STATEMENT OF PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES
I. AIMS AND ACTIVITIES
1.1 Character of the Network
The HUMAN RIGHTS FILM NETWORK is a partnership of human rights film festivals around the world, The Network promotes exchange, communication and collaboration regarding the representation of human rights issues in moving pictures.
The Network was established in Prague on 18th April 2004.
The Network coordinates its activities through e-mail and internet, regular meetings and special events. An assembly of member festivals meets periodically for decision-making and elects a board of coordinators to manage the Network’s activities.
Membership to the Network is open to any human rights film festival organization that subscribes to the principles and practices as recognized by the Network and described in this Statement. New festival organizations that have already staged at least one festival can be accepted on recommendation by members and approval of the board of coordinators. Approval will be granted on the basis of festival track record, regularity of events and other basic information.
The Network recognizes regional sub-networks as partnerships of geographically close members. However each festival is represented in the festival independently and sub-networks can only be represented through the umbrella network.
1.2 Aims of the Network
The Network of Human Rights Film Festivals has been established to:
- Promote human rights film through festivals, broadcasting, educational use, concerted efforts towards communication and more.
- Promote human rights film festivals and assist established and emerging festivals in securing a sound and independent basis.
- Influence a conducive international supportive environment for human rights film makers, in particular those at risk for their life or repressed by censorship.
1.3 Activities of the Network
The Network is dedicated towards activities that:
- Promote the screening of human rights films at the Network's member festivals and other film festivals.
- Promote the distribution of human rights films in theatres, through broadcasting, within educational contexts and at other opportunities.
- Exchange knowledge and expertise among member festivals and assist emerging festival organizations.
- Collaborate in a human rights films data-base and a Network website.
- Promote the knowledge of human rights cinema, and support publications on its issues and its educational and other activities.
- Aim to coordinate such practical matters as setting festival dates, rotating film prints and sharing costs of film makers' visits.
- Collaborate in reaching out to media attention and visibility, as by issuing press releases for film festivals and events.
- Share information and offer opportunities for liaising in fund-raising and financing.
- Promote visits and other exchange among human rights film festival staff.
- Promote training activities and organize workshops, seminars and the like.
- Promote the debate on the ethics, professional codes of conduct and other standards regarding human rights film making, as through seminars and publications.
- Help protect members film festivals against interference and pressure (of political and commercial nature) that threatens the independence of their programming.
- Promote partnership between founding members and new members within a regional area or a country.
- Create opportunities for film makers to meet, exchange experiences, and liaise with the cinema industry, also in synergy with the efforts of film makers associations across the world.
- Support film makers dedicated to human rights issues and help protect film makers in danger of human rights violations.
- In general, bring forward the mission of member human rights film festivals in promoting respect for human rights.
Regarding the principle of territoriality, it is recommended that the members inform their local correspondents, and if possible coordinate with them, the initiatives that these organises in another member’s country – be these initiatives festivals, conferences or awards.
2.1 Origins of the Network
In various part of the world, throughout the year, human rights film festivals are being staged — from Seoul to Amsterdam, from Johannesburg to Bologna, from Los Angeles to Prague, from Buenos Aires to Warsaw. Film selections specifically dedicated to human rights issues have also been programmed within other international film festivals. Such initiatives have originated from a variety of sources: international and domestic human rights organizations, other non-governmental organizations, universities, cultural foundations, governmental and intergovernmental institutions.
The idea of the Network originated in informal contacts between festival coordinators. It was inspired by the shared goal of human rights films festivals of offering screening programs with films dedicated to the exploration and analysis of human rights issues. It was initiated to further the activities of individual festivals and exploit existing synergies and coordination between festivals.
The Network was formally proposed following a meeting in Amsterdam, November 2003, and launched in April 2004 in Prague.
2.2 Human Rights Principles
The Network strives to promote a broad concept of human rights, on the basis of international standards as embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international law. These rights include:
- Integrity rights, such as the right to be protected from torture, killing and arbitrary detention, and the right to be free from discrimination and repression based on nationality, ethnic origin, gender and other personal characteristics.
