Migrants’ tough journeys and arrivals among key focuses of One World 2016

'Hooligan Sparrow', photo: archive of One World festival

Organisers are currently gearing up for this year’s One World festival of human rights documentaries, which kicks off in Prague on March 7. As every year, One World will give viewers a rare chance to see scores of though-provoking films from all corners of the globe. One of the key focuses of the 2016 edition will be the ongoing refugee crisis and I asked festival head Hana Kulhánková whether it had been easy to find high-quality documentaries on the subject.

“This year we were very lucky that we were able to find lots of very interesting and strong films that deal with refugees. Some of them are made by people who themselves are going on a dangerous journey, for example from Syria to Europe.

“You will also find films in the programme about people who are already settled in Europe. From different perspectives you see how difficult it really is to get integrated into a society which is not welcoming you.”

Tell us about what’s new this year. For example, we are speaking in what’s going to be your new visitor centre, opposite the café in the Lucerna cinema.

“This year I’m very happy that we have a long list of accompanying events.

“We have a new place here as you mentioned – the visitor centre in Galerie Lucerna, where there are going to be lots of events every day.

“This year we are focusing much more on films that deal with social impact, because we would like to present to Czech viewers how films only begin in the cinema.

“It’s not that the topic of the film ends when the film ends. So we are showing lots of films that have petitions, that have campaigns, where you can actually get involved in the topic or for example also help the protagonists.”

I always ask you this, but what are the films that you would recommend that people absolutely not miss. If they go to only one or two films, which ones should they be?

'Hooligan Sparrow',  photo: archive of One World festival
“One of the most amazing films that I have seen in this year’s selection is Hooligan Sparrow, a very strong documentary from China about an activist called Hooligan Sparrow.

“She is very much into human rights, into women’s rights, and she does really provocative, extravagant actions inside China.

“The director spent many months with her and followed her everywhere. And you can see how difficult it is to do something in China that is provocative, activist and dealing with human rights.”

As every year, you have many interesting guests. Tell us about some of the more notable ones.

“For me one of the most interesting guests we have managed to get is Sonita. She’s the protagonist of the film Sonita.

“It’s a very great film made about her life. She comes from Afghanistan but now lives in Iran and is really into rapping.

“She’s at the age where her family wants to sell her to a husband. What’s very interesting in this film is that the director actually saves her.

“She pays the family so that she is not sold to a husband. The director gives money to the family and Sonita can really make a career as a rapper.”

Many people have said in the last year that society in the Czech Republic is becoming more divided. There’s a lot of anti-immigrant feeling and that kind of thing. Obviously One World is on the opposite side of that divide. Is there anything you can do to reach across to people who wouldn’t normally go to your kind of films, to try to convince them that they’re worth watching?

“For me this division of society is really worrying. And that’s why it’s important to have an event like One World, because I feel it’s a platform for everybody.

'Sonita',  photo: archive of One World festival
“It’s not only for human rights activists or for active people who care about others. It’s really a film festival, a cultural event where you can go, watch films and have debates.

“For me what’s important every year is to include in the programme films that are not hard-core human rights films, which are more easy: about music, about art, about social issues.

“That’s really a good way how to bring people who are not yet interested in human rights. But they will be.”