Human Rights film festival finds alternative in face of Coronavirus threat

Human Rights film festival finds alternative in face of Coronavirus threat
Copyright euronews
By Frédéric Ponsard
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Despite being cancelled due to the coronavirus epidemic, organisers of the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights are pushing ahead with version 2.0.


The International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights in Geneva is one of the most important events dedicated to cinema and human rights around the world.

But when the 2020 edition was hit by the Coronavirus, the festival team reacted immediately by proposing a version 2.0.

Festival chairman Bruno Giussani told Euronews why a new plan was made to forge ahead with the program.

"We had to cancel the festival but we don't need to cancel the core of our mission which is, of course, to show films, but through films to talk about the human rights issues that are falling apart all over the world," he said. "To give a voice to activists, artists, experts, to denounce serious situations, to propose and highlight solutions and possible answers."

Many guests came to participate in the debates, which were broadcast online to ensure the continuity of the programming.

The festival presented the film Prison for Profit a powerful documentary on the privatization of prisons in South Africa and around the world inspired by an investigation by Ruth Hopkins.

Co-director Femke Van Velzen, described how the project came about: "We heard about torturing, prisoners were injected with psychiatric drugs against their will, and these prisons are run by private, multinational companies like G4S."

Her collaborator Ilse Van Velzen reiterated the point.

"The company G4S which is running this prison has sort of worldwide multiple incidence everywhere but they are never really linked," she said.

In the context of privatization, both inmates and guards are the victims of a system that commodifies prisons, making it a business like any other, without any notion of public service and respect for human rights.

Another of this year's central topics is international humanitarian law, particularly in Syria.

The Cave is one film that could not be screened but the debate, which is accessible online, allowed the main protagonist to report on the situation.

The film's main protagonist Dr Amani Ballour told Euronews why the film is important to her.

"This documentary to me, it's my reality, my life," she said.

"So we want to tell the truth about what happens in Syria through this film, it's our testimony about crimes against humanity, we want to show the people, the struggle of Syrian people, of Syrian women and chisdren, how they live under these very bad circumstances."

The subjects of this 2020 2.0 edition are numerous, from China to Sudan to Palestine, the state of the world is mapped.

The environment and climate emergency are also among the main subjects of this decidedly essential festival.

Find the debates and program on the festival website

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