Documentary as instrument of resocialization and rehabilitation of prisoners

On 17-19th of July in Educational Human Rights House in Chernihiv a training seminar “Docudays UA Film Club as instrument of human rights education” for employees of penitentiary system took place.

24 July 2015

On 17-19th of July in Educational Human Rights House in Chernihiv a training seminar “Docudays UA Film Club as instrument of human rights education” for employees of penitentiary system took place. Over these three days managers of already acting and future film clubs had an opportunity to learn from qualified experts and instructors about human rights and about how to interestingly disseminate and consolidate knowledge about them by means of documentary cinema.


This seminar is a continuation of fruitful and important cooperation between State Penitentiary System of Ukraine (SPSoU) and International Documentary Human Rights Film Festival Docudays UA. To stimulate the dialogue about human rights in Ukrainian society, Docudays UA implements project “Campaign for human rights in Ukraine using instruments of International Documentary Human Rights Film Festival Docudays UA”. The aim of this project is to open constantly acting film clubs that will screen best examples of documentary films on human rights issues, followed by facilitated discussions and meetings with experts and human rights defenders.


The project’s target audience is quite broad and aims to create film clubs in educational institutions, libraries and youth NGOs. But representatives of state penitentiary system were one of the first to express interest in Docudays UA film clubs. Such initiative is a sign of intention to improve and reform Ukrainian penitentiary system, to change it from system of punishment into instrument of re-socialization and rehabilitation of prisoners. To achieve this aim it is crucial to communicate  both to employees of the penitentiary system and to inmates the understanding of the value of human rights and human dignity. 


Back in July 2014 SPSoU and Docudays UA signed Memorandum of Mutual Understanding. Drawing on this document and initiative and commitment to human rights ideals of people involved in the process of cooperation, 36 constantly acting Docudays UA film clubs of human rights media education were opened last year in SPSoU establishments (5 of them are functioning in educational institutions of SPSoU, 31 – in penal colonies and detention centers). In this period students and teachers of educational institutions of SPSoU, employees in colonies and inmates had a chance to watch wonderful examples of documentary films that highlight human rights, their violations and attempts to defend them. Additionally, during film club meetings these problems were discussed with invited experts and human rights activist. Oleg Duka, coordinator of network of constantly acting Docudays UA film clubs in human rights media education in educational institutions of SPSoU noted that such film screenings are a welcome addition to educational work that is conducted in SPSoU institutions. Previously educational events were often conduced rather nominally, mainly because it was really difficult to organize an interesting event. But because of unforgettable and bright films that International Documentary Human Rights Film Festival Docudays UA can offer, an opportunity appeared to conduct these events on a completely different level.


Seminar aimed to gather together both managers of the already acting film clubs and clubs that will open in the nearest future. For three days participants could learn from experienced trainers about human rights: philosophy and evolution of this concept, main human rights bills, existing national and international mechanisms of human rights protection. Additionally, a lot of attention during seminar was devoted to methods. Participants were told how to use video and film materials for education in human rights and how to organize interactive events in media education using films of Docudays UA festival. Managers of already existing film clubs also shared their experience with their colleagues who will conduct such works in SPSoU institutions in nearest future.


Seminar participants provided positive feedback about methods of work and education that Docudays UA film clubs provide. According to Andriy Mykhaylyuk, deputy head of establishment of social-educational and psychological work of Daryivka penal colony of SPSoU in Kherson region, AR Crimea and Sevastopol № 10, film clubs offer an important voluntary instrument of re-socialization of inmates. Despite these positive features, it is not that easy to ensure smooth running of film clubs in penal institutions – many members of the audience are not interested in watching long films until the end. It is even more difficult to conduct discussion of screened films. After all, inmates in penal institutions frequently function according to the rules of certain subculture, and its regulations often do not allow to express one’s opinions and feelings freely. Although, as Andriy Mykhayluk noted, one can find solution to this problem. Presence of the invited expert or human rights activist, not  affiliated to SPSoU institution, can improve the quality of the discussion.


Despite such difficulties, employees of SPSoU believe in potential that work of Docudays UA film clubs promises. Thus, Vasyl Shestakov, manager of the acting film club in one of the educational institutions of SPSoU in Dneprodzerzhinsk, noted that over the period of work of his film club work he noticed positive changes among students. Now they demonstrate better understanding of human rights and their attitude towards inmates has improved. To consolidate these changes in attitude and strengthen the understanding of inalienability of human rights, Vasyl thinks that Docudays UA film clubs should continue and even expanded their activity in SPSoU. Seminar, that took place in Chernihiv in July – is just one of the steps in this direction, and hopefully not the last one.  




Written by

Nadiya Chushak,

Coordinator of human rights program Docudays UA

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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