Europe's biggest human rights documentary festival gets underway in Prague

The 10th Jeden Svět (One World) festival of human rights documentary films begins in Prague on Wednesday night. The focus of the 2008 festival is on dictatorships, while other highlights will include rare Czechoslovak documentaries from the 1960s hidden away for decades. And this year’s One World is – for the first time – also set to visit a number of world cities.

Nearly 140 pictures from over 40 countries are being shown this year in One World, which is run by the Czech NGO People in Need. The human rights documentary festival began in 1998, attracting a few thousand viewers; now organizers say it is the biggest festival of its kind in Europe. Founder Igor Blazevic:

“Last year 70,000 people came to visit it, I expect this year it will be even more. Today it’s a big festival with an international reputation. But the core is still the same. It’s really a celebration of the values of human dignity, freedom, human rights and democracy.”

After coming to a close in Prague, the One World festival moves on to 28 other Czech towns and cities, up from 17 in 2007. But it is also traveling further afield this year, says Igor Blazevic:

“This year on the tenth anniversary of the festival we decided to go to what I call the political capitals of the world – Washington, New York, London, Brussels – to organise small versions of One World there. But also underground – we will try to organise small versions of the festival in Cuba, in Belarus, maybe even in Burma, places where people are still living under dictatorships. The reason for that is basically to show that the Czech Republic after 20 years of becoming a free democratic society is taking its share of responsibility for peace, freedom and democratic values internationally.”

Dictatorships in the Spotlight is one of the main themes in this year’s festival, though there are also a number of other interesting sections. Among them is Silenced Testimonies, featuring Czechoslovak and East German documentaries made in the 1960s but later locked away by communist censors. As well as the screening of titles like Jan Palach, 1969, there will be a panel discussion with some of the films’ makers. Organiser Michaela Klečková:

“We would like to bring them together and screen then films and then hold a discussion, not only about those films but also about that time, the ‘60s, and the atmosphere at that time.”