Highlights of Verzio 14

The best, recent documentary films tell the stories of Chinese children living in a heap of plastic rubbish, an imprisoned Ukrainian filmmaker, Syrian bloggers, Brazilian media ninjas, and a female football player waiting for a visa. A series of peculiar fates can be witnessed at the 14th Verzio International Human Rights Film Festival.

The 14th Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival will feature a selection of the best documentary films produced in recent years. Each of the award-winning works presents a peculiar human fate, sometimes embedded in a micro-community, and sometimes as a global, social phenomena.

The exciting selection of the International Panorama program includes Matthias Heede and Monika Hielscher’s  documentary film, which reveals that Philip K. Dick's dystopia is no longer a nightmare in the distant future, because the plot of Minority Report is already a reality. Pre-Crime presents the law-enforcement software used in Chicago to identify criminal perpetrators on the basis of their personal data. But what if the computer is wrong?

Black Code, included in the competition at the Toronto Film Festival, this film also relates to Big Data and Big Brother. Through the story of Tibetan monks, Syrian bloggers, Brazilian media ninjas and members of the Pakistani opposition, we get a comprehensive picture of the internet’s impact on freedom of speech, data protection and socio-political activism.

Askold Kurov's The Trial presents another blood-chilling instance of state control and manipulation. Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, who protested the annexation of Crimea by Russia, was imprisoned for 20 years on charges of terrorism in a trial reminiscent of Kafka's classic novel. European filmmakers stood up for the director, who was tortured in prison, and condemned aggression in a protest letter they sent to the Russian President.

Aggression also pervades the world of sports. In Forever Pure, Maya Zinshtein tells the story of the secret transfer of two Muslim players to the Beirat Jerusalem, which triggered the most racist campaign in the history of Israeli soccer. The team was in crisis; power, money, and politics only increased the chaos.

Listening is sometimes an act louder than roaring. The protagonist of Small Talk, the best documentary film of this year's Berlinale, is Taiwanese director Hui-chen Huang, who sat with his mother to talk about three generations of family trauma. The opening-up is not easy, and it is not certain that the one asking is ready to listen to the answers.

Plastic China is an important piece of the International Panorama block. It won the Special Jury Award at the IDFA. The characters of Jiu-Liang Wang's film live in a large plastic processing city in the Far East. The protagonist of the film is 11-year-old Yi, who, when not picking through the bags, carries her little brother on her back and cooks lunch. Her toys are broken dolls and torn cards found in the trash. The little girl's father does not allow her to go to school.

The definition of garbage is quite subjective. Kirsten Johnson is famous for her work as a cinematographer on films such as the Oscar award-winning Citizenfour, or The Oath, about Osama bin Laden's chauffeur. From the unused footage that has accumulated over 25 years of her filmmaking career she has made a sensible and poetic film with a peculiar atmosphere entitled Cameraperson. She gives us not only an insight into her life, but also allows us to ponder on what it means to film and be filmed.

One of the highlighted blocks of this year's festival is War and Peace 2.0: Refugee Perspectives. These films were invited with the support of UNHCR to challenge media stereotypes.

After the war in Syria, the 350,000 people remaining in Aleppo are preparing for the siege. Winner of the grand prize at Sundance, Director Firas Fayyad's masterpiece, Last Men in Aleppo follows the actions of the international, volunteer rescue corps, the White Helmets, for two years whilst they rescue survivors from under the ruins of collapsed buildings. The three founders, Khaled, Subhi, and Mahmoud are struggling tirelessly to save lives, but the question is, of course, how long should they stay and help the victims of the bombings? When does the moment come when they should leave to save themselves and their families?

In 2014, a handful of anonymous journalist-activists took up the fight against ISIS. The members of this civilian group were trying to document terrorist atrocities while facing a deadly threat, in exile, hiding under pseudonyms, and to fight the regime occupying Syria through online media. Director Matthew Heineman's City of Ghosts, nominated for an Academy Award, has been awarded the grand prize of the Sundance Film Festival in the World Cinema category.

The Wait is the story of 14-year-old Rokhsar, a smart, pretty, talented girl who plays football. She and her family fled to Denmark five years ago. In Afghanistan, their lives were in jeopardy, but without a Danish residence permit the threat of deportation hangs over them every day. Rokhsar is the only member of her family who speaks Danish fluently, so she keeps in touch with lawyers and the immigration office. But is a teenage girl capable of carrying this burden? Emil Langbelle's delicate portrait was awarded the grand prize of the Tangier Documentary Film Festival.