WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film – Krakow 18-24 October, 2012


Since 2003, after the international edition of the WATCH DOCS festival in December in Warsaw, together with various partners from all over Poland (NGO’s, universities, theaters and other cultural institutions), we organize the Traveling Film Festival WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film. The Traveling Festival, which develops only thanks to local grassroots initiatives, is constantly growing. Each year, more and more Polish cities and towns get involved. In 2012 there will be nearly 40 of them. Partners of the Social Institute of Film and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights – local co-organizers of the Traveling Festival – can pick up their favorite films from the repertoire of the last edition of the international WATCH DOCS festival in Warsaw. They also prepare their own program of side-events –  meetings with experts, panel discussions, NGO forums, photo exhibitions, concerts, etc. Entrance to all screenings and accompanying events is free of charge.

WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film is one of the oldest and largest human rights film festivals in the world, which annually garners 70 000 viewers in the whole country.

Human rights film festivals have become extremely successful over the last decade on nearly all continents. New human rights film festivals are organized each year, recently even in countries where systematic human rights violations occur.

Central Europe plays a significant role in the global human rights film festival movement. Central European film festivals stand out for their focus on documentary cinema, and for being rooted in the anti-totalitarian tradition, which triumphed spectacularly two decades ago in this region.

Films do not overthrow inhumane regimes. Only rarely do they influence the course of history. Nevertheless, films are one of the most important factors shaping our conceptions, understanding, and views. The concept of human rights also shapes our conception, understanding, and views on how the social world should look like. To some extent (too small, in our opinion) human rights also shape the social world itself. Through films, human rights cease being merely abstract concepts. By portraying people’s actual lives with their struggles to take advantage of rights or confronting violations, films give human rights authentic substance and a human face.


Documentary films are especially well suited in this respect. They have the power of testimonial and unique impact as they are received as candid representation of reality. WATCH DOCS harnesses this strength, exposing viewers to their own immediate and more distant contexts through the human rights prism. We want viewers to see and feel these rights as something important and common. We want to influence conceptions, knowledge and sensitivity – and ultimately, attitudes.

Information (and its context) is a powerful force in the contemporary world – and people have the right to know. To further this right, WATCH DOCS constructs contexts we deem important. For documentary film, debate, meetings, and social activism under the civil society umbrella provide an excellent context – it is enough to read the programming manifestos of documentary classics or statements of the genre’s eminent representatives of today. WATCH DOCS builds this context by combining the most poignant documentaries with discussions involving filmmakers and their subjects, NGO activists, experts, journalists and politicians.

WATCH DOCS does not stifle controversy. Though we have our opinions, we do not pretend to have answers to all human rights-related issues. Quite the opposite, we expose these controversies because we want WATCH DOCS to be a place of authentic debate. We use film as a means, but do not engage in propaganda. Going further, propagandistic abuse of persuasion is one of our permanent themes.


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