DOCU/CLUB Docudays UA discuss the questions of efficiency of democracy and continue working in East

On 11th of June Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival presented its all-Ukrainian project – DOCU/CLUB (a network of cinema clubs of media education in human rights Docudays UA). 

16 June 2015

On 11th of June Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival presented its all-Ukrainian project – DOCU/CLUB (a network of cinema clubs of media education in human rights Docudays UA). In less than a year festival has started 77 cinema clubs in different cities and towns in Ukraine. Here human rights activists, pedagogues, students, civil society activists, librarians and employees of the penitentiary system screen films from repertoire of Docudays UA for youth and grown ups and conduct discussions about real values and human rights.

This important social project requires a thorough training of facilitators of discussions. Leader of the project, member of the organizing committee of the Docudays UA festival Alla Tyutyunnyk notices: “We have faced a situation, where teachers, librarians, and psychologists working in penal colonies do not have a clear understanding of human rights. So we have conducted beforehand a series of seminars for facilitators of our cinema clubs. We taught them how to analyze documentary films and how to talk about human rights in an interesting manner. We also work in educational institutions of the penitentiary services with the future employees of the penal colonies. They are still very young, and we hope to teach them to understand human rights and to treat prisoners in a way that would differ from the tradition we have inherited from the Soviet times.”

A special success and a matter of pride for the DOCU/CLUB project is the work that project conducts in Eastern Ukraine. Cinema Clubs are already working in Kramatorsk, Mariupol, Severodonetsk and Berdyansk. Soon they will also open in Novopskov, Lysychansk, Lozova, Druzhkivka, Konstyantynivka... Chairman of the management board of Ukrainian Helsinki Human Right Union Mykola Kozyriev thinks that East of Ukraine differs from the rest of the country specifically in matters relating to methods of regulation of social relationships. One can regulate them either taking rule of law as a guiding principle or using violence. While other regions of Ukraine have started relying on the rule of law more often, East still uses violence. At the moment this region is full of contradictions and this is why it is important to show there stories of life of other people from other countries and with other values. Reaching to the viewers through their feelings is very effective. And afterwards we can start discussion about viewer’s own values, about the social relations we want to build in Ukraine. This is a very important mission of DOCU/CLUB project.  

Docudays UA also participates one of the most important reforms in Ukraine – training of the new patrol officers. Anastasiya Leukhina, a member of the expert council in questions of reforms of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, was also present at the event. She shared information about the contemporary training of the Ukrainian police and radically new approach towards it: “I believe that many problems of the state system stem from the fact that state employees treat citizens just as statistical data, while we need to look at them through the prism of the human stories. Only this can change the system. I am grateful to DOCU/CLUB for opportunity to use in our training a film by Dutch director Jan Jaap Kuiper ‘Sinner’s disease’ (2011). This film depicts events similar to reality we live in and to the way our police treats public events. We organized a screening and discussion of this film with our trainees. This experiment was a success, because film helped to reach not only to their minds but also to their hearts. And when you accept these stories into your heart, when you live through them, you cannot have the same attitude towards people as our old police had. I believe that we will see the positive changes in attitude of our new patrol officers towards people in streets”.

Screening and discussion of the film during this course for the new patrol officers was facilitated by human rights trainer and head of board of Centre for Civil Liberties and coordinator of the civic initiative Euromaidan SOS Olexandra Matviychuk: “For us the question of work of law enforcement is a question of our own personal experience, when during Euromaidan we were trying to find people who were “disappeared” or tortured by police, were answering phone calls of the victims and their relatives. After Euromaindan we were offered to train new patrol officers and we used this opportunity to work with long-term aims in mind, hoping to stop the lawlessness. We are sure, that interactive forms of learning, like the ones used by DOCU/CLUB helps to form the belief that human right is a value. That is why we want to show films of Docudays UA festival to new patrol officers, because these films elicit emotions in us and influence our behavior.

Our fist screening was happening with great technical difficulties, but the discussion nevertheless was fantastic. We were talking about the fact that police does not have to carry out illegal orders. One of the future patrol officers asked if we could protect them if they protested against the system. I honestly answered: “I will, but I am not sure that I will have enough of strength, there are so many of you out there. Are you ready to defend yourselves?” This question gave birth to one more interesting project – creation of the trade union of the patrol officers. Discussion of the film led us to very important human right topic. There and then we agreed that our human rights organization would help future patrol officers to create trade union.”

During the presentation a film from the DOCU/CLUB collection was shown – ‘Please Vote for Me’ by Chinese director Weijun Chen. Film was dubbed in Ukrainian especially for DOCU/CLUB project. ‘Please Vote for Me’ documents an experiment of holding democratic elections in third class of primary school in Wuhan, Central China. For the first time in history, children get a chance to elect a class monitor on democratic principles. Three eight year old candidates for this post start on their campaigns, using different methods: drafting an election action plan, self-advertisement, prompting, manipulations, bribes, smear campaigns, generous election promises. Their parents get engaged too – some are writing speeches fro their child, some advise to discredit their opponents, some prepare gifts for the “voters” on the election day. Actions of Chinese pupils and their parents often remind actions of Ukrainian politicians during the elections. This prompts us to think about the question: what is democracy and are people ready to use it?

During the film’s discussion a question of the efficiency of the electoral democracy was deliberated upon. After all, many voters are ready to sell their vote, which may cause significant social-political problems. Elections are won not by people who want to introduce positive changes but by those who have more resources at their disposal for the election campaign. Alla Tyutyunnyk mentioned an example: “Back in 1994 we held camps for children organized along the principle of self-government, where children had to choose a mayor from their own ranks. We prepared very well, planned a lot, each age group had its own candidates. But the winner was the youngest boy, who was just 9 years old. He promised: “If you vote for me, we will drown all grown ups in the river!” And children voted for drowning all of us in the river. Even though they all knew this was not going to happen. And none of them could explain properly why they want to drown us. So I have many issues with the elective form of organization of society. This method often brings out the worst sides in many of us. Society has to come up with something more effective.”

According to Anastasiya Leukhina, elective democracy, as it exists right now, is not functional. “It is easier to criticize China and point out their faults. But we can see ourselves in this film too. We can choose not to talk about this, it can be difficult for us to admit it, but we are experiencing same difficulties. Film shows very well the problems of the elective democracy. In Ukraine we are at the stage at the moment, where we want to elect everyone – prosecutors, members of the anti-corruption bureau, policemen... This is happening because we have not come up yet with any ideas how to provide for a more effective participation of citizens in decision-making process at the level of the state politics. We have to look for some other ways.”

In 2014 Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival started a new project – «Campaign for Human Rights Using Instruments of Docudays UA International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival». Project is supported by European Union and National Endowment for Democracy (USA). Cinema clubs of media education in human rights DOCU/CLUB are a part of this project. Main aim of the project: supporting the activation of dialogue about human rights in Ukrainian society by providing human rights activists, pedagogues, civil society leaders, employees of penitentiary system with media instruments and methods for improvement of knowledge of human rights by Ukrainian citizens. By now a network of 77 cinema clubs functioning in schools, universities, youth NGOs, Euroclubs, libraries, penal colonies and educational institutions of penitentiary system has been created. Project is not political and non-profit.


Text by Tanya Mala

Photo by Valeriya Mezenceva

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If you wish to use the film-collection of Docudays UA International Human Rights Film Festival, we invite you to join the network of permanent Docudays UA educational film clubs on human rights