March 5-14 marked the final screenings of the 20th edition of world’s largest human rights documentary film festival, Jeden Svět, in 36 different cities across the Czech Republic.
Earlier in the month saw the festival’s largest section in Prague with 128 films screened at nine venues across the city from the 5th to the 14th of March.
The Jeden Svět (One World) Human Rights Documentary Film Festival happens every year in Prague along with numerous other cities across the Czech Republic, and a smaller set of film screenings and events happening in Brussels, Belgium at the end of April. Organised by the Czech NGO Člověk v tísni (People in Need), the festival promotes discussion on international human rights issues through screenings, debates, discussions. Other events that are put on by the festival over the course of the almost two weeks. With regards to the 2018 festival, over the course of the festival’s first week in Prague, approximately 27,913 viewers attended the afternoon and night screenings across all the venues from Prague 7 kingpin Bio Oko to the humble Národní třída spot, Kino Evald. Of course, no film festival would be complete without the awards. This year’s festival saw nine prizes handed out along with the Student Jury Award and Avast Foundation Audience Award.
“The international jury chose a Best Film and a Best Director from a total of 12 films representing new ways of exploring the question of human rights in documentary film.” – Jeden Svet
Best Film: The Deminer (Sweden, 2017) dir. Hogir Hirori and Shinwar Kamal. “The film’s main protagonist, Fakhir Berwari, is a legend in the Iraqi town of Dohuk who dedicated his life to getting rid of all kinds of explosives, even at great personal risk.”
Best Director: Talal Derki, Of Fathers and Sons (Germany, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, 2017) “Derki, who came to Prague to introduce the film in person, uses the camera to explore the actions of a man fighting for an Islamic caliphate and for his family. He has succeeded in creating a unique study of the Islamic radicalization of children.”
International Jury’s Director Special Mention: Laura Bari Primas (Canada, Argentina, 2017) “a creative and vibrant voice in a remarkable and urgent film that compels us to look beyond victimhood to the beautiful and inspired ways in which girls and women can survive and thrive after experiencing sexual violence.” – Jury
VÁCLAV HAVEL JURY
“The Václav Havel Jury chose from among the documentaries screened in the Right to Know section, and presents its award to films that make an exceptional contribution to the defence of human rights”: Watani – My Homeland (Great Britain, 2017) dir. Marcel Mettelsiefen. “The film is a shocking eyewitness report on the life of the family of a commander in the Free Syrian Army in war-ravaged Aleppo.”
Special Mention: The Venerable W. (France, Switzerland, 2017) dir. Barbet Schroeder. “The film was chosen primarily because it explores the current tragic situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar.”
(best Czech-produced documentaries.)
Czech Competition Award: Non-Parent (Czech Republic, 2017) dir. Jana Počtová. “The stories of the film’s protagonists show the broad spectrum of possibilities for (non)parenthood – from a single woman who adopted twins to a couple that doesn’t want any children at all.”
Special mention: Nothing Like Before (CZ, Slovakia, 2017) Klára Tasovská and Lukáš Kokeš.
“About the life of four teenagers who are forced to grow up before they would like to, and must find their place in society.
“The student jury chose the best film in the festival’s section of films for students. It is composed primarily of secondary school students who are organizers of One World in Schools student film clubs.”)
The Student Jury’s award: Peace to You All (Slovakia, 2016) dir. Juraj Mravec “which shows the lives of ordinary people in the midst of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.”
AVAST FOUNDATION AUDIENCE AWARD
City of Ghosts (USA, 2017.) dir. Matthew Heineman. “The film is a testimony of journalists Hamud and Hassan who are members of the activist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently. Despite the brutal repressions, the journalists publish the most up to date information about the war torn city.”
Now enough with the formalities, a true film festival review would not be appropriate without my own thoughts on the films I got to see, and let me tell you there were a lot. As the year before, I went overboard with my meticulous schedule planning for Jeden Svět, with my cheap BIC pen in one hand and highlighter in the other I watched the trailers for every film in the festivals roster that had a trailer, made note of the ones I liked, account for schedule conflicts between films, travel times between venues for the end of one screening and the beginning of the next, and carefully over the span of almost a week planned the perfect scheduling so as to see as many films as possible. My previous record was the seven feature films that I managed to see last, this time around I took that record and obliterated it. With my 2018 Jeden Svět Human Rights Documentary Film Festival attendance reaching a grand total of 21 films, including 11 feature length documentaries and all 9 virtual reality pieces. I can firmly say I lived and breathed Jeden Svět, and shockingly still didn’t even manage to see all the films I wanted! Of course, there is always next year, and my body will be ready.
