This year's competition of feature-length documentaries for the 2021 WATCH DOCS Award features ten films selected from more than 3,000 submissions. Six Polish premieres, films from five continents, made in the last two years, appreciated at the world's biggest film festivals, such as Cannes, Venice or IDFA.
The climate crisis, the effects of which we are beginning to feel more and more acutely, makes issues related to ecology, in the broad sense of the term, more and more often appear in socially engaged documentaries. In order to make climate change issues even more visible in our program, we decided to create the Green Competition. For the first time in the festival's history, eight documentaries that combine human rights with ecological sensitivity will compete for the Green Dog Award.
The Green Competition program includes both sophisticated artistic experiments and passionate portraits of activists fighting for the climate on the streets. Topics include court battles with corporations, the dangers of nuclear energy, and the uncertain fate of climate refugees. The Green Competition is co-financed by the European Union with funds from the European Parliament.
A panorama of contemporary documentaries on human rights. Socially committed filmmakers who pose difficult questions in their films. Current topics, figures and events in the spotlight for human rights defenders: migrants and whistleblowers, bioethics and feminism. Watch these films if you want to see what the world is really like.
The most interesting Polish films of the last season on social issues. A bit of history, a story about the border that unites and divides, and two strong Belarusian accents.
Films for everyone interested in what is happening in the East. New films devoted to the countries that emerged after the collapse of the USSR - and are still in the orbit of the Kremlin's interests. Topics include corruption and propaganda in Azerbaijan, the situation of LGBT people in Georgia, the Belarusian war on drugs, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.
Extraordinary films by an artist whose works have been presented at WATCH DOCS for 15 years. His films combine formal experimentation with great sensitivity and political commitment. Using unique archival materials and unconventional staging, Périot's films address issues such as the origins of European terrorism, the evolution of the left, and even the therapeutic role of choir singing.
This year's selection of short documentaries consists of three sets. The first one includes experimental forms by Jean-Gabriel Périot: this year's laureate of Marek Nowicki Award. The second one features three films showing the current situation in Belarus. The third set consists of two Dutch films. The first is devoted to underage migrants, the second to the International Criminal Tribunal in the Hague.
For over a year now, our attention has been especially drawn to the situation beyond our eastern border. The films we have collected in this set are devoted to the Belarusians - harassed, imprisoned, forced to emigrate. Two of them focus on the repressive drug policy of the regime.
When a year ago we organized screenings of new Belarusian films at the WATCH DOCS festival in Warsaw, it seemed that the white-red-white revolution in Belarus was still possible. Today, we know that the regime of Alexander Lukashenko brutally crushed democratic protests. Belarusian oppositionists were imprisoned, intimidated or forced to leave the country. For many years, we co-organized the only human rights film festival in Belarus: WATCH DOCS Belarus. A small event for insiders, after a few years it gained official status and became a major undertaking, gathering thousands of viewers at screenings, concerts and workshops. The last edition, in December 2020, had to be held in field conditions because intimidated screening room owners refused to cooperate with the festival. In April this year, the head of the festival, Tatsiana Hatsura-Yavorskaya, was arrested. Her husband and son were forced to leave Belarus without the right to return. The association Zvyano, which organized the festival, was closed down, and the computers were confiscated by the militia. After an international campaign in support of Tanya, which involved small film festivals as well as the largest ones in the world such as Sundance and Berlinale, Tanya was released from custody. However, she is still under investigation, the outcome of which is difficult to predict. A similar - often worse - fate has befallen thousands of Belarusian men and women whose only fault is their desire for freedom. Let us not forget about them.
Although the migrant crisis has been going on for many years, the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border has become more relevant than ever. In addition to films about crossing borders on the way to Europe, we will see documentaries about climate refugees, refugees from Belarus and Donbass, and Syrian artists who create art inspired by the traumatic experiences of war.
Thanks to our cooperation with player.pl, we are making a selection of films from this year's WATCH DOCS program available for free. Among them: the last year's WATCH DOCS Award winner, a film about this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, a documentary about skinheads trying to break up with their neo-Nazi past, and a film about a Chechen refugee, starring the Stuhr family.