The Right to Development: Bir Duino Brings 8th Annual Human Rights Film Festival and Bus Tour to Kyrgyzstan

December 23, 2014

 

On October 7-11, 2014, following a Regional Bus Tour to 20 small cities and towns across Kyrgyzstan, WLP Kyrgyzstan/Bir Duino organized and facilitated the 8th Annual Documentary Film Festival on Human Rights in Bishkek. This year’s theme was “The Right to Development,” referring to the right of citizens of The Kyrgyz Republic to demand that their government take steps to fulfill its domestic and international human rights obligations, and to improve their quality of life. View photos on Bir Duino's facebook album here.

Preceding the main festival event was Bir Duino’s first ever traveling film festival entitled The Regional Bus Tour. From September 5-15, 2014, the tour screened three films from the main festival program -- Jakarta Disorder, Girl Child, and Teacher -- in 20 rural cities and towns. Jakarta Disorder, a documentary by Austrian director Ascan Breuer, documents the trials of creating civil society in Indonesia. Girl Child, produced by the World Movement for Democracy, portrayed a young girl struggling to get an education. Teacher, by Kyrgyz director Bekusultan Abakir Uulu, touched on a controversial local issue with its portrayal of a young Kyrgyz girl whose parents have migrated to Russia for work.

After each film 10-20 minutes were allocated for audience discussion and debate. Teacher provoked passionate responses on the effects of labor migration on Kyrgyz children and families; in 2011 26% of Kyrgyzstan’s GDP came from remittances from Kyrgyz citizens working in foreign countries according to a study by American University of Central Asia. With audience sizes from 20 to 150 people, often with large numbers of youth, the post-film debates assisted local communities in developing public dialogue on human rights themes, which was a key objective of the festival.

Another main goal of the Regional Bus Tour was to bring education on Kyrgyz citizenship and political participation rights to more remote areas of Kyrgyzstan; 83% of respondents to the voluntary festival survey reported that prior to their attendence at the screening, they had been unaware that they were able to bring complaints to their representatives. Bir Duino also distributed material from the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR) with information on the international human rights obligations of the Kyrgyz government.

Despite roadblocking efforts by some sectors of the Kyrgyz government and attempts to block screeing of a film about reproductive health, the festival’s Main Program in Bishkek was highly successful. Bir Duino estimates the total number of attendees at nearly 6000; 3886 people filled out survey response forms. The dialogue sessions that followed each film offered a rare chance for discussion across class and ethnic divisions. Along with the efforts of Bir Duino's staff, the festival was supported by the British, Austrian, and German embassies; and the United States’ ambassador spoke during the closing ceremonies.

The festival continues to be a mobilizing force for Bir Duino as it and many other NGOs around the world face increasing restrictions on their movement and activities, including the potential passage of a law mirroring Russia’s “Foreign Agent” law. Buoyed by its success, Bir Duino has already taken steps to bring the festival into the Kyrgyz school system and plans to raise the festival’s profile through Bishkek’s sister-city program with Colorado Springs.

Read Kyrgyz coverage of the festival here.

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