Preview: One World Film Festival 2013
Some 100 films focus on human rights, using local discrimination to connect with a global audience
Posted: February 27, 2013
This year, it's all about eggs, and how we shouldn't discriminate between ostriches and chickens. They both lay eggs, and the fact that the one is big, eats everything it sees and has a mean kick while the other is a synonym for being a coward doesn't mean the one's eggs are better or more tasty than the other's. Or something like that.
Granted, the ostrich in the logo for this year's One World Film Festival doesn't make a whole lot of sense, and the slogan "Don't be scared of eggality" isn't exactly self-evident either, except for suggesting people stand up for freedom. This is admittedly a worthy aspiration, but the themes of discrimination and (in)tolerance are as relevant today as they have ever been.
Festival director Hana Kulhánková explicitly mentions the 2011 ethnic clashes in the north Bohemian town of Šluknov and statements made by some of the candidates in the recent presidential elections as reasons behind the decision to focus on discrimination and intolerance.
As a result, many of the films will focus on similar tensions in the Czech Republic that affect the country's Roma population in particular. Kulhánková mentions at least five films that will be shown at the festival, all of which deal directly with Czech prejudices against Roma that can be labeled as racist and/or xenophobic: O slušnosti (On Decency), Na divokém severu (In the Wild North), Pod lampou je tma (The Darkness Under the Lamp) and Cikáni jdou do voleb (Gypsy Vote).
When: March 4-13
Where: Independent cinemas throughout Prague; venues in 40 cities around the country
Tickets: 90 Kč; 10-day festival accreditation costs 440 Kč
Besides these local films, all of which will be screened with English subtitles, Kulhánková also recommends Orania, a German production shot in South Africa that focuses on the quaint eponymous town, a bastion of Afrikaner conservatism and old-time nationalism. A small town has sprung up in the middle of the country's arid Karoo region, where only deeply religious white Afrikaans-speaking South Africans have taken refuge from the rest of the multilingual and multicultural nation. Among others, Betsie Verwoerd, wife of H.F. Verwoerd - South Africa's prime minister in the 1960s, often referred to as the architect of apartheid - took up residence in the town in the 1990s.
"Orania is a visually beautiful movie that reveals the horror of xenophobia and how wrong it is to choose to be closed in a ghetto, cut off from anything different," Kulhánková says.
A combination of both challenging and accessible works, the festival comprises 102 films selected to inspire the audience and, Kulhánková says, "to shift the debate on human rights into the mainstream."
By going local, and focusing on the terrible effects discrimination has had in the Czech Republic, the organizers have also managed to make their program more global and more inclusive because similar problems exist all around the world, as evidenced by the selection of films from some 30 countries. Last year's festival focused mostly on the recent political developments in the Arab world.
One film that has already been showing in local cinemas for a while is the Czech production Pevnost (The Fortress), which examines the absurdity of life in a country that is not recognized by the international community: Transnistria, on the border of Ukraine, and officially part of Moldova. Again, the situation of Transnistria is not unique but has global parallels, in particular in other former Soviet republics such as Azerbaijan and Georgia. Kulhánková and Jiří Sulženko, the festival's spokesman, highly recommend the film, with Sulženko saying it "really should not be missed." Svetlana Belova, a human rights activist from Transnistria, will serve as a festival jury member.
The festival will award two prizes selected by two different juries: a main jury that names the overall winning film and a jury for the Václav Havel Award, which recognizes the work that contributes in an outstanding way to the defense of human rights.
The films of One World will be screened in some 40 towns across the country after the festival comes to a close in Prague March 13.
André Crous can be reached at