Theaters across 28 cities in the Czech Republic opened their doors from March 22 to April 4 for One World Film Festival, the largest human rights documentary film festival in the world. The festival was established in 1999 by People in Need, a Czech humanitarian and human rights organization, and is recognized by UNESCO for its contributions to raising awareness about human rights issues around the world. 

In honor of One World’s 25-year anniversary, the festival director Ondřej Kamenický says, “For this year’s edition, we decided to expand to include a discussion program that carries equal weight with the film program and to give more space to virtual reality.” This portion includes debates, discussions, and Q&As with film directors and human rights activists after most of the film screenings. 

This year’s theme was titled “The Cost of Safety,” and the films represented this year all touch on feelings of insecurity and the search for safety. According to Kamenický, “Whether it’s the feeling of financial security, family support, or the security guaranteed by the state, these connections mean something different to each of us. Even the price we’re willing to pay for safety differs for everyone. With the slogan The Cost of Safety, we would like to encourage audiences across the Czech Republic to think about and respect each other’s diverse manifestations of fear.”

Crows are White, a film presented in this year’s festival, looks at a more unconventional view of safety. It tells the story of film director Ahsen Nadeem’s journey to a Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan in search of a spiritual mentor. 

Crows are White was a featured film during the festival Photo by: The Hollywood Reporter

Nadeem comes from a deeply Muslim family originally from Saudi Arabia and finds himself living a double life: the one his parents expect and the one he lives with his non-Muslim partner in the United States. Ridden with spiritual guilt, he makes a pilgrimage to one of the most prominent Buddhist temples. 

Along Nadeem’s journey to confront his fears about love, truth, and faith, he meets an unorthodox monk with a major sweet tooth who finds solace in heavy metal music. Both are outcasts within their faith and portrayed as lazy. While Nadeem may not have the discipline of a monk, he approaches the making of the film with borderline obsessive commitment and humility. The result is a film that is vulnerable, comedic, and introspective for Nadeem and the audience. 

One World also had a section dedicated to Ukraine with one of the feature films titled Overcoming the Darkness, which was created by a collection of Ukrainian filmmakers who documented everyday life amid war. This film kicked off the festival following the opening ceremony which included the presentation of the Homo Homini Human Rights Award that went to Venezuelan activist Javier Tarazona. 

One World in Prague ended on March 30 following the announcement of the winners of the international competition based on the decisions of juries and audiences. The International Directing Competition Jury Prize was awarded to We Will Not Fade Away by Alisa Kovalenko and the Jury Award for Best Film in the International Competition went to Apolonia, Apolonia by Ley Glob Monies. 

Even though One World won’t be back in Prague until next year, select films are on One World Online from April 2 to 16. The festival will also run in Brussels from April 20-27. More information can be found on their website