One World festival

The Arts: this week looking at the One World festival - an international celebration of documentary film - and at an English speaking competition for Czech secondary school students.

The One World Festival in Prague is a festival of international film that puts the superficial glitz of some of the world's other celebrations of the silver screen to shame. More on that in a few minutes, but first to the art of public speaking - an art that's frightening enough in your native tongue, let alone in a foreign language. Last week I had the honour of being on the jury of the Czech Republic's English Speaking Competition for secondary school students. Eight finalists bravely stood up in the British Council's packed auditorium in Prague and each had five minutes to speak on the given subject: Tolerance. My report from the event starts with a collage of short extracts from some of the speeches. The One World film festival, which has just ended in Prague, opened last week to the sound of drums - an apt symbol of one of the Czech Republic's most vibrant annual cultural events. Documentary films from around the world, all focusing in one way or another on human rights, could be seen at various venues around the city, and have now moved on to other Czech towns and cities. The festival, now in its fourth year, is the brainchild of Igor Blazevic.

"We are screening 129 films from 33 countries and we cover basically the whole globe and I think that we cover it better than CNN, because we are bringing the really strong, powerful stories about people we do not see on the global news. These films are not about power-holders, not about politicians, not about generals, not about war criminals. These films are about strong ordinary people, and I think that they have something to tell to us. (Could you tell me a bit about some of the films in the competition?) I have been one of the three people selecting the films, and my message to the audience is not told through one or the other film. My message for the audience is sent through the whole programme, because I think that the biggest quality is not only to see how, for example, Vietnam veterans are dealing with the war trauma, how some kids in Romania are dealing with the hard and harsh life, but the biggest quality is when you see a couple of films, let's say one from Latin America, another from Africa, the next from Asia, and then you see that we are part of one world and some bad things are similar everywhere, some good things are also similar in many places."

The festival was a great deal more than just films. There were also discussions, seminars, concerts and exhibitions - including a fantastic show of photographs covering four decades of life in Romany settlements around the Czech Republic and Slovakia. One of the highpoints was the awarding of the human rights prize "Homo Homini" - given each year to people who have done something extraordinary to contribute to human rights. This year it was given to Zackie Achmat, a South African, who, despite being HIV positive, has refused to take any drugs until they are made available to the poor of Southern Africa. Igor Blazevic:

"Zackie Achmat is a person who is disadvantaged in all possible ways. He is a coloured person in South Africa, he is a member of the Indian minority in South Africa, he is homosexual, he has Aids. But in spite of that he put his life in something which is beneficial for millions of people. He's like David fighting against the multi-national pharmaceutical companies to enable poor Africans to get cheap drugs against Aids. He's doing a marvelous job and we wanted to support him and his work."

"Ten kilometers from where I live is a hospital called Red Cross Hospital. It's a children's hospital. That hospital treats 500 children with Aids and they can only give medicine to 10 of them. The only reason they cannot give medicine to the other 490 or so is because the medicines cost too much and the fact that our president (in South Africa) doesn't believe that HIV causes Aids... His belief will condemn many people to death in our country... Europe spends more than 10 billion US dollars on ice cream per year. At the cost of one ice cream per kid per year, you could save the lives of kids in Africa, Asia and Latin America with Aids."

A powerful message from the charismatic and extraordinary Zackie Achmat from South Africa, ending this week's Arts. From me, David Vaughan, goodbye.