Docudays UA is a unique international film festival about human rights, that runs almost all year long. It launches in the last week of March in the capital Kyiv, and operates from October to December with the Traveling Festival. Docudays UA works on the edge of civil society activism, art and culture in Ukraine and has several core goals: bringing global documentaries to Ukrainian citizens; bringing Ukrainian documentaries to global citizens; contributing to the level of observance of human rights in Ukraine and developing the critical thinking among their audience. Get to know more about the Moving Docs Ukrainian partner Docudays UA with Julia Kartashova.
“We promote human rights and popularize national and global docs, by sharing Ukrainian docs and art abroad, as well as produce the catalogue of Ukrainian documentary films and present it on the international festivals. We mostly target youth, which comprises about 70-80% of the festival visitors every year!”
Why did you stop screening feature films? Could you please explain this decision and why you now specifically focus on human-right documentaries?
Documentary films are the most effective tool for teaching human rights and enhancing civic activity, because the documentaries’ characters are real. Often, these are strong and determined activists who, in their countries, have defended human rights and have succeeded. Upon watching such films, Ukrainian viewers cannot say that it's a fantasy of a scriptwriter and a director and that it is impossible real life, in fact, it often looks really impossible because such is our political situation, such is the country, such are the people ... So when we show the successful stories of real people from Europe, America, Asia, Africa, our viewers understand: if it's possible there, then it's worth trying to do it here. The success of real heroes inspires them and encourages active human rights activism.
We believe that the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms are one of the pillars of a healthy democratic state. When we started our work back in 2003, our state was very young and tried to find its development path. We noticed how political leaders were mostly focused on their own prosperity rather than on the country development, while the majority of citizens felt lost and did associate themselves with the power that can drive change in Ukraine. Therefore, the idea of developing critical thinking, civil activism and increasing awareness level about human rights and fundamental freedoms became (and still remains) crucial for our country. Our team is mostly comprised of film lovers and film professionals and we understood that human rights topics will not reach the large audience if we use only the roundtables, conferences and other events of such type. As film lovers, we understood that emotional response and empathy that human rights documentary films provoke - are the proper tool to reach the minds and the hearts of a large and diverse audience nationwide, and thus contribute to establishing genuine democracy in Ukraine.
“Ten years ago we couldn’t even dream about the comprehensive competition program of the full-length documentaries made by Ukrainian film directors”
Why are documentaries important and what is their impact in Ukraine?
The documentary films in Ukraine over the years are becoming more and more popular. We are proud to claim that it is largely due to Docudays UA festival audience and industry development efforts. For example, ten years ago we couldn't even dream about the comprehensive competition program of the full-length documentaries made by Ukrainian film directors (even 1 decent short documentary film made by Ukrainian director was already a success). Now, our jury members experience a lot of sleepless nights to select the best of the best documentaries from Ukraine for the festival competition program. Ten years ago, the audience we reached with documentaries was mostly the cultural elite in Kyiv and several large cities of Ukraine, while now we have a wide network of film clubs located in cities, towns and remote villages across Ukraine and reach a very diverse audience from pupils and students to prisoners and various target groups of the local CSOs. Throughout the year, we reach more than 200,000 people with the screenings.
Screening and production of documentaries in Ukraine impact directly the personal development and critical thinking of each and every viewer, while it also boosts the development of Ukraine as the state, the emergence of the grass root initiatives, and civil society activism.
“I believe that many problems of the state system stem from the fact that state employees treat citizens just as statistical data, while we look at them through the prism of the human stories”
How does screening documentaries support human rights in Ukraine?
Our 15 years’ experience in realization of the Docudays UA festival gave us a clear understanding that screening the best human rights documentary films from all over the world can become an impactful tool in driving changes in the county’s life. If such screenings are properly presented, promoted and discussed the citizens of Ukraine at once receive a range of benefits: (1) lessons learned from other countries/spheres where similar human rights issues were raised; (2) put into Ukrainian context and discuss with various stakeholders the ways of how this or that situation can be improved/addressed; (3) network and unite with the stakeholders for joint targeted solution of the problem; (4) develop the personal level of culture and erudition, and on top of that simply enjoy the documentary artworks.
What is the most motivational/positive feedback you ever got from members of the audience about a film or the festival?
It is really hard to choose one so we decided to give several:
Anastasiya Leukhina, Ukrainian activist, advisor for state reforms, analyst:
“I believe that many problems of the state system stem from the fact that state employees treat citizens just as statistical data, while we need to look at them through the prism of the human stories. Only this can change the system. I am grateful to DOCU/CLUB for an opportunity to use in our training a film by Dutch director Jan Jaap Kuiper ‘Sinner's disease' (2011). This film depicts events similar to reality we live in and to the way our police treats public events. We organized a screening and discussion of this film with our trainees. This experiment was a success because film helped to reach not only to their minds but also to their hearts. And when you accept these stories into your heart, when you live through them, you cannot have the same attitude towards people as our old police had. I believe that we will see the positive changes in attitude of our new patrol officers towards people in the streets”.
Yuliya Rukavitsyna, school teacher:
"In the system of secondary school, each student is a hostage to the image imposed by the collective, few are able to change it. In our school, children learn to be themselves, to think and speak freely, not to be constrained by the others. When they watch films about their peers, they identify themselves with the characters of movies. This brings the understanding of their own mistakes and opportunities, empathy and acceptance of others, of difference."
Vasyl Shestakov, moderator of the film club in Dneprodzerzhinsk training school for personnel of the State Prison Services of Ukraine:
"During the period of film club work I noticed positive changes among students - a better understanding of human rights and qualitatively different attitude towards prisoners. To consolidate these changes in attitude and understanding of inalienable nature of human rights, it is necessary for Docudays UA film clubs to continue and even expanded their activities in State Penitentiary Services of Ukraine".
Want to know more about Docudays UA? Visit the website http://docudays.ua or Facebook, @DocudaysUA.
International Media and Entertainment Management student and Intern at Moving Docs