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March 10

Watani: My Homeland

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Even a place where bombs fall is still a home that is hard to leave. The riveting story of the family of the commander of the Free Syrian Army in devastated Aleppo. Filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen filmed the four children of Free Syrian Army Commander Abu Ali, Hammoudi, Helen, Farah and Sara over the course of three years. The father believed the fight against Bashar al-Assad was as important as protecting his own family, which is why they continued to live in a demolished district of Aleppo, in the midst of bombing and with only weapons to play with. When Ali was captured by the so-called Islamic State in 2013, his wife Hala had a painful decision to make. Hoping for a better future, she applied for asylum in Germany. Little Sara left a paper heart at home for her father, in the hope that she would see him again soon. Show more

2D CS/ES 12 info

A Cambodian Spring

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The protests in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh reveal not only the systemic ailments of newly acquired democracy but also the diversity of motives that lead individuals to civic activism. What are people willing to sacrifice for their right to express dissent, even though the chances of being heard are minimal? This question underpins the civil protests in Phnom Penh against the violent occupation of the urban land on which the houses of many people stand. This documentary with a personal focus follows a group of activists over the course of six years. Despite relentless and persistent threats, they demonstrate their resentment against the actions of developers and local governments, silently tolerated by Prime Minister Hun Sena. Venerable Buddhist monk Loun Sovath has drawn the attention not only of police officers and his superiors, but also his neighbours Tol Srey Pov and Tep Vanny, who transform themselves from selfless sympathisers into rivals full of personal animosity. Show more

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We're Going the Same Way

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We all want to follow the road to happiness. However, in Kyrgyzstan, the poorest country of the former Soviet Union, this is no simple feat. In the midst of a corrupt system, where the laws are meant to serve only some, a father and son try to fulfil their dream of a dignified life. They are linked by an ordinary, modest desire to live honestly, provide security for their family, and to help one another. Because of it, both have had to travel far from their home, where sources of subsistence have been hopelessly depleted, and exercising one’s rights is futile. As a result, the father in this film spends his life on the road, earning a living by selling cars, while the son works in a hospital in the Russian city of Tomsk and dreams of becoming a doctor in Europe. Each is continuously searching within himself for the way to overcome hardship. Even under unfortunate conditions, their strong will allows then to forge steadfastly forward. Although physically separated by the thousands of kilometres between them, the father and son are working towards this goal together. Show more

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Ultra

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An ultramarathon is a race in which the competitors run a distance longer than that of the classic marathon. The Spartathlon is actually six times longer than a marathon. Only those willing to give their all and reach down into the depths of their strength are allowed to participate. Every year, hundreds of runners from all over the world gather in Athens, where the Spartathlon begins. The aim is to run the route leading to Sparta, which is 246 km away, within 36 hours. The extreme physical demands of this competition can even be fatal. For Annett, a young woman from Germany, Béla Szabó from Hungary, and Angela from France, the desire to win is not what keeps them going. It’s the desire to find themselves and discover what compels them to take part. It is precisely the achievement of a state of profound introspection – and the subsequent healing of physical and mental traumas – that leads many ultramarathonists to repeatedly attempt to successfully finish this Greek race. One of the documentary’s protagonists and Spartathlon participants is the film’s director, Balázs Simonyi. Show more

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The Judge

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There are many stories about what it is like to be a woman in Islamic society; but just one story about what it is like when a Palestinian woman becomes the first female sharia law judge. Kholoud Al-Faqih has never hidden her ambitions. But when she became the first female sharia law judge in the Islamic world, her life took a new turn. No other woman has ever been able to make it so far in a highly patriarchal society. Her work opens a discussion in Palestinian society about equal access to education, gender-based violence and systemic discrimination. Kholoud is a relentless fighter not only for her own rights, but also for the rights of those whose voices are not heard. This film portrait offers a valuable insight into the world of traditional Islamic society and the changes it is currently undergoing. Show more

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One of Us

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America’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community is bound by strong family and religious ties, which makes leaving it nearly impossible. Those who opt to do so face a tough test of courage and perseverance. The strictly conservative nature of the Orthodox Jewish community in the United States became even more marked in the second half of the 20th century, both in reaction to the Holocaust and because of the increasing secularisation of society in general. The community binds its members with strict rules, and, at the same time, provides them with a specific environment and certainty. The traditional lifestyle does not suit everyone, but it is extraordinarily difficult to leave the community. The Footsteps organization is available to support those who choose to do so; however, the journey to a normal life is not easy even with its help. After leaving her violent husband, Etty lost custody of her children in court. And Ari, who experienced childhood sexual abuse within the community, does not believe that the perpetrators will ever be punished. Show more

