To promote awareness and debate on human rights worldwide, Movies that Matter cooperates with many other film festivals. Festivals serve as a unique platform for artists, journalists, activists, policy makers and civil society organisations to freely exchange opinions and ideas.
In an analysis by Bronkhorst and De Jong (2015) , different types of human rights film festivals are distinguished, partly related to their primary objectives. Three main objectives of human rights film festivals can be distinguished:
Some festivals are strongly focused on one of these objectives, others have characteristics of all three stated objectives.
Different Approaches to Change the World, chapter from the handbook Setting up a human rights film festival, vol 2
First and foremost, we are proud to be one of the founding members of the Human Rights Film Network, a partnership of human rights film festivals from all over the world. Started in 2004 with 14 members, the network has now grown to 40 member festivals; some are of relatively recent date, like the Chesnok Festival in Moldova, whereas others are almost celebrating their 20th or even 30th anniversary, like the Vermont International Film Festival. Information about the network, including details about the different members, can be found at the website of the Human Rights Film Network. The network aims to enhance cooperation, exchange of ideas and to foster an international environment conducive to the screening and promotion of human rights films worldwide. Since 2011 Movies that Matter coordinates the secretariat of the Human Rights Film Network.
We are glad to see that many of the film festivals we financially supported since 2007 still exist. In a 2019 survey among grantees, 84% indicated their film festival or event still exists in one way or another. Some are operating on a small scale, others have become indispensable members of the film industry in their countries. Many festivals developed into influential events where human rights and social justice topics are discussed.
Projects we supported in the past few years (2019, 2020) are specified on our website. Please contact us for a full overview of all projects we have ever supported. Some of these festivals have joined the Human Rights Film Network mentioned above. In the overview below, which is far from complete, we will highlight some of the interesting organisations and events that play a role in boosting awareness on human rights through film.
In Europe almost every country has a human rights film festival, although it may not be named as such. There are several countries were more than one such festival is active, like Spain and Italy. One leading European festival is the One World Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, with editions in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, as well as an annual edition in Brussels. One World, through its founding father the NGO People in Need, also supports other human rights film festivals, like the Bir Duino festival in Kyrgyzstan.
In Asia, Freedom Film Festival in Malaysia and Active Vista Human Rights Film Festival in the Philippines are some of the most prominent human rights film festivals. The 100% Manusia Film Festival based in Jakarta, Indonesia, is relatively young but very promising. In the Middle East, it is important to mention Karama Human Rights Film Festival in Jordan, which had its first edition in 2011. Not only did they manage to make their festival into an annual event, they also inspired several others to do the same, for instance in Gaza and in Lebanon. Karama also laid the foundations for the Arab network of human rights film festivals (ANHAR).
The Human Rights Arts & Film Festival in Australia is the largest public human rights arts event in Oceania. Although based in Melbourne, the festival travels to most major cities and many regional areas around Australia.
The African continent does not have one dominant film festival on human rights. There are so many relevant initiatives worth mentioning though, including the Ciné Droit Libre festivals organised by Semfilms in West Africa, FIFDHO in Niger, Mis Me Binga in Cameroon and several mobile cinema events like Sunshine Cinema in South Africa.
In the Americas, many relevant and activist film festivals have taken place in the past 20 years. The festival in Vermont is probably the oldest human rights film festival in existence. Not only is the film industry in South and Central America very strong, it is also highly engaged. Many passionate filmmakers, journalists and activists are putting together film festivals on human rights and environmental topics. Besides the human rights film festival in Argentina, organised by IMD, there have been impressive film festivals and muestras going on for many years in Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia and Guatemala. Ambulante in Mexico, with its large travelling film festivals, is an example for many film festivals worldwide.
Besides festivals, there are several other film organisations with great social impact and relevance for human rights. Starting in the Netherlands, the IDFA Bertha Fund supports documentary filmmakers from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The Hubert Bals Fund is an initiative of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, providing grants to remarkable cinema projects in various stages of completion.
Doc Society is a non-profit organisation committed to enabling documentary films and connecting them to audiences globally. Doc Society runs several funds encouraging filmmakers to create social impact with their films, including the Climate Story Fund, the BFI Doc Society Ripple Effect Fund, and the New Perspectives Fellowship. In 2014 they launched the Impact Field Guide & Toolkit, a free online resource designed to help anyone working with film make an even greater impact. Another project worth mentioning is the Good Pitch, bringing together documentary ﬁlmmakers with foundations, NGOs, campaigners, philanthropists, policy makers and media around leading social and environmental issues.
