One World festival - pricking consciences through film

Cinemagoers packed Prague's Lucerna and Svetozor cinemas on Wednesday for the launch of the One World festival of human rights documentary films. The festival - run by the Czech NGO People in Need - is now in its ninth year, and has grown over the years into a major fixture on the Czech cultural calendar.

One World director Igor Blazevic addressed the audience at Prague's Lucerna Cinema as the curtain went up on this year's festival. It kicked off with a film called The Operation, detailing human rights abuses in the autonomous Russian region of Bashkortostan. Across the road at Svetozor, cinemagoers were treated to the premiere of Helena Trestikova's Marcela, which follows the life of one Czech woman over several decades. Igor Blazevic explained what One World was all about:

"One World is about 120 extraordinary documentaries which have been selected from 1,200 submitted to the festival, and it's really about one world, about how documentary films reflect the important issues of our time, the challenges, those things which are in the media and those which are neglected by the media. It's very much politically, socially-orientated documentary film-making, but also really extraordinary film-making. We are very careful in the selection."

Igor is from Sarajevo, and while he was already living in Prague when the war broke out in his home country, the trauma of the Bosnia conflict was a direct impetus to start the festival.

"I have been profoundly influenced by the war in Bosnia. When the war started I was in Prague, but my whole family was in Sarajevo during the whole war, and under the siege I was getting in and out. And then basically through that experience of the war, suddenly all those things you read every day in newspapers, about torture, about war, about hunger, suddenly they stopped being abstract terms to me. Suddenly I was really able to feel and to sense the pain of other people. Because of that I started to organise the film festival, because I can think that film can far better than anything else transfer the experiences of the people from all around the world."

'Young,  Nazi and Proud'
The range of films on offer at this year's One World is impressive, from A Cry in the Dark, which catalogues police brutality in the Indian state of Manipur, to Young, Nazi and Proud, an expose of the far-right British National Party. Organisers say their primary goal is to make the issue of human rights attractive to a younger audience. Judging by the long queues of young people outside the box offices at last year's festival, it seems they're succeeding in that goal.