about the festival
Miklós Jancsó, Ferenc Kőszeg
A few years ago a young man in Prague, Igor Blažević, who had fled from Yugoslavia to the Czech capital during the war, decided to organize a festival of documentary films focussing on human rights. His friends were skeptical: "Who's going to care about 20, 40, 60-minute films about people's struggles and the abuse they suffer in different parts of the world?" The young man did not give up. He managed to get the support of filmmakers and of the politicians who had initiated the Charta 77 movement, led by Václav Havel himself. Finally, the project came into being. One World, as the festival was named, has been hosted by a number of popular cinemas in Prague over the last 6 years. During the festival large audiences fill the venues, and there are even One World clubs appearing in schools. The students are excited and astonished to see what is going on both in neighboring countries and further afield, not to mention their own country. Their teachers can explain where and why these things happen.
Now Hungary has followed suit. A group of colleagues at the Open Society Archives at the Central European University decided to organize another documentary film festival about human rights. The title of their festival was deliberately chosen with reference to Prague: Verzió - Version was intended as a reply to One World. Here too, their plans were dismissed by many as a dream. But the dream has come true: 40 films have been brought together from 22 different countries and the Toldi Cinema has agreed to host the event.
We, the undersigned, feel honored to have been patrons of the festival from the very beginning. Having learned about the films to be included to the festival program, we felt that these documentaries, through the language of images, tell us about what happens in far-away countries: things that are mentioned in the daily news or that we encounter in our personal experience or memories: power games and humiliation, the cruel machinery of murder and the struggle for life. One of these films was shot in fundamentalist Iran, where religious minorities are marginalized. Another tells us about democratic Germany, from where refugees who settled in the country many years ago have been deported with bureaucratic ruthlessness. The third is about developing China, a country that publicly executes thousands of its own citizens. The fourth is set in Hungary and focuses on the homeless living among us. The fifth tells us about the murder of Cambodian farmers, victims of the Khmer Rouge. The sixth is about the Roma, detained by Slovak Fascists in forced labor camps. And there are plenty more...
Many of us talk about human rights, but only a few actually follow the everyday lives of those who have been abused or deprived of their rights. The films at this festival offer us a chance to do this.
Will Verzio become a tradition? That depends on all of us. Come and see the films at Toldi Cinema (1054 Budapest Bajcsy-Zsilinszky út 36-38) on December 2-5. The festival will be opened by Árpád Göncz, former President of Hungary, on 2 December at 8 p.m. Come and join in, because violations of law, wherever they happen, hurt us, too. Come, because however many versions of these violations there may be, they all happen here, in our one and only world.
Miklós Jancsó, film director
Ferenc Kőszeg, President, Hungarian Helsinki Committee