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People are searching for someone who can answer their questions

I was lucky to meet Hana Kulhánková, the director of One World Film Festival, in Prague, several month before its start. I knew already that the biggest human right film festival in this part of the world lasts all together almost 2 month, moving from the capital to 33 cities of Check Republic. Hana was still at the process of selecting films (which she confessed she loved to do the most) and we could talk about the One World in its home – Center of People in Need.

19th edition will happen very soon – March 6-15. It seems it prepares us a lot of surprises – virtual reality, East Doc Platform, professional filmmaker programs….Save the date!

We continue exploring festivals of the network with our interviews. Welcome to One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival. 

How was One World born?

It started by Igor Blazevic. He came to Czech Republic from Ex-Yugoslavia escaping the war. He got together with our organization People in Need. It is a humanitarian organization, but lots of the people at the start of the festival were journalists, so part of their job was bringing the evidence of what is happening around the world. It was before internet, you know! So they were going to different places and bringing videos back to the country. And that was Igor’s idea. Well, also his wife is a filmmaker. He started One World Film Festival that would monitor all what is going on with human rights and bring it to Czech audience. It started very small, but it became a really big event. Now we are preparing the 19th edition! Every year we have about 120 thousand people coming to the festival. It grew to almost 2-month event, starting in Prague and then traveling around Czech Republic to over 30 cities and towns.

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How did you join the festival?

Quite simple. I applied for a job as a technical coordinator. Then I went to interview, and they of course found out I had no idea about technical aspects of the festival. However, I somehow persuaded them that I should be in the team and I started working as a guest service coordinator! In some time, I moved to production and turned into executive director of the festival. And when Igor, after many years, decided that he wants to do other things, he asked me to take over as a director.

Did you want it?

No, I didn’t want it at that time! I knew how big responsibility it was. Also because Igor was a well-known figure in the Czech Republic in the field of human rights, and he is so charismatic! Everybody loves him! At the same time, I was young, nobody knew me, but I had confidence, with Igor being a great teacher for me. He was very open to teach me anything and to introduce me to many people I needed to know. I took it. I think sometimes in life you have chances that you just have to take. Even if you do not know what the outcome can be. I took it. And I very much enjoy it!

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Do you remember your very first festival as a director?

No, I don’t! (she laughs) Here every festival is a bit the same but also very different… Sometimes it is hard for me to remember even what happened during the last festival, because I already focus on the next one. But I remember the team who worked back then. Many people are not with the festival any more, it changed, our team is full of young people, with fresh great ideas. They come from very different backgrounds, not only from human rights. I believe it brings a lot.

What do you like the most about the festival?

I love selecting films. I studied film history and theory in university, so films are a big part of my life for many years. But I also like managing the team. I tend in my nature to be a kind of democratic director, so I discuss with the team many things, which other directors could just order to do or not to do. For me it is very important that our team feels that it is their festival as well. Our festival. I like motivating people. Nowadays it is really important to be motivated when you do something. Because there are so many opportunities! You can travel everywhere in the world. You can do something much easier than discussing human rights. It’s not a light topic. So I really enjoy watching clever independent people who work together as a team.

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And what is the most difficult for you?

Finding money. And then when we have money to secure it for more than one year, with corporate sponsors for example. Ah, one more thing. When somebody is leaving the team, it is difficult to find a new person, to have sustainability in the history of the festival. Many things leave with people. So the process of forwarding the knowledge is complicated .

What can you recommend to other people who want to organize such a festival?

Every year many people who want it actually contact us! From different parts of the world and with very different level of experience and backgrounds. I always say that first you should answer to several primer questions, put them to the paper:

  • Why you want to do it?
  • Whom you want to do it for?
  • What will be a core of the festival? Is it screening films? Or maybe introducing different topics is more important for you. Or maybe you want your country to make better films on human rights.
  • Who are you as an organizer?
  • Who are going to be your partners?
  • Who are important people you really should cooperate in your country?

You see, first basic questions. Always watch whom you can learn from. When we have such requests, we always try to bring the future organizers to Prague, to see how we do it. We fundraise specially for that. Our festival is also a great chance to meet filmmakers, producers, audience, to get inspiration to bring back home.

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In your experience, what helps the most to bring the audience together?

The thing that helps us is our reputation of a very good festival. Not only a human rights festival, but simply a good festival. We screen top films, films you cannot see anywhere else, we have great discussions. Nowadays you can watch movies and even discuss them online, but I believe that people still want to meet other people. In person. Also people are searching for ones who can answer their questions. Ones they can trust. So for us films are equally important as debates; we have as many debates as films, even bringing experts or film characters from abroad.

Another thing, we screen not only strictly human rights films, but for example some great documentaries on technology or lifestyle because we want people who work with technology to come: this sphere is so influencing us these days. You know, phones, robots, drones, many things in laboratories we have no idea about yet! And for us, it is very much connected with human rights.

Do you believe you partly save the world with your work?

It is a difficult one. I am not naïve. But… let me put it this way. Every year the festival inspires me, the films and their brave characters encourage me, and I really start to believe that it can be possible to save the world if we do it together.

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Anastasia Laukkanen