- Political and civil rights, such as the right to freedom of expression and the right to participate in public life, in government and in private organizations.
- Social, economic and cultural rights, including the rights to basic needs such as food, water, work, housing, health, a clean environment, as well as participation in cultural and scientific life and copyright protection.
We recognize these human rights as universal. Human rights cannot be annulled or diminished on basis of 'tradition', 'culture' or any other excuse. As stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 'every individual and every organ of society... shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms...' Governments, or others who are in actual control of an area, are primarily responsible for the protection of such rights. Governments also have an obligation to take measures to prevent and redress violence and injustice among private persons, such as violence targeted at women, children and minorities.
2.3 Human Rights Films
Though the 'human rights film' may be a fairly recent concept, we believe such films have been made during the entire century of moving pictures history. World-renowned directors as well as local film makers have documented human rights abuses or portrayed human rights issues in feature films, and have striven to give a voice and a face to those who were not heard by the powers that be. Such films have superseded common notions of 'left' or 'right'. They have, implicitly or explicitly, been based on human rights tenets even before the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was established in 1948.
Human rights films, in our view, are films that reflect, informs on and provide understanding of the actual state of past and present human rights violations, or the visions and aspirations concerning ways to redress those violations.
Human rights films can be documentary, fiction, experimental or animation. They can be short, medium or feature length; have a 35mm, 16mm, video or other format; can be experimental through the use of 'new media' or any other artistic and technological visual means.
Human rights films may be harshly realistic, or highly utopian. They may offer gruesome pictures, or show the bliss of peaceful life. They may report, denounce or convey an emotional message. They may forcefully present the views of one group or individual only, or try to convey the opinions of as many of those involved as possible. They may be a highly accurate report of facts, or offer surreal provocation.
We believe that human rights films, whatever their format, contents or character, should be 'truthful'. That is, they should inform the viewers on human rights issues and aspirations, and should not intentionally misrepresent the facts or the views or words of those portrayed. They should not be so biased as to invoke hatred and discrimination against groups and individuals, or serve political or commercial interests only. They should be explorative of the issue rather than propagandistic, and not reproduce stereotypes.
We strive to promote films that have good cinematographic quality in photography, narrative, rhythm, audio and other technical characteristics – films that are 'engaging' in the sense that they keep the attention of a large audience. However, due the difficult circumstances in which many human rights film are made, we recognize that also films that do not come up to standards of optimal cinematic quality can be forceful and convincing testimonies of human rights violations and ideals. The Network promotes films that allow silenced and marginalized voices to be heard, as a contribution to their empowerment.
2.4 Independence of members
The Network recognizes and defends the independence of member festivals from influence and pressure from governmental and non-governmental bodies and individuals, at a local, national and international level. This independence regards the selection and presentation of films, the invitations extended to film professionals and others, the means of publicity, the raising of funds, and all other areas. The Network upholds the principle of freedom of expression and information, whatever the members' affiliations and sources of funding and assistance. Within this criterion of independence, the Network does not impose on members any directives as to their modus operandi, their selection and presentation of films, or their funding.
2.5 Founding members
Alliance Ciné (Paris, France)
Amnesty International Film Festival (Amsterdam) (now Movies that Matter in The Hague, NL)
Amnesty International Film Festival (Belgium)
Amnesty International Travelling Film Festival (Canada)
Amnesty International Film Festival USA (Los Angeles and other US cities)
DerHumAlc (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Human Rights in Film (Warsaw, Poland)
Human Rights Nights (Bologna, Italy)
Human Rights Watch International Film Festival (New York, US; London, UK)
International Film Festival of Human Rights (Barcelona, Spain)
International Film Festival on Human Rights (Geneve, Switzerland)
One World (Prague, Czech Republic)
Perspektive: International Human Rights Film Festival (Nuremberg, Germany)
Seoul Human Rights Film Festival (Seoul, South Korea)
Stalker (Moskow, Russia)
Tri-Continental Film Festival (Johannesburg, South Africa; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Bombay, India)
Vermont International Film Festival (Burlington, USA)