Talking about impact, the South African organisation STEPS uses film to empower, start a conversation, educate and produce action around human rights and environmental issues. For instance the Why Democracy? project aims to stimulate a global discussion about democracy.
There are several training courses that are relevant for human rights oriented filmmakers. The Summer School in Cinema, Human Rights and Advocacy is a training initiative jointly developed by the Global Campus of Human Rights and Picture People. The Summer School is aimed at young professionals wishing to broaden their understanding on the connections between human rights, films, digital media and video advocacy, and learn how to use film as a tool for social change. ESoDoc, the European Social Documentary is a training initiative for activist documentary filmmakers and other media professionals.
Witness is an NGO that trains and assists human rights defenders to use video to expose injustice all over the world. They conduct on-the-ground trainings, and provide free online resources in multiple languages, in order to help individuals provide evidence of human rights abuses, and to use footage to create local impact.
We are observing a growing number of filmmakers being threatened, arrested, imprisoned and attacked. In these critical situations, the international film community must show solidarity and campaign for the freedom of these filmmakers to do their work. That is why Movies that Matter is a member of the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR), founded in 2020. The Coalition acts in cases of persecution or threats to the personal safety of filmmakers and will defend their right to continue their work, by mobilising the international film community.
Another great initiative is the Artists at Risk Connection (ARC), a programme by PEN America. ARC is an online collaboration of more than 600 global organisations that provide life-saving resources to artists worldwide who face oppression, persecution, arrest, and violence for their creative work. ARC collates resources — including emergency funding, housing opportunities, residencies, fellowships and grants, and legal, immigration, and resettlement services — in an interactive online catalogue to help threatened artists quickly identify programs for which they’re eligible.
The Cinema for Peace Foundation is an international non-profit organization with the goal to foster change through film. They promote films and members of the film community who try to make a difference.
SIMA, the Social Impact Media Awards, based in Los Angeles, advances global awareness, social justice, human rights and education by supporting independent content creators and media artists on the front-lines of social change and bringing their work into communities and classrooms around the globe.
Besides these organisations mentioned above, there are several other organisations working at the interface of human rights and cinema.
There are over 270 LGBT and Queer film festivals worldwide. Frameline, formerly known as the San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival, started in 1977, and is currently the oldest continuous queer film festival in the world. New festivals are starting every year. Movies that Matter has financially supported several LGBTI and Queer film festivals, including Side by Side in Russia, Llamaleh in Uruguay, Kashish festival in India, Aks festival in Pakistan, Merlinka in Serbia and Pink Life Queer Fest in Turkey.
In the short study from 2020 called “Connecting the Dots” Movies that Matter assessed the level of cooperation among LGBTI and Queer film festivals, and the need and feasibility of establishing a network. Cooperation, e.g. on programme development, is essential for many LGBTI and queer festivals. Many of them are relatively small in terms of budget and employees, compared to other types of film festivals. Although there is no formal globally operating network of LGBT and Queer film festivals, several interesting regional networks and ‘social media networks’ exist, such as:
– Red Iberoamericana de Cine LGBT, in which festivals from Spanish-speaking countries join forces. The network was coordinated by the Festival Internacional de Cine Gai Lésbico y Transexual de Madrid.
– Asia Pacific Queer Film Festival Alliance (APQFFA) was established in 2015. This reflects the trend that, since 2014, many (one third) of the newly established LGBTI and Queer film festivals are based in Asia. In only a few years, the network increased from 8 members in 2015 to 25 in January 2020.
– Queer Film Network (QFN), open to film festivals from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
– QueerScope, a union of relatively small, independent queer film festivals in Germany and Switzerland
– Berlin International Film Festival’s Teddy Award offers a wide scale of networking opportunities for ‘queer film festival programmers’. Many programmers from LGBTI and Queer film festivals meet in Berlin every year and use the opportunity to share information and discuss cooperation.
– Global LGBTQ+ Film Festival Network, a network group on Facebook, created by MIX Copenhagen LGBT Film Festival in January 2016. The main objective is to ease communication between people working for LGBTQ+ film festivals around the world.
– PopcornQ Film & Video Professionals Facebook Group is a resource for LGBT film and video professionals, founded about 10 years ago by Jenni Olson, who co-directed the Frameline LGBT film festival in San Francisco in the early 1990s. Jenni Olson, also manages and moderates an email list for LGBT film professionals.
– The Big Queer Film Festival List. This is an online calendar with an overview of all queer film festivals worldwide. The list was created in 2005 and is still regularly maintained by Mel Pritchard, who is based in Australia.
We assume that there are many more of such groups, including private networks, facilitating the flow of ideas and information.