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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » December 1, 2014
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Focus on Human Rights
December 1, 2014   
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Watch Docs, the annual international film festival focusing on documentaries about human rights issues, opens Dec. 5 in Warsaw.

One of the world’s largest film festivals with human rights as its central theme, Watch Docs runs for 10 days, over which time audiences will see more than 60 documentaries from around the world. The festival also comprises debates with experts and human rights activists, lectures, workshops and meetings with filmmakers and the people featured in the documentaries.

The highlights of the upcoming festival include a retrospective of work by American filmmaker Joe Berlinger, who earlier this year received an award at the Marek Nowicki Festival for outstanding achievements in depicting human rights on film. Berlinger’s Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger will be the opening documentary of the 14th Watch Docs festival, and later audiences will see four other films he has made, including the famous Under African Skies. This documentary follows American singer-songwriter Paul Simon on a return trip to South Africa 25 years after he went there to record his breakthrough album Graceland—at a time when the South African regime was still boycotted by the international music community.

A total of 12 documentaries will compete for the festival’s main prize. One of them is Return to Homs, a documentary about young revolutionaries from the Syrian city of Homs, razed to the ground by the army of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Another contender for the main prize is Web Junkie about rehab camps for teenage internet addicts in China.

The Warsaw festival’s special sections include “I Want to See,” a selection of documentaries about events, people and topics that are of the biggest concern to rights activists. For example, viewers will see Gringo Trails, a documentary that studies mass tourism and its impact on local communities.

A section entitled “The Discreet Charm of Propaganda” will include Verbotene Filme (Forbidden Films) by Felix Moeller, an insightful analysis of Nazi movies.

In the “New Polish Films” section, Watch Docs audiences will see some of the best documentaries on social issues made in Poland. One of them, Był bunt (Rebellion) by Małgorzata Kozera, looks at a revolt that broke out 25 years ago in prisons in northern Poland. The screening will be followed by a meeting with participants in those events and a discussion on the changes that have since taken place in Poland’s prison system.

The festival will also have a section with short films of different genres, including experimental shorts such as the latest film by Jean-Gabriel Périot, entitled We Are Become Death.

A retrospective entitled Europe—A Second Homeland?, organized jointly with the Bergen International Film Festival, will look at the cultural diversity of Europe through documentaries such as Sacro GRA, directed by Gianfranco Rosi, who won the Golden Lion for it at the Venice Film Festival. The retrospective will also feature Land of Promise by Prof. Paul Scheffer, who will be a special guest of this year’s Watch Docs. This Dutch philosopher and politician will also give a lecture on contemporary multicultural societies.

The festival will be accompanied by an exhibition entitled The Sochi Project. An Atlas of War and Tourism in the Caucasus. This is a joint project by Dutch photographer Rob Hornstra and reporter Arnold Van Bruggen who in 2007 started documenting preparations for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The Watch Docs festival venues are the Muranów movie theater, the Ujazdowski Castle Center for Contemporary Art, and the Antropos movie theater at the State Ethnographic Museum. Admission is free to all screenings and accompanying events.

For further information go to www.watchdocs.pl
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