11th One World festival turns spotlight on two decades since fall of communism

Igor Blaževič, photo: Štěpánka Budková

A decade after it was launched, the One World (Jeden Svět) festival of human rights documentaries has become one of the most exciting events in Czech culture. Organisers say it has also become the biggest and most important event of its kind in Europe. One World 2009 turns the spotlight on the two decades since the fall of communism, with Václav Havel no less appearing in the festival trailer.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
Since the NGO People in Need launched One World in 1999 it has built up a strong international reputation and become a hit with viewers – last year over 100,000 tickets were sold. Ahead of Wednesday’s official opening, founder Igor Blaževič told me it wasn’t a coincidence that the festival of human rights documentaries emerged and has thrived in a post-communist country.

“People in Need always felt that it is our in a certain way moral duty to take certain consequences from the Czech dissident movement. The Czech dissident movement was assisted by people abroad. And now that the Czech Republic is a free and prosperous country it is the opportunity and obligation of that society to assist those who are not fighting for freedom, dignity, justice, to take their societies out of poverty and so on.”

Among the themes of this year’s One World are Europe (the festival is an official accompanying event of the Czech presidency of the EU), and 20 Years of Democracy in Film, reflecting on the two decades since the fall of communism. Alexandr Vondra is deputy prime minister for European affairs and a former dissident.

“We are commemorating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. The 20th anniversary means there is a whole new generation of young but already adult people who were born into freedom and democracy in central and eastern Europe. They could have the feeling that freedom and democracy is something that has been here forever.”

Igor Blaževič, photo: Štěpánka Budková
In keeping with the ‘20 years after’ theme, the 2009 One World has a remarkable trailer featuring none other than former president Václav Havel dressed as a hospital orderly and wheeling a trolley full of new-born babies. Igor Blaževič says once the organisers had worked up the courage to ask, Mr Havel immediately agreed to appear in the spot, which is shown before every film.

“He has always supported People in Need and One World. He has trusted in what we are doing. But another thing is I really think the fact that he is a person from the theatre, from art, has always brought an additional quality in his political engagement. He really understands what irony is, how to communicate through art, in order to highlight important social and political issues. So it wasn’t very hard to get his approval – it was a little bit harder to have the courage to approach him.”

The 11th One World festival of human rights documentaries runs in Prague until March 19th, before moving on to 29 other cities and towns. The trailer can be seen on youtube.