Syria and Egypt: two protagonists at FIFDH Geneve FIFDH.org
The logo of the festival

The International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH: Festival du Film et Forum International sur les Droits Humains), is a festival held every year in Geneva, Switzerland. Co-founded and co-directed by Léo Kaneman and Yaël Reinharz Hazan, FIFDH Geneve is one of the most important European festivals aiming to promote and to defend human rights, to report violations of human dignity, to raise awareness and to encourage the involvement of the public in in matters of everyone’s concern. With its motto “A film, a subject, a debate”, FIFDH Geneve is different from other European film festivals, because it is more than a fashion show.

In fact, apart from arranging viewings of films, there are daily forums, debates, exhibitions and workshops, allowing laymen and human rights defenders to meet filmmakers and artists.

According to the co-director Léo Kaneman: "The festival has two priorities. The first one is to award the artistic quality of a film, because when the quality is higher, you can talk better about human rights. The second priority is to debate on political issues".

The Festival was established in 2003, thanks to some human rights defenders active in NGO's, filmmakers, media representatives and the University of Geneva. The FIFDH is officially supported by the Swiss Radio and Television Le Temps and the RTS, but also by other international media such as France Culture, Libération, Arte, TV5Monde, Euronews, Rue89, le Courrier International, Alternative Channel. The International Jury awards three Prizes: the “Grand Prix du FIFDH” offered by the State of Geneva, the Award for the “Foundation Barbara Hendricks for Peace and Reconciliation in tribute to Sergio Vieira de Mello” and the award for the “World Organisation Against Torture”. 

This year the Festival is held from 7th to 16th of March for the 12th time, and its numbers are to be remembered: over 25 000 participants (with a record of public) and 40 films projected, including 28 in competition. The FIFDH this year coincides with the UN Human Rights Council’s main session and lasts ten days, offering many activities and projections and each day is dedicated to a different subject.

The following issues are some of the discussed ones this year: abortion, LGBT+ rights, women rights, dictatorship in Belarus, Russian politics, the persecution of Myanmar’s Muslims, mass crimes in Rwanda and reconstructions in Haiti. In addition,  some special guests have been asked to participate, such as: Julian Assange, Founder of WikiLeaks (via Skype); Talal Derki, Syrian filmmaker, director of Return to Homs; Elisabeth Diaz, Deputy Head of Office, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Haiti (OCHA); Razzan Ghazzawi, Syrian blogger and activist.

This year the first prize went to the documentary Return to Homs by Talal Derki. According to the jury: “the film conveys to the viewer a sense of urgency, which helps to counter the apathy of international public opinion about the Syrian civil war". The second prize went to the German director Marco Wilms for his documentary Art War. 

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Return to Homs (2013), directed by Talal Derki, is 87 minutes long in Arabic with English subtitles. The film introduces us to several young men who abandoned peaceful protests for armed resistance. The documentary shows the cruelty of some battles, where the protagonists might be injured or killed right in front of the camera. This way the audience can understand the violence of the protests against the government of President Bashar al-AssadSince March 2011, more than 100,000 people have been killed, over 2 million left Syria and more than 4 million are displaced within the country. The main character of this film is a former soccer player Abdul Basset, who seems to have nine lives. He is injured several times, but always survives, unlike many of his companions. Even if the city of Homs is completely destroyed, many people are still trying to live there. Some of them are fighters, while others have no way of escaping from the city or uncertain of their destination.

The director Talal Derki said: "The film clearly shows the difficulty of having to defend their lives, their families and children every day with weapons. We understand very well how the Syrian population is exhausted and the desire to return to a normal life is so strong that nothing else matters to them." You can watch the trailer of Return to Homs by clicking here.    

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Art War describes the spread of creativity of many young Egyptian artists, who have been involved in an endless revolution, which exploded in 2011, ending the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. Inspired by the Arab Spring, the protagonists of the documentary use graffiti murals, rebellious music and videos to salvage the revolution. The film follows these revolutionary artists through 2 years of post-revolutionary anarchy, from the Arab Spring in 2011 until the final parliament election in 2013. The proliferation of creativity after Mubarak’s fall is indicative of the way these artists learnt to use art instead of weapons to fight for their ideas. In the director Marco Wilms’ words: "The work of Egyptian artists reflects the world as a prism, on the surface of which many faceted images can be observed. I believe that art is about being able to express the complexity of what people feel during a revolution”. You can watch the trailer of Art War by clicking here.

For more info, check out the FIFDH Geneve homepage!
Sources: The Montreal GazetteEuronewsIlSole24Ore
Photo credits: The Hollywood ReporterKino Zeit
Edited by:Réka Blazsek