United Nations Development Programme

Russian Federation


15.12.2009. Human Rights through the Prism of Cinematography

This year, Human Rights Day on 10 December focused on ending discrimination. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. These first few famous words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established 60 years ago the basic premise of international human rights law. Yet today, the fight against discrimination remains a daily struggle for millions around the globe.

This year was also special, because the world celebrated anniversaries of two major human rights instruments: the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November and the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women on 18 December. The conventions bring children and the female half of humanity into the focus of human rights concerns, they affirm human rights for all children and women; they speak about ending all forms of discrimination against children and women, which hamper the realization of their rights.

The United Nations in Russia selected these two topics as the main theme of the UN thematic day in the framework of XV Stalker International Film Festival on Human Rights, acknowledging the role of film-makers, actors, of cinematography in highlighting human rights challenges and abuses, in bringing them close to the heart of everyone, in reaching to a very wide and diverse audience.

The UN in Russia has a long and successful experience of cooperating with Stalker festival, which is organized by the Guild of Russian Film Makers and traditionally starts on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. It has long been an important forum for the United Nations in the Russian Federation and its individual agencies for the promotion of human rights messages to a very wide audience.

As Frode Mauring, UN Resident Coordinator in Russia, noted in his address to organizers and participants of the festival, when we say Stalker, we remember the famous film by Andrei Tarkovsky about a guide to a dangerous and mysterious zone for those who seek to regain hope, the stalker, who makes people think about their moral obligations, conscience, personal responsibility for what they are doing. This is how we perceive the festival itself.

The UN thematic day on 12 December was organized by the Resident Coordinator Office and supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNICEF, UN Population Fund, and World Health Organization.

Five feature films and 10 documentaries, included into the programme of the UN thematic day, reflected on the two selected topics, the rights of children and women. The United Nations in Russia awarded two prizes to films in our programme. The winning feature film Roof by a renowned film director, Boris Grachevsky, is a story of three teenage girls and their parents, very different but similar in ignoring their daughters problems. The best documentary Documents of Love by a young director, Tatyana Soboleva, is about two women of different backgrounds, living difficult lives, but happy with their big families of many children.

In his address, Frode Mauring referred to Bernardo Bertolucci, the famous film director, once said that people come to see movies to share a joint dream. He expressed hope that the festival will not only make all of us dream about how the rights of children and women should be guaranteed, but will inspire change for the better. And the films, which the audience could watch during the UN day could not served the purpose better.

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