. Members of the jury who have, together with us, shown that an unlimited number of paths are leading to respecting human rights and that these paths are particularly ‘better-trodden’ if we cooperate – including the artists and activists. And on screen, we have often enjoyed the company of amazing people throughout the duration of the film.
This year, we will follow this “exceptionalism” even more intentionally. Among other things, with the third competition, with which we have invited the young to create a short documentary film on the subject of “extraordinary individuals”. With the subject of the competition we are enhancing our cards Extraordinary people for a better tomorrow – an educational source with which we are showcasing more or less known individuals who have or are still changing the world through their action.
We have also attained great success in welcoming people who are striving for change to our jury. Also this year: apart from the young director Urša Menart and the president of AIS Dragana T. Trivundža, the third juror is Zlata Filipovič. Zlata’s diary about childhood in besieged Sarajevo has become an international bestseller. Now she lives in Ireland, is a documentary filmmaker and has become, by volunteering in a series of organizations, the epitome of extraordinary people of our educational series: anyone can improve and change the world, for the sake of oneself and for the others.
We are confident that the featured documentaries, especially those in the competitive section, will show many of such people. On behalf of Amnesty, I would like to invite you to see the films, but also to engage in conversations after the screenings. We hope that they might light the spark for activism. The yardsticks of exceptionalism are also good deeds and respect for fellow people. Our times are such that they provide plenty of opportunities to practise such exceptionalism.
Director of Amnesty International Slovenia