Letter to viewers

Dear viewers,

The WATCH DOCS 20th anniversary edition has come at a special moment. This is, of course, a time of double crisis - one of the rule of law, democracy and human rights as well as a pandemic. But it is also a time of protest. In Poland, a time of an impressive women's resistance against further tightening of the anti-abortion law.

While some of this year's festival themes are extremely topical, others are intimate, even contemplative films, as exemplified by the contemporary master of Japanese documentary film, Kazuhiro Soda, winner of this year's Marek Nowicki Prize. Although his wise films contain a tremendous emotional range, they also provide help in taming it. In general, festival documentaries help to tame reality while shining a light on those who make that reality at least a little better. It is good to watch them at work. 

This year, you don’t have to leave home or even be in Warsaw to watch our festival films, participate in festival Q&As or discussions. There's no pretending that we don’t regret it, because we would love to see you in the theaters. But an online festival, such as the entire 20th edition of WATCH DOCS, has the distinct advantage of truly facilitating access to festival films and activities. So, this year, we await your visit on the mojeekino.pl platform and, after the festival, on the VoD.pl platform, where, as each year, you can watch some of the most interesting films from the festival's historic repertoire - the "20 years of WATCH DOCS" collection, for free. 

The other important change in 2020 is the introduction of paid tickets. We set their price at the lowest possible level - nine zlotys for one film, and we invite you to use the even less expensive pass options. In this respect we were a real outlier - probably Poland’s only festival that featured the latest world-class films completely free of charge. We have long wondered whether this was the best formula, but had previously opted for access at the expense of other Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights programs like legal assistance, advocacy and monitoring activities. We have to - and want to - change it, and you can help. 

The 20th anniversary of WATCH DOCS coincides with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights - the festival's organizer. WATCH DOCS has become an inseparable child of the Foundation, also in its activities outside Poland, especially across our eastern border, where the Foundation has supported human rights movements from the very beginning. 

Today, we are in solidarity with our Belarusian friends who have been organizing the WATCH DOCS Belarus festival for five years, not just in Minsk, but also in smaller towns. You will be able to meet them online at the 20th WATCH DOCS IFF and see some of the latest documentaries from a country whose people have just shown how much they love freedom. I would like to thank them sincerely for being there and for wanting to act. WATCH DOCS Belarus is their initiative, their work and their success. I am glad that we could help, just like the hugely successful Ukrainian Docudays UA and Lithuanian Inconvenient Films, both of which we had the pleasure of helping at the outset. On our twentieth birthday, I cannot help but mention that we also organized our festival in Kyrgyzstan and Burma. And we haven't said our last word yet. 

I would also like to thank all the organizers of the traveling festival, thanks to whom WATCH DOCS has been taking place in over thirty towns all over Poland since 2003 - they provide inspiration to the Warsaw festival team.

This year, WATCH DOCS will last almost the entire month of December. The program features among others films about ecology and human rights, "Corpo-truths" as part of the "Discreet Charm of Propaganda" series, Kazuhiro Soda's Japan, and a great set of American documentaries. 

I encourage you to watch, discuss and act!

Maciej Nowicki

Festival Director