25.05.2006 | Kyrilo Bulkin

Human rights in art


The Third Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, “Ukrainian Context” is continuing in Kyiv. How effective is it to combine the defence of human rights with the documentary film genre?  What kind of problems are of the greatest concern to filmmakers?  What were the most interesting festival and festival-related events?

Radio Svoboda’s Kyrylo Bulkin turned with these and other questions to one of the participants in the Festival, Damian Kolodiy and member of the jury and Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Volodymyr Yavorsky.

The Third Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, “Ukrainian Context” is the full title of the event taking place this week in the Kyiv House of Cinema. Why is it particularly the documentary film genre that has proved such a powerful creative means for trying to understand problems linked with human rights?

Volodymyr Yavorsky:  “Human rights are seen in the country very often as some kind of legal concept connected with legislation, with the law, yet in fact it is a much broader concept, a philosophical one, linked with one’s worldview.  Human rights take their roots from the sense of personal dignity. The very best way of showing this, of demonstrating how people can be aware of their own dignity, how they can become free, as well as what kind of problems exist in this area, is through documentary films, because quite simply it is much more effective to see something once than to discuss it many times. After this, all the arguments disappear. On the one hand these are artistic things which any cinematographer enjoys watching, while on the other, they are specifically problem areas which force people to think about themselves, about their own freedom and about how they function in this society”. 

American filmmaker of Ukrainian origin, Damian Kolodiy received firsthand experience of viewers’ reactions on Saturday evening. He brought a film to the Festival into which he had poured his own – enthusiastic and open – impressions of the Orange Revolution. The author’s sincerity was echoed in the audience’s response.

“It’s really wonderful for me that the film is playing here in Kyiv. There are a lot of people who were probably themselves in the Revolution and experienced it all.  I think Ukrainians need to recall those moments a little. The fact that people came out, and that they did it, what they were expecting and that it captured the attention of the whole world, that’s very important. I think that this was a really wonderful moment in Ukraine’s history. It needs to be valued. So I think this film here can help”

Damian Kolodiy’s film ends on a kind of question mark which emerged for the producer himself after, as he puts it, the “political separation of the mother and father of the Orange Revolution”. However the last shots of the film are optimistic and filled with faith in Ukraine’s democratic future. One could stay this in fact about the entire Festival “Ukrainian Context”.  It is unlikely that there will ever be a society in which the need to defend human rights ceases to be an issue. However artists and human rights activists are capable of improving the present society and they work towards this with commitment and determination.

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