Renowned filmmakers at the 16th Verzió Film Festival

The 16th Verzió, which opens on 12 November, once again welcomes several renowned documentarists, such as Emmy Award winner Alexander Nanau, FIPRESCI Award winner Saeed Al Batal, and the director of Novaya, Askold Kurov, who will hold a masterclass during the festival. 

Human Rights Competition

Saeed Al Batal, director, Still Recording

Saeed is a young cinema enthusiast from Eastern Ghouta, Syria, who teaches other young people the rules of filming. His friend, Milad, is finishing his studies in fine arts on the other side of the fence in Damascus, which is under the control of the regime. At one point, Milad decides to leave the capital and join Saeed in besieged Douma, where they set up a local radio station and film studio. They film everything, until one day, the camera films them… Venice Film Festival, FIPRESCI Award 2018

Dina Naser, director, Tiny Souls

Marwa, her mother and siblings are stranded at the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan. They arrived there in 2012 after escaping the war in Syria. Marwa is nine, and like any child, her concerns revolve around school and play. Her fun-loving side emerges around her brother, Mahmoud, and her younger sister, Ayah. As the years go by, Marwa becomes attached to her life at the camp—her friends and make-shift home—until one day when the authorities show up to interrogate her elder brother about his association with militant extremists. 

Philippe Bellaiche, co-director, Advocate

Advocate profiles the caseload of a human rights lawyer renowned for defending Palestinian feminists and fundamentalists, nonviolent demonstrators and armed militants alike. The film follows Lea Tsemel in real time, including through the trial of a 13-year-old boy, her youngest client to date. The film revisits her landmark cases and reflects on the political significance of her work, as well as the personal price she pays for taking on the role of “devil’s advocate”. Sundance Film Festival 2019, DocAviv 2019 – Best Israeli Documentary

Małgorzata Imielska, director, Love and Empty Words

Adam and Wanda are a long-time married couple facing a new challenge in their relationship: she suffers from Alzheimer's and her condition is rapidly deteriorating. Adam looks after his wife alone, every day, twenty-four hours a day. He washes and feeds her, and changes her diapers, while constantly reminding her of their old life. He shows her home movies from  when they were young and in love. He has decided not to abandon Wanda, not even when she forgets his name.

Tuki Jencquel, director, Está todo bien

For decades, Venezuela has prided itself on having one of the best public health systems in South America. The economic downfall has led, among other things, to the collapse of the health care system. Severe shortages of medicine, a dramatic increase in infant mortality, the reappearance of once-eradicated diseases like diphtheria, and a shortage of doctors is now an everyday experience for patients. Most doctors, like millions of ordinary citizens, have left the country. Caracas-born filmmaker Tuki Jencquel asks a pharmacist, trauma surgeon, activist and two patients the same questions that millions of Venezuelans are asking themselves: protest or acquiesce, emigrate or remain, lose hope or hang onto faith? One World Brussels 2019 – Best Film

Sang-woo Kang, director, Kim-Gun

A photo of a young man in the 1980 Gwangju Democratic Uprising in South Korea stirs controversy 35 years after the photo was taken. In 2015, ex-army official Jee Man-won claims that the uprising was not a democratic movement, but a riot perpetrated by North Korean Special Forces; he believes that the man in the photo was a North Korean special agent who now lives in Pyongyang as a national hero. Outraged by Jee's claim, survivors sue him for defamation and distorting the history of the Gwangju Uprising, yet no one remembers the young man in the photo. Finally, someone recognizes him as "Kim-gun", a homeless scrap collector who became a leading protester.

Hanne Phlypo, producer, By the name of Tania

The Amazon flows lazily through the goldmine-gashed landscape of northern Peru. Using eyewitness accounts, the film tells the story of a young woman who is forced into prostitution when her initial attempts to escape the stifling limitations of village life go wrong. The film reconstitutes a space of dignity, and brings a voice and identity to that which had been rendered nameless. With its powerful imagery, the girl’s traumatic odyssey embodies the horrific devastation visited upon the natural world by contemporary industrial society. Berlinale 2019 – Best Documentary Film Nominee

Tomislav Žaja, director, Neighbors

The director of a psychiatric hospital in the Croatian city of Osijek decided to close his institution and reintegrate its residents into society. A social worker at heart, he could no longer lead a notoriously closed institution run like a prison. The film follows several former patients, intimately portraying their everyday dramas and the challenges they face as they go out into the free and unknown world. The former patients first introduce themselves by their diagnoses rather than their names, but in the months that follow, their personalities reemerge along with their complex life paths as they try to repair their broken lives.