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Guardians of the Eart

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The negotiations at the Paris Climate Conference in 2015 are considered to be one of the most important in the history of environmental initiatives. The film presents the intriguing course of the negotiations leading to a real breakthrough that can help avert the imminent catastrophe on this planet. For twenty years, the world has failed to agree on how to jointly cope with climate change. In December 2015, 20,000 negotiators from 195 of the world’s countries met in Paris to conduct talks regarding a common approach to global warming, which threatens to irreversibly damage the Earth. The documentary reveals the efforts of the organizers of this momentous event as well as some of the supporters of the most ambitious agreement possible. The filmmakers participate not only in public debates but also have access to closed-door meetings, offering a unique view of complex negotiations during which the national interests of individual states clash – those of the powerful, who do not want to give up a single iota of their prosperity, and those of the tiny island countries who want nothing more than to survive. Show more

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Return of a President: After the Coup in Madagascar

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When the new government refuses to allow the overthrown president to return to his homeland, it does not help that he is sitting on a plane that is practically on the motherland. But the former President of Madagascar, Marc Ravalomanana, does not give up his fight. During his term in office as president, the influential businessman Marc Ravalomanana lifted up his country in many respects, but in 2009 he was overthrown by a military coup. His opponents blamed him for combining his personal economic goals with those of the state. However, he believes that the real reason for the coup was his cuts to the military budget and the machinations of France, whose influence Ravalomanana had attempted to weaken. This documentary follows the former president in South African exile, during which he makes repeated attempts to return to his homeland. We watch frustrating political negotiations, dramatic moments and, above all, the relentless efforts of the overthrown president to return home and take part in democratic elections. Show more

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Gwendolyn

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This intimate documentary reveals the dramatic life misadventures of 65-year-old Gwendolyn Leick – a unique woman with great inner strength, an immigrant from Western Europe, anthropologist, and world weightlifting champion. What predetermines our life course, the battles we fight, and our moral fibre? Do specific circumstances play a role? These key questions are addressed in this film about the tireless winner Gwen and the momentous challenges she has faced. Formerly from Austria, but long living in London, she is a researcher and writer, as well as a perceptive mother, partner, and friend, who never planned to become a weightlifter. Nevertheless, even in this sport, as in the case of the many other roles she has held in her life, she has achieved success. Inconspicuous but charismatic Gwen is proof that a strong will is enough to overcome any barrier as long as one is willing to accept the rules of the game. Show more

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Counters

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Nowadays, not even Japanese society is safe from the threat of ultranationalists. Activists, who often do not act wearing kid gloves, have taken it upon themselves to combat xenophobia. In recent years, hostility aimed primarily towards the Korean minority in Japan has fuelled the growth of the Zaitokukai movement, at whose demonstrations the worst possible threats have often been made shielded by the right to free speech. State inaction has triggered the activity of anti-fascist groups. One of the most radical anti-nationalist crusaders is the impulsive and violent Takahashi, who makes no secret of his past among the yakuza. It is this film that conclusively credits him with changing the attitude of legislators to hate speech. The film features an unconventional style – where the filmmakers are not afraid of using anime or manga elements but develop a drama that features real people, not cartoon characters. Show more

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City of the Sun

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The Georgian mining town of Chiatura has its best days far behind it. This film presents a meditative portrayal of a post-apocalyptic city of ghosts and its inhabitants as the devastated houses are swallowed by the surrounding landscape. Chiatura was built over one of the world's largest manganese deposits, and for centuries it was the centre of a vibrant industry. After Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union, however, the city began to collapse. The remaining population tries desperately to live a meaningful life in these difficult conditions. Some of the miners realize their dreams in an amateur theatre association, others by singing traditional songs. The only witnesses of their struggle to resist annihilation are decaying concrete structures. The camera tranquilly drifts through the abandoned industrial complexes surrounded by almost virgin nature and the rocks protruding through the grey storm clouds over this forgotten landscape. Show more

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Black Code

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Canadian professor Ronald Deibert, the author of an alarming book on internet monitoring, travels around the world to discover how advocates of freedom are doing in the cyberspace war. The internet and modern technology are great tools for spreading democracy and monitoring human rights. But there are two sides to every coin. Tibet, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Syria – in these and many other countries, activists use mobile phones and the internet to report injustice. But their "tools" can easily turn against them. Authoritarian regimes, as well as the secret services of democratic countries, invest tens of millions of dollars to monitor their citizens more efficiently. By tracing specific examples and involving IT professionals, the documentary provides an informed view on the worrying side of the internet. Show more

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