Not till a hot January: The One World Documentary Film Festival focuses on (not just) the effects of the climate crisis in films

Published: Jan 29, 2020 Reading time: 10 minutes
Not till a hot January: The One World Documentary Film Festival focuses on (not just) the effects of the climate crisis in films
© Jeden svět

Drying rivers, parched fields, and empty wells. Climate change is starting to affect even our immediate surroundings. This is one of the reasons why this issue is being discussed by experts, in the media, by politicians, and often even amongst friends at the pub. The various manifestations of the environmental crisis within the context of the local landscape, as well as the role humans play in it, will also be among the topics addressed at this year’s 22nd One World International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, which will take place from 5 to 14 March in Prague and subsequently in thirty-five other cities and towns throughout the Czech Republic.

When William Shakespeare coined the phrase “not till a hot January”, he had no inkling that this phenomenon might actually occur one day. Currently, however, it quite accurately describes one of the main results of climate change – continuously rising temperatures. The increasingly warmer climate in combination with poor soil management has resulted in a landscape that is incapable of retaining water. According to One World’