Films to Watch at this Year’s One World Festival

While the Czech Republic hosts a number of world-renowned film festivals, perhaps the film community’s best kept secret is People in Need’s human-rights festival One World (Jeden Svět). Virtually unknown outside the country, among Praguers it’s a source of pride and known for its great selection of provocative Oscar-worthy documentaries, organized panel discussions, and a host of international and European premieres.

Each year the festival presents intimate and far-reaching stories that explore the diversity of human rights issues found in the hidden corners of the word. It is a rare glimpse of the variety of experiences our planet has to offer, especially in the homogenous era of Netflix or HBO Go. And this year is no exception, with 133 films from 60 countries being presented, including 27 exclusive premieres; accompanying events; and a host of VR projects. Focusing on the climate emergency, the environmental catastrophe is the main human rights issue being explored this year, with organizers hoping to present a ‘truly unique’ experience on the topic throughout the festival. According to the programming director Ondrej Moravec, ‘You can attend a workshop on fermenting seasonal vegetables, see a film on environmental racism, explore nature in a dead forest at DOX, or immerse yourself in an emotional VR environment.’ 

The screenings kick off on March 5th with the presentation of the Oscar-nominated and Sundance-winning film Honeyland, a documentary exploring our relationship to nature and each other through the life of a wild beekeeper and her new unruly neighbours who want to get into the business as well. Check out the trailer here

Other Sundance award-winners screening at the festival include The Painter and the Thief, which looks at the strange relationship between two seemingly very different people: Czech artist Barbora Kysilková and one of the thieves who stole two of her paintings from a Norwegian gallery in 2015. Director Benjamin Ree will be attending both screenings. Romanian director Radu Ciorniciuc’s Acasa, My Home explores the life of a family of hermits living in the Bucharest Delta on the city’s outskirts who are forced by gentrification to move to the city. And finally, a portrait of a single mother and her four children as they live through Donbass warzone is presented in Iryna Tsilyk’s The Earth Is Blue as an Orange; the director will be attending both screenings of the film.

Those films will be in competition with Agnieszka Zwiefka’s Scars about the controversial life path of a former female fighter for the Tamil Tigers, and which is making its world premiere at One World. The festival is also hosting the international premiere of Ninosca, a portrait of a woman from Nicaragua, whom director Peter Torbiörnsson (Best Director award at One World in 2002) followed for 40 years, from her early childhood in a village all the way to her emigration to Spain for work so that she could feed her family. Both Zwiefka and Torbiörnsson will be attending two screenings each.

If you are looking to see the best of Czech documentary cinema, there are a number of films in competition. Director Apolena Rychlíková looks at climate change in the Czech Republic from the viewpoint of an extraterrestrial probe in The Czechs Are Excellent Mushroom Pickers, while director Andrea Culková explores the emotions evoked by climate change in women in her documentary Grief. Director Dmitry Bogolyubov meanwhile looks at how Putin’s followers use the legacy of the Great Patriotic War to gain support from the Russian people in Town of Glory.

Some other noteworthy screenings include Advocate, a film following attorney Lea Tsemel’s career-long struggle for Palestinian legal justice; Tsemel will be attending the screenings in person.  Award-winning director Joonas Berghäll is presenting his portrait of overworked, broken, hard-drinking, and frustrated Finnish men in his film The Happiest Man on Earth. And The Cave, the second Oscar-nominated film by member of the International Jury Feras Fayyad, will also be screened with the director present. The film tells the story of Syrian doctor Amani Ballour, who runs an underground hospital in the eastern town of Ghouta.

Tickets for the festival have already gone on sale and can be purchased through the One World website for CZK 70–110 depending on how soon you buy them. There will be an information stand available at Lucerna, with volunteers ready to help filmgoers purchase tickets for any cinema. The festival runs through to March 14th in Prague, after which there will be chances to see a selection of films in cinemas around the country as the festival travels to 35 Czech towns from March 14th through to April 9th.   

By Brad McGregor

Brad is a Canadian living in Prague for many years. He is a devoted film-maker, activist, writer and father - not necessarily in that order. 

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