The following is a list of all the films I saw with my general thoughts on them and their subject matter (with the exception of most of the VR pieces, I really only noted the ones I loved). They’re obviously not full reviews because 1.) we certainly do not have the time for that and 2.) everybody’s a winner in my heart, how could I be too mean to them. 🙁
*All the reviews are either reedits or direct pulls from my thoughts on Letterboxd.
Tuesday, March 6
Piripkura (Brazil, 2017) dir. Bruno Jorge, Mariana Oliva, Renata Terra @ Kino Světozor
Ján’s rating: 7/10. I really do love ethnographic documentaries and this one did have some nice moments but the entire time I just felt the way the Piripkura natives were portrayed was a little odd. Definitely could have been a lot worse, but the pacing and the weird feeling I was left with gave me a kinda eh start to the One World Festival.
The Last Year (USA, 2017) dir. Greg Barker @ Municipal Library
Ján’s rating: 8.5/10. Really didn’t want to have to relieve election night 2016, but seeing that highest level of U.S. diplomacy and getting to see that behinds the scenes compassion that the media seldom ever highlighted really depressed the fricc out of me knowing how all that is completely absent from the current administration. Obama and his admin certainly had faults like all presidencies before that but I will absolutely fight you if you try to claim they weren’t consequential and respected by the majority of the international community.
*The Departure (USA, 2017) dir. Lana Wilson @ Municipal Library*
Ján’s rating: 9/10. Three docs back to back really hits you and this one was definitely on the heavier side of the three. Beautifully shot with a really fascinating story, not a big fan of how it ended but other than that, while the Obama doc holds a special place in my heart this one takes the prize for today. *Ján’s festival winner: feature length film*
Wednesday, March 7
Fonko (Sweden/Germany, 2016) dir. Göran Olsson, Lars Lovén, Lamin Daniel Jadama @ Bio OKO
Ján’s rating: 8/10. “Music is the weapon of the future. Don’t worry”
!!!! SUPPORT PANAFRICAN ARTISTS !!!!
Almost Heaven (UK, 2017) dir. Carol Salter @ Municipal Library
Ján’s rating: 8/10. Great observational piece on a sort of coming of age in a shitty place. No 17 year old should have to work at a freaking funeral home.
Thursday, March 8
Mečiar (Slovakia, 2017), Tereza Nvotová @ Kino Světozor
Ján’s rating: 8.8/10. Probably the highest quality Slovak documentary out there (thanks to HBO $$), but still mega props to Terezá Nvotová. Mečiar has always been a heated topic in Slovakia when I was growing up but I never fully got to understand Slovak politics and the scope of the shittiness of it all until now.
Friday, March 9
On a Knife Edge (USA, 2017) dir. Jeremy Williams @ Kino Světozor
Ján’s rating: 7.3/10. Glad to see a doc on this subject representing in the Americana category for One World but while the subject matter is so important especially for my generation now more than ever in our lifetime, the film kinda struggles to keep a solid message throughout, perhaps that has to do with the director not being American. He just seems to really want to portray this tired documentary trope of reservation victims and their fight against alcohol when I feel he should have really hit the point of resilience against the Nebraska police force and went with that.
Counters (South Korea, 2017), Il-Ha Lee @ Kino Evald
Ján’s rating: 7.5/10. Pretty ambitious attempt to capture the clash of right and left wing demonstrators in Japan – a topic that I find really fascinating but I thought that while at times the flashy graphics and music really presented the theme appropriately there were many times it just felt really force fed and I would have preferred a more structured story.
Saturday, March 10
VR block I @ CAMP
- Limbo (UK, 2017) dir. Shehani Fernando
- Sea Prayer (UK, 2017) dir. Francesca Panetta
- Live in the Time of Refuge (Finland/Lebanon, 2017) dir. David Gough,
VR block II @ CAMP
- Under the Canopy (USA, 2017) dir. Patrick Meegan
- A Journey to the Arctic (The Netherlands, 2016) dir. Bo Gustafsson
- Planet ∞ (France, 2017) dir. Momoko Seto – Ján’s rating: 7.2/10
- A Free Man (Germany/Japan, 2017) dir. Andreas Hartmann @ CAMP
Ján’s rating: 7.8/10. Beautifully meditative piece about a young man trying to find his own ways of freedom.
