From a rebel poet to a football-playing substitute mother - the competition program

The competition program of the 15th VERZIÓ Human Rights Film Festival, held 6–11 November, consists of 12 films. The program presents the stories of a Saudi poet who criticizes patriarchal society, Belarusian prisoners staging a play, dying mothers, orphans, those haunted by war, and the rise of illiberal democracies.


This year’s VERZIÓ Film Festival will once again brings us closer to people living faraway through their unique experiences. The competition program offers four films that present the ways some children are growing up. Fernand Melgar’s film,  At the Philosopher’s School, follows five mentally or physically disabled children as they start school in a special Swiss institute. These children experience the freedom and safety that every child should be entitled to.

Alicia is the story of a girl who has waited four years to be adopted. Maasja Ooms, the Dutch director, earned the Special Award from the jury of IDFA 2017 for her film, which captures Alicia’s emotional rollercoaster in an orphanage.

Home Games,the Ukrainian/French/Polish co-production directed by Alisa Kovalenko, presents us with Alina, a talented football player who dreams of playing professionally. After Alina’s mother dies she takes charge of her siblings and is forced to make a very difficult decision.

The competition program also includes  Srbenka, a film by Croatian, Nebojša Slijepčević, which was nominated for the European Film Award. The film shows the  rehearsals of an avant-garde, immersive play about the 1991 murder of a Serbian girl in Zagreb. The rehearsals act as a complex trauma therapy, and the 12-year-old star begins to feel as if the war never ended.

This year’s VERZIÓ also brings us films introducing women in extreme situations. In Anastasiya Miroshnichenko’s  Debut, eleven women in a Belarussian prison find rehearsing for a play a liberating and transformative experience.

Rana Abu Fraiha tells us the story of a Bedouin Muslim woman who decides to be buried in a Jewish cemetery—a decision that takes her whole family on an emotional and dramatic journey. Fraiha was awarded Best Director at the Jerusalem Film Festival for In her footsteps.

Saudi poet Hissa Hilal is the first woman to reach the finals in the popular TV show, “Million’s Poet. The Poetess, a European Film Award-nominated film, made by Stefanie Brockhaus and Andy Wolff, is an inspiring story of one woman risking her personal safety to critique patriarchal society in front of 70 million viewers. (Supported by the Goethe Institute)

The actress in Alina Gorlova’s Ukrainian film, which earned various awards, struggles with war trauma. Another battle awaits the heroine of No Obvious Signs when she returns from war…one with haunting memories.

Freedom for the Wolf reflects social changes, and ponders how to explain the Trump phenomenon. The German/American co-production, directed by Rupert Russel, was filmed over three years in five countries. It provides an original statement on the rise of illiberal democracies. (Supported by the Goethe Institute)

Long Season guides us through a Syrian camp in Lebanon. What is life like for those waiting day after day for news from their hometown, Raqqa? Director Leonard Retel was awarded the Best Dutch Documentary for this film at IDFA 2017. (Supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regional representation)

Watani, My Home is based on Marcel Mettesiefen’s Oscar-nominated short. It is about one family’s escape from war-torn Syria, and their attempt to start life anew. (Supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees regional representation)

A documentary by Congolese director, Dieudo Hamadi, leads us to the chaotic and often dangerous city of Kinshasa, where three activists are trying to unify the opposition and bring political change to Joseph Kabila's brutal police state.  Kinshasa Makambo, a new film from the creator of Mama Colonel, which was screened at last year’s VERZIÓ, is a Congolese/French/Swiss/German/Norwegian co-production.

From this 12-film selection, the Student Jury will choose the Best Human Rights Documentary.

The award ceremony of the 15th VERZIÓ Film Festival will take place at Toldi Cinema in Budapest, on Saturday, 10 November, at 7:30PM. The award-winning films will be screened again on Sunday afternoon.


The festival is made possible with co-funding from the Creative Media program of the European Union.


15th VERZIÓ International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival
Budapest: 6–11 November, 2018.
Toldi, Művész, Kino Café, Blinken OSA, CEU, Trafó
Pécs, Szeged, Kecskemét: 15–25 November, 2018.