refugee crisis

A Film Festival’s Fight for Human Rights

l'abri film refugee arms cineman
The hardships of life as a refugee were on show, such as in "L'abri" a night shelter.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The Nuremberg Film Festival reminds visitors that Europe has a long history of dealing with war and dispossessed people.

  • Facts


    • This year was the ninth bi-annual film festival for human rights in Nuremberg.
    • The winning films were “The Look of Silence,” a documentary about killings in Indonesia, and “Maidan,” a documentary about the protests in Ukraine.
    • The world’s biggest human rights film festival is in Prague, while New York hosts another significant one.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

Women making sandwiches, men building barricades, fires burning in the night and the sound of missiles exploding.

This is Europe in turmoil. These scenes are from “Maidan,” Sergei Losnitza’s documentary film about the protests in Ukraine’s capital Kiev which won the main prize at Nuremberg’s international human rights film festival.

The bi-annual festival, which closes today, is meant to showcase several aspects of human rights, but it is little wonder that many of the 58 films shown this year focused on war and the plight of refugees.

Other winners include Joshua Oppenheimer, who won the audience award for “The Look of Silence,” the second of two films about the killers and victims of the military killings in Indonesia, produced by Werner Herzog, Errol Morris and Andre Singer.


Maidan courtesy of NIHRFF
A scene from the winning film about the Maidan protests. Source: courtesy of NIHRFF


“Something better to come,” by Danish filmmaker Hanna Polak, about the lives of children living on Europe’s largest rubbish dump, near Moscow, won a prize awarded by a youth jury.

There were several other films that took refugees and war victims as individuals and went to sometimes extraordinary lengths to tell their stories.

In “Mediterranea,” the filmmaker Jonas Carpignano followed two refugees as they left Burkina Faso and headed to Europe, across desert and seas. After a storm hits in the Mediterranean, they are rescued and make their way to Italy.

Another film about the dangers of the Mediterranean is “Those Who Feel the Fire Burning,” a surreal film about a refugee who dies on the way to Europe but whose ghost visits the lives of refugees in Europe in limbo, waiting in temporary accommodation suspended between fear, hope and freedom.

Some of the films take an experimental approach to ask what makes people leave their countries.

In “Homeland,” Abbas Fahdel’s study of Iraqi families, children talk about their experience of war and destruction, in a movie that shows them at home, in their garden, and playing on the banks of the Tigris.

“Destination Home” introduces a Liberian refugee who spends ten years working in a hospital at a camp in Ghana, then reaches the United States and is reunited with his family. “This isn’t heaven but it’s a hundred times better than where I come from,” he said sitting with his daughter eating Chinese food in wintry New York State. “But one day I will go home. I have to; it isn’t a choice, one day when I’m able to return.”

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.