Winner of the 20th WATCH DOCS IFF announced!

The laureate of the competition at 20th WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film International Film Festival is Anabel Rodríguez Ríos. The director was awarded the prize for “Once Upon a Time in Venezuela.”

On Friday evening, during the opening ceremony hosted by journalist Magda Mołek, the member of the WATCH DOCS jury, film expert and artistic director of the Polish Film Festival in Gdynia Tomasz Kolankiewicz justified the verdict with the following words: We  decided to give the prize to a moving, excellently filmed and narrated story of a small and forgotten settlement, somewhere on lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. Sometimes moving, sometimes sad, and quite the contrary at other times, joyful and uplifting portrait of a divided community with interesting, multidimensional characters that make us reflect more deeply on the changing world and political realities.”

“Once Upon a Time in Venezuela” tells a story of Congo Mirador - a floating village on Lake Maracaibo. As the programming director writes about the film: “Although the views are breathtaking, life is not easy here. The lake is overgrown, the water polluted by waste from a nearby refinery. It is a microcosm for many of Venezuela's problems. A system marked by years of neglect and inefficiency is greased only by pervasive and blatant corruption. Blustering propaganda attempts to mask chronic shortages of goods. Although Hugo Chavez posters still adorn the walls, hardly anyone here believes in revolutionary ideals anymore. The village is threadbare – just like the entire country.”

Upon receiving the prize Anabel Rodríguez Ríos said: " Even though the people are almost swimming in oil because it’s the place from where the country takes its oil from. They do no not benefit from this industry. And through telling the story of the village that is becoming a swamp and people are losing it and are being forced to migrate, we found a way of mirroring the feeling of us - as a socjety in a moment in which the whole country is in a devastation. We're totally touched and happy for the resonance it has had in you.”

During the opening ceremony of the 20th WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film International Film Festival the Marek Nowicki Prize was also awarded. The prize is awarded by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights to filmmakers for their excellent achievement in showing human rights in film. This year the Marek Nowicki Prize was given to Kazhuhiro Soda, one of the greatest and most original masters of the observational documentary.

Kazuhiro Soda was in Warsaw at WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film International Film Festival several years ago. This time, he has sent a video message to the viewers: „I really thank you for giving me, and giving us, the prize. I’m in a town called Ushimado. It’s a village we shot “The Oyster Factory” and “Inland Sea” and it’s in Japan. I wish we could join you to celebrate this occasion in Warsaw.”

WATCH DOCS also includes many other projects related to the festival, among which FUTURE DOCS, the European platform for cooperation between documentary filmmakers and human rights defenders, stands out. It was also during the opening ceremony that we got to know the laureates of the project’s latest edition. This year, the FUTURE DOCS Award was won by Joakim Demmer, who is also a juror in this year's WATCH DOCS competition, Masha Novikova, and Chiara Minchio for the project “The Barrier,” developed in cooperation with Alexander Popkov, and other Russian lawyers  from the Agora human rights group.

Congratulations to all the laureates! You can watch “Once Upon a Time in Venezuela”, as well as the collection of Kazuhiro Soda’s films at WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film International Film Festival on the platform until December 13.