7 Human Rights Film Festivals Around the World

Film is one of the most powerful ways to highlight human rights issues around the world. Thanks to visuals, sound, and other features of cinema, you don’t even have to speak the language of the filmmaker to be moved. Festivals are a great place to go if you are a filmmaker trying to get your message out; an employee who is part of an NGO in the human rights field; or just someone who wants to get involved in the human rights community. In addition to watching films, festivals provide opportunities to participate in discussions and Q&A’s with creators, and to meet new people passionate about human rights issues. Here are six human rights film festivals taking place in 2020:

ACT Human Rights Film Festival

Date: April 3rd-11th, 2020
Held at Fort Collins’ Colorado State University, the ACT Human Rights Festival’s goals are to “Awaken” audiences to global human rights issues, “Connect” them to filmmakers and each other, and “Transform” how audiences engage with ideas, cultures, other people, and communities. The first festival occurred in 2016. Each year, the festival is held in April and goes for a week. There are screenings, Q&A’s, and panel discussions. Past festivals have included Oscar-nominated filmmakers such as James Longely, whose film “Angels are Made of Light” screened last year. This film explores the daily lives of people adjusted to the frightening presence of both American soldiers and the resurgent Taliban. As the 2020 festival draws closer, film schedules will be released.

This Human World

Date: 28. November – 10. Dezember
Vienna’s first international human rights film festival is a platform of cinematic art and critical discourse, a space of encounter and dialogue, and a meeting point for young innovative filmmakers, both local and international. The organisers consider cinema not only an artistic form wherein narrative experiences are performed or created, but also an opportunity for the audience to step out of their comfort zone and into dialogue with new challenging realities.

One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival

Date: March 5th-14th, 2020
The One World film festival is held in Prague in the Czech Republic. It’s organized by Czech nonprofit “People In Need.” Since its founding, One World has become one of the largest human rights film festivals in the world. The org holds another festival in Brussels; a festival that goes into schools; and a festival that travels through Czech Republic towns. One World gives awards in three competition categories, as well as non-competition thematic categories, and an interactive or “Docs for Kids” category. In total, there are seven awards given out, such as Award for Best Film in the International Competition, Student Jury Award, and Audience Award.

International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights

Date: March 6th-15th, 2020
Held in Geneva, the capital city of human rights, this film festival gathers filmmakers, activists, policymakers, and citizens. It’s been going on since 2003, and has seen over 233,000 audience members, the majority of whom are young people under 35 years old. In addition to the festival, the FIFDH runs a forum alongside the UN Human Rights Council. The goal is to show the best of international cinema, fiction, and documentaries on human rights and encourage public support of human rights. Each night of the festival, people are invited to talk about topics such as climate change, corruption, and more. This year, any film submissions are due October 31, 2019.

HUMAN International Documentary Film Festival

Date: February 24th-March 1, 2020
Currently Oslo’s largest documentary film festival, HUMAN’s goal is to engage with and promote human rights issues and other social issues. Each year, the festival joins with 60-70 NGOS, think tanks, newspapers, and more. The film program has 40+ new Norwegian and international documentaries in three categories: a competition program for new Norwegian docs; a program for international docs with a specific human rights focus; and an international program with new docs focused on a variety of political and social topics. The festival also has a Live program, with debates, art exhibits, plays, and more. For documentary filmmakers and NGOS, there’s a seminar on the future of social/political doc films.

Movies That Matter

Date: March 20th-28th, 2020
Every year at the end of March, the Movies That Matter org holds a film festival in The Hague. It is the Netherlands’ main platform for cinema and hosts 70+ documentaries and films. There are three competitions: “Activist,” a competition with Amnesty International that focuses on films paying tribute to human rights activists; “Camera Justitia,” which focuses on international justice; and “Dutch Movies Matter,” a competition specifically for Dutch filmmakers. The festival also has an education program, debates and discussions, music, and exhibits. The submission dates for films is December 1, 2019.

Human Rights Film Festival Barcelona

Date: November 15-24, 2020
The oldest human rights independent film festival, this event has been going on for nearly 20 years. Its central headquarters is in Barcelona. Its goals are to “make us think, awaken our conscience, denounce justice, and reflect the social and cultural diversity of humanity.” Like most human rights film festivals, there are awards. Categories include “Best Feature Film,” “Best Documentary Short Film,” and “Best Fiction Short-Film.” There are also special awards, like the Voices Award for radio and Human Rights award.