Media, the Fourth Estate Section

Alexander Nanau, director, Colectív

In 2015, 27 people perished in a tragic fire at the Romanian music club, Colectív, and a shocking 37 more died in hospitals during the weeks that followed due to inadequate facilities and rampant infections. As a whistle-blower exposes the situation to a team of investigative journalists, one revelation leads to another as the journalists uncover a vast network of corruption in the health care system. Following the resignation of the Minister of Health, a new minister offers unprecedented access to the ongoing reforms, as well as the obstacles it faces. Following journalists, whistle-blowers, survivors, and government officials, Colectív is an immersive and uncompromising look into the price of corruption and the price of truth. Zürich Film Festival 2019, Best Documentary

Askold Kurov, director, Novaya

Since 2000, the editorial office of Novaya Gazeta, the recipient of more than 60 prestigious awards, and thrice a nominee for the Nobel Prize, has lost 6 of its members—journalists who searched relentlessly for inconvenient truths. The documentary offers a unique opportunity to observe the daily work of their colleagues and successors. Over the course of 18 months, the film records not only what they discuss in editorial meetings, but also how they choose their subjects, and how they respond to the sudden kidnapping of one of their editors. One World Brussels 2019 – Jury Special Mention. The director Askold Kurov will hold the Verzió masterclass, In Search of Credibility.

Anthropocene Section

Evelyne Faye-Horak, assistant director, Earth

Earth was shot at seven locations that have been transformed on a grand scale by humans: mountains being moved in California, a tunnel being sliced through rock at the Brenner Pass, an open-cast mine in Hungary, a marble quarry in Italy, a copper mine in Spain, a salt mine used to store radioactive waste in Wolfenbüttel and a tar sands landscape in Canada. The dimensions are gigantic, the proportions out of control; the world has slipped from humanity’s grasp. Berlinale 2019, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury

Daniel Lambo, director, Breathless

Following the deaths of many from his village, including his father, filmmaker Daniel Lambo sets off on a passionate quest to uncover the truth about the deadly asbestos industry. His search takes him to the largest asbestos waste dump in India and reveals that the cold-blooded industry is still endangering the lives of workers and consumers around the world. A gripping story about the fight of individuals against a thriving asbestos industry. Flemish Film Award for Best Documentary, 2019

Enrico Parenti, director, Soyalism

Food production has increasingly become a huge business for a handful of giant corporations. Soyalism follows the industrial production chain of pork and the related soybean monoculture, from China to Brazil through the United States and Mozambique. The documentary describes the enormous concentration of power in the hands of these Western and Chinese companies. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands of small producers have gone out of business, and entire landscapes have been permanently transformed. The system has been exported across the world. From waste-lagoons in North Carolina to soybean monoculture in the Amazon rainforest, the film asks whether this process is jeopardizing the environmental balance of the planet.

Max Tuula, producer, How Big is the Galaxy?

Zakhar lives with his family among the vast Arctic spaces of Siberia, 100 miles away from any other human dwellings. Zakhar is only 7, but has his own reindeer and tundra for pasture. One day, his nomad family is joined by a teacher sent by the authorities to explain why the kids need math and Putin. The teacher is meant to provide them with a specific set of facts and understandings, but Zakhar craves the answers to millions of questions about the world. Small but exciting things happen to the children every day, and each errand turns into a thrilling adventure. Flahertiana 2019 “Big Golden Nanook” Grand Prix for the Best Film

Growing Up Section

Nicole Schafer, director, Buddha in Africa

Enock Alu is a teenager growing up in a Chinese Buddhist orphanage in Malawi. He feels torn between his African roots and Chinese upbringing. With dreams of becoming a martial arts hero like Jet Li, Enock, in his final year of school, has to make some tough decisions about his future: will he return to his relatives in his home village or study abroad in Taiwan? Set against China’s expanding influence on the continent, Buddha in Africa provides unique insight into the forces of cultural soft power on the identity and imagination of children growing up between two cultures.

Hungarian Filmmakers

Verzió will provide opportunities to interview Hungarian filmmakers. Réka Szabó, Mária Takács, Árpád Bogdán, Glória Halász, Péter Hegedűs, Ágota Varga, András Dér and Klára Muhi, Mária Anikó Nagy, Máté Bartha, Dávid Kresalek and Jonathan Hunter will all be present at the festival.

International Jury

The members of the International Jury are Dorottya Zurbó, Christine Dollhofer and Leo de Boer.


Sharpen your Perspective
Budapest - November 12–17.
DebrecenKecskemétPécsSzeged, and Szombathely in cooperation with Open Spaces - November 21–24.

The 16th Verzió Human Rights Documentary Film Festival is supported by the Creative Europe Program of the European Union.