FUTURE DOCS is a platform for creative encounters between documentary filmmakers and human rights defenders. It stems from a deep and established conviction that even though these two groups very often strive to turn the public’s attention to pressing issues, too rarely do they have a chance to work together. As a result, many exigent human rights problems remain hardly known, while other are hugely overrepresented. With FUTURE DOCS, we intend to bring about powerful documentaries with potential for tangible social impact.

Why should filmmakers and human rights defenders take part in the project?

FUTURE DOCS is based on the idea of a reversed pitching. It means that human rights defenders and activists present selected cases they’ve been working on to participating filmmakers. Various human rights topics and initiatives, especially those underrepresented on screen, illustrated by powerful human stories behind them, are pitched to creative documentary filmmakers.

Filmmakers intrigued with given human rights topics or stories get to work with experts on the issue, who provide insight, information, and access to people on the ground. On the other hand, human rights defenders bring to light problems they’ve been working on and, as a result, have a chance to obtain informed advocacy tools for their further endeavors.

To ensure the effectiveness of the encounters and maximize the potential for a successful cooperation between filmmakers and human rights defenders, the whole process is supervised and coordinated by tutors–industry and communication experts.

The most promising film project will receive a FUTURE DOCS Award of 5000 USD for further development.

FUTURE DOCS 2017-2018

This time, FUTURE DOCS is going to be focused on Nordic, Baltic and Central European countries, aiming at developing new partnerships among European filmmakers and human rights defenders from Nordic countries (Dennmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) North-West Russia, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Ukraine.

A geographical or thematic focus was suggested by the participants of the first, pilot FUTURE DOCS edition during its evaluation.

Application deadlines are set for September 3 for activists and September 15 for filmmakers. Altogether 25 participants will be invited to take part in the project. Invited filmmakers will be able to contact the participating activists by email or on Skype before their personal meeting.

During the 11th Inconvenient Films Festival in Vilnius, on October 14 – 15, 2017, invited activists will meet during a two-day long preparatory workshop to work with tutors – experts in communication, storytelling, and documentary film.

The central three-day long FUTURE DOCS workshop will take place in Warsaw, on December 8 – 10, 2017 during the 17th WATCH DOCS IFF. It will be based on the concept of a reversed pitching, during which these are not filmmakers who pitch their ideas for films in order to get funding, but human rights defenders present important topics and powerful human stories behind them to documentarians looking for inspiration. The workshop will consist of three main modules: activists pitches, speed dating, and tutored one-on-one sessions, where possible film ideas are being developed. After the workshop new collaborations will be monitored and tutored via Skype.

Special presentation of the FUTURE DOCS project will be carried out in December 2017 in Minsk, during WATCH DOCS Belarus Festival.

The most promising film project will receive the FUTURE DOCS Award of 5000 USD for its further development.

FUTURE DOCS 2017 – 2018 is funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers, with additional support provided by the City of Warsaw and the Polish Institute of Film. Partners of the project include: Lithuanian Centre for Human Rights, Zvyano, Bergen International Film Festival and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.

How to Apply

The open call for entries for the FUTURE DOCS is addressed to the two groups of potential participants: filmmakers and activists.

We ask for your understanding: to make the workshop possible and efficient, the number of participants has to be limited, and not being selected should by no means be taken as an underestimation of an applicant’s work by the jury.


We are looking for creative documentary film directors and producers from geographically understood Europe, with interesting artistic output. One finished film (feature or short) is a required minimum. A filmmaker’s previous work does not have to involve human rights issues. Diversity of styles and formal approaches among the participating filmmakers, along with the geographical diversity, as well as artistic quality of a filmmaker's hitherto output will count among criteria of the selection by the jury.

If you’re a filmmaker who fulfills above mentioned criteria, and would like to apply, please fill in the entry form available here.

Human rights defenders / activists

For the 2017 – 2018 edition of FUTURE DOCS, we will accept only applications from potential participants from Belarus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, North-West Russia, Sweden and Ukraine.

The call for entries is addressed to all human rights defenders: representatives of NGOs or individual activists from above mentioned countries. We are interested in broadly understood human rights — not only personal and political, but also social and cultural — as well as equality and ban of discrimination. Social and political contexts in which rights are violated or endangered also fall within our scope of interest. Importantly, we are interested in initiatives and endeavors of human rights related activism too. If you’re an activist who would like to apply, please fill in the entry form available here.


FUTURE DOCS is an initiative of the WATCH DOCS International Film Festival, one of the oldest and largest human rights film festivals worldwide.

First pilot workshop took place in Warsaw in 2013 at the 13th WATCH DOCS IFF. It was a meeting of Polish NGOs’ activists with Polish documentary filmmakers. Lessons learnt served to prepare a first edition of the FUTURE DOCS.

We applied with the idea of FUTURE DOCS to the "Advocate Europe 2015" idea challenge for innovative European initiatives and projects, realised by MitOst e.V. and Liquid Democracy e.V., funded by Stiftung Mercator. FUTURE DOCS was selected as one of the winners among other 11 projects from several hundred ideas.

First edition of FUTURE DOCS was launched in the autumn of 2015 with an open call for entries for filmmakers and activists. We invited 15 activists and 20 filmmakers to participate, and 5 tutors to facilitate their cooperation: Wim Brouwer, Barak Heymann, Sirkka Moeller, Dorota Roszkowska and Rada Šešiċ.

At a joint workshop in Warsaw on December 5–7, 2015, human rights defenders presented ideas for topics of possible film projects, which were discussed later with filmmakers and tutors during group and individual sessions. The follow-up workshop was held in Prague on March 9-10, 2016 at the world’s biggest human rights film festival – One World Prague. During the workshop emerging collaborations and film projects were further developed.

From March to June 2016 activist-filmmaker teams were working on the projects supported by tutors through Skype sessions. In June 2016 the jury of the first edition of FUTURE DOCS decided on the winner of the FUTURE DOCS bursary. The jury took into consideration eight projects developed since the first workshop in Warsaw in December 2015 and decided that the FUTURE DOCS bursary of 7000 Euro would go to the project of Marco de Stefanis and Ofelya Zalyan The Winning Generation.

First edition of FUTURE DOCS was organized in cooperation with Movies That Matter Festival, Docudays UA, One World Prague, Inconvenient Films Festival Vilnius, Wajda School, Film Academy Baden-Württemberg and The Lodz Film School.


To find out more about the 2015/2016 FUTURE DOCS edition, please visit the project's archive website.