«I am absolutely convinced that we need to leave our own bubbles as often as possible»

Human Rights Film Festival Berlin: Festival Director Anna Ramskogler-Witt on the festival's 4th edition.

The 4th Human Rights Film Festival Berlin has officially kicked off and runs through 25 September.

For ten days each year, the Human Rights Film Festival Berlin focuses on stories from all parts of the world that haunt and reflect on human action, the socio-political status quo, and fundamental issues such as democracy, justice, freedom, and environmental protection. Through discussions and Q&As with filmmakers, activists, and experts, the festival creates a platform to gain new perspectives on our world.

Modern Times Review spoke with Human Rights Film Festival Berlin festival director Anna Ramskogler-Witt on the challenges, trends, and current Human Rights Film Festival Berlin experience.


This is the fourth year of HRFFB, can you explain a little about your growth and evolution to this point? Describe that first edition and how the 2021 compares?

I’ve only been running the festival since 2019, so unfortunately I missed the first edition. But I think our biggest development has been the establishment of the Human Rights Forum.

We try not to grow too fast but in a healthy way, so the number of films and screenings has hardly increased in the last years, but the number of visitors and filmmakers we can invite to speak after the films has.

Above all, we try to pay attention to the quality of the talks and to live up to our claim to not only inform but also inspire here.


Expanding on this evolution, how do you envision the ideal evolution of the festival moving to future editions?

In the future, we hope to expand the festival’s reach even further and diversify our audience even more. At the moment, we still reach mainly a highly academic audience. Our wish would be to reach out to people from a wide variety of backgrounds.

Furthermore, I would like to expand the idea of the forum as an interdisciplinary platform, as I personally find this intersection essential.


Can you talk a little about your curation approach to the films that will appear in the festival? What sort of criteria do you look for?

I am trying to show a diverse program, that offers many different perspectives. That also reflects in the programming. As you know, programming is always a joint effort, but basically, we try to select films on current issues that offer unique insights and have the power to touch and/or inspire people.

I would like to expand the idea of the forum as an interdisciplinary platform, as I personally find this intersection essential.


The festival is a Human Rights-based film festival yet revolved around the genre of documentary film. How does a “traditional” documentary film festival differ from a human rights festival? What sort of ethos do you look to instill in your programming and approach that a wider festival may not?

I don’t think there’s a big difference here, in the films themselves. Rather, we select the films partly not only from an artistic point of view but also from a thematic one.


Of course, part of any film festival is the peripheral programme outside the actual films. For HRFFB, you have the Human Rights Forum, which is a strong collection of talent and personalities from around the world. Can you explain a bit about the Human Rights Forum? How does it fit into the wider film festival? What are some key events?

Having worked for both a human rights NGO and in film myself, I have noticed that there are similar discussions and issues here, but little exchange between the two industries. This observation gave rise to the idea of the Human Rights Forum. All of us – journalists, filmmakers, activists, NGO workers, academics – are concerned with how we reach people and how we can make a difference, through our work, through the way we tell stories. The Forum is a platform and precisely for sharing knowledge and thinking together about the future of excellent storytelling.

My personal highlights are the two parallel events in Dehli and Lagos. As I am absolutely convinced that we need to leave our own bubbles as often as possible, we have opened up our conference so that two conference days are co-curated by partners and we have split panels with speakers in Berlin and Dehli or Lagos simultaneously.


Was there a seminal documentary responsible for your interest in the genre? If not a single film perhaps a filmmaker or filmography?

Difficult question. When I started working in the industry, I was lucky enough to work with two great documentary filmmakers – Nathalie Borgers and Sudabeh Mortezai. I spontaneously fell in love with their films – as different as they are – and with the emotional impact that documentaries can have on people.

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