Sunday, March 11
Island Soldier (USA, 2017) dir. Nathan Fitch @ Kino Lucerna
Ján’s rating: 8.5/10. Touching story of the Micronesian Island of Kosrae and it’s complicated relationship with the United States. If the U.S. is going to lure Micronesian’s into joining the military-industrial complex AT LEAST provide the veterans the same benefits that all other U.S. soldiers are supposed to receive. This is an incredibly depressing situation where the U.S. takes advantage of its position as the key financial supporter of the islands, has large recruitment programs because the U.S. military is sadly the best employment option for people, but all that U.S. aid will end in 2023 but they can keep taking Micronesian’s to fight their wars. The film itself, unfortunately, keeps things pretty politically neutral, would have been really interesting to see the director really take a firm stance on one side and address these larger concerns of the islands and their relationship to the U.S.
VR block III @ CAMP
Bloodless (South Korea/USA, 2017) dir. Gina Kim, South Korea/USA
Ján’s rating: 9.2/10. Powerfully chilling story about the horrors of Korean entertainment districts near U.S. bases. Really simply shot but this rare story told through VR really hits a place I’m sure not too many military patriots would be comfortable hearing, or in this case seeing as well.
*Collisions (Australia, 2016) dir. Lynette Wallworth –
Ján’s rating: 9.3/10 *Ján’s festival winner, VR*
Not even joking this VR changed me.
Incredibly well put together, maybe the best put together VR I’ve seen when you factor in all the elements Lynette Wallworth put in this to tell Nyarri’s story.
*Ján’s festival winner: Virtual Reality film*
Francis (USA/Ghana, 2016) dir. Scott Barker and Travis Hatfield Ján’s rating: 8.9/10.The final VR in this block and story wise just as strong as the other two. Well, put together. I connected more with the other two but I think that I just was tired after 30 minutes in VR.
Monday , March 12
Had classes all day, didn’t get to see any films 🙁
Tuesday ,March 13
Bohu žel / God Forsaken (Czech Republic, 2018) dir. Saša Dlouhý @ Kino 35
Ján’s rating: 7.8/10.Shout out to AAU’s Diplomatic Club for hosting a trip to see this decent look at the lives of immigrants and asylum seekers in the Czech Republic. Shout out to Tibet Open House as well for the after-film snacks.
Wednesday, March 14
Blue (Australia, 2017) dir. Karina Holden @ Kino Atlas
Ján’s rating: 7.5/10. My final film for One World 2018! Other than the pretty drone shots this film belongs with all the other conservation movement documentaries from like 10, 15 years ago. We’re at a point where almost all of humanity understands we’ve fucked up our planet BIG TIME and in that sense and the messages in this film really don’t bring anything new. As much as an Australian accent will make me pay attention to anything regardless of subject matter, today’s documentaries need to stress massive political involvement (not just some cute fish-shaped message that says “ask governments to ban plastics bags and bottles) and sweeping legislation across the globe.
Like a lot of other ocean documentaries, it does a good job not shying away from the really shitty stuff humans have done like prescribing seabirds a diet of plastic, but it’s 2018 and you shouldn’t expect anything but the most extreme calls to direct action from these films because this stuff is DIRECTLY affecting EVERYONE on Earth. No more of this passive bullshit of “oh no look at those poor turtles! go to this website to find out more!” Fuck no, go call your damn senators, your damn representatives, recycle the shit out of everything, commit yourself to giving plastic the middle finger, because we are literally going to die in our own waste if we keep ignoring the reality of the world because we want to live our comfortable little mass consumption lives.
TL;DR: I clapped, I booed, I laughed, and I cried.
The 2018 Jeden Svět / One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival was an obvious success in the category of Events Attended by Me. Although it seems to dominant my life every year it comes around, I accept its dominance with open arms and a wallet ready to splurge on as many films as I can possibly fit into ten days. I may not know how to properly express my film criticism but I do know how to enjoy a film festival. Twenty years on the Jeden Svět Documentary Film Festival has solidified itself as a powerhouse in not only the documentary world but also in the expansive world of big league film festivals and I look forward to the blissful chaos it’ll bring me in a years time.
xoxo, Gossip Ján