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Reports from the 2018 International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights

The full line-up of films and speakers at this year’s International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) was overwhelming in its combined expertise and activism. This year’s festival, which coincides each year with the annual session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, was organised under the theme of “awakening.”

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WILPF International Secretariat
10 April 2018

All photos courtesy of

The full line-up of films and speakers at this year’s International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) was overwhelming in its combined expertise and activism. This year’s festival, which coincides each year with the annual session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, was organised under the theme of “awakening.”

WILPF is dedicated to the protection of human rights, so in an effort to learn from the activists and artists who participated at FIFDH, WILPF International staff members attended several films and events. We have shared our thoughts and observations below.

We would like to invite you to explore the full programme and online resources at, where you can find the full list of films, video recordings of speakers, and ongoing initiatives to protect and campaign for human rights. Follow the hashtag #Standupforhumanrights.

FIFDH opened with a filming of the Freedom for the Wolf, a documentary film on the fragility of democracy, and a key-note address from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid bin Ra’ad. The rest of the week was an exploration into human rights issues around the world, both high-profile and not. The films explored transgender rights in France, international apathy to the journey of Syrian refugees, water pollution in Indonesia, the effect of fake news on democracy, Rohingya genocide, war’s influence on children in Ukraine, and urbanisation in China, among dozens more topics.

The festival was filled not only with documentary, but fiction and animated films, as well as panels, discussions, readings, music, and virtual reality exhibitions. The bulk of this content can be found online at, along with video recordings of many of the speeches. Chinese contemporary artist and activist Ai Weiwei, Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie, Director-General of the ICRC Yves Daccord, and President of la Confederation Alain Berset were just a few of the insightful speakers who shared their thoughts and opinions at the forum.

In addition, this year the FIFDH will also be partnering with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For a year, from 10 December 2017, the organisations mentioned will be conducting a tour in 45 countries, and the Swiss embassies will be organising events “based on the FIFDH format: screenings followed by debates with local NGOs, journalists, students and activists,” as explained on

Films were also submitted to the festival’s international competitions in fiction and documentary. Stranger in Paradise, which “brilliantly challenges the absurdity of asylum polities, but also that of our own representations,” was awarded the Grand Geneva Award. The Cleaners, recognised for exploring “the rapidly accelerating digital matrix that resists regulation, let alone true comprehension,” received the Gilda Vieira de Mello Award, and The Distant Barking of Dogs, “the story of a war close to home” won the Youth Jury Award.

In the fiction category, the Grand Award was given to Los versos del olvido, for its “universal and deeply intimate” painting of life and death under a dictatorship. The Youth Jury Award in fiction was bestowed on Matar a Jesús, for its “remarkable aestheticism and ability to convey the feelings of the protagonists through feelings.” The full list of awards and mentions is available online.

You can read an in-depth description of the entire festival in the magazine, available in French. And here, a full list of the forums held.

For a little direction, here are the events that WILPF staff attended, and a few of our thoughts. #standup4humanrights!

FILMMAKING FOR PEACEBUILDING – Screening and discussion of documentaries Bahaali, Sound of Silence, and Transgender in Pakistan. These films were made by Afghan and Pakistani filmmakers who lived and worked together at a training program on human rights in July 2017 in Karachi.
LIBYA: WAR BY RAPE – “In Libya, rape on women and men alike is being systematically perpetrated on a massive scale. It has been turned into a weapon of war.” -FIFDH
LOS VERSOS DEL OLVIDO – “When an amnesiac graveyard guard stumbles upon the body of a woman killed at a protest, he embarks on a long journey to find her name and bury her properly. In this film, deeply imbued with magical realism, Khatami skillfully weaves the collective memories of Iran and Chile, through a fable that is both universal and deeply intimate.” -FIFDH
“Katja goes on a search for justice following the death of her husband and son in a bomb attack in the Turkish community of Hamburg. «In The Fade» is a powerful thriller driven by the stunning performance of Diane Kruger, who won the award for Best Actress in Cannes for her first german-speaking role. The film also took home the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Film.” -FIFDH
COMIC STRIPS FOR THE SOS MEDITERRANEAN – The Swiss Association of comic strip writers donated their works of art to benefit the SOS Mediterranée Switzerland, an organisation dedicated to rescuing migrants in distress at sea. So far, the Aquarias has assisted 27,454 people.
STORIES AND TESTIMONIES OF MIGRATION – Discussion with Reto Albertalli, photographer for the Doctor’s Without Borders exhibition on migration, The Voice of my Suffering, and Elisabeth Perea, member of the medical staff aboard SOS Mediterranean’s ship Aquarius.
HOW ARE THE IMAGES OF HUMAN DISTRESS BORN? – “Images of human suffering are everywhere. They are flooding us, from social media to the news and the fund-raising campaigns of relief organizations. But what story are they actually telling us?” – FIFDH


THE VOICE OF MY SUFFERING – “Today, more than 65 million people live in exile. The MSF campaign ‘The Voice of My Suffering’ aims to increase the public awareness of the suffering endured by migrants in their flight to Europe. In this photographic exhibit, visitors can follow the journey of Christiana, from Nigeria, and Ali, from Afghanistan, as well as plunge into the heart of MSF’s activities through virtual reality.” -FIFDH
FREE LUNCH SOCIETY – “What would you do if your basic income were taken care of? A few years ago, the idea seemed totally utopian, but today, the subject is intensely debated across the planet. From Alaska to Switzerland, Christian Tod addresses in this long-term investigation, the economic and philosophical aspect of one of the hottest topics of our time.” -FIFDH
A GIRL IN THE RIVER & CONVERSATION WITH OBAID-CHINOY – A Girl in the River follows the story of Saba, a woman who survived an attempted honour killing at the hands of her father and uncle. Award-winning filmmaker and journalist Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy documents Saba’s experience with the Pakistani legal system and societal pressures that urge her to legally forgive and pardon her attackers.  
SEA OF PICTURES – A look at international apathy in the face of a constant barrage of harrowing images of global crises and the plight of refugees.
NAILA AND THE UPRISING – “When the 1987 revolt breaks out in Gaza, Naila Ayesh is faced with saving her love, her family or her freedom. Imperturbable, she joins a clandestine network of women who will endeavour to make the world recognize the self-determination of Palestine. Julia Bacha chronicles the remarkable career of this Palestinian activist and the most vibrant nonviolent mobilization in the history of the country.” -FIFDH

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WILPF International Secretariat

WILPF International Secretariat, with offices in Geneva and New York, liaises with the International Board and the National Sections and Groups for the implementation of WILPF International Programme, resolutions and policies as adopted by the International Congress. Under the direction of the Secretary-General, the Secretariat also provides support in areas of advocacy, communications, and financial operations.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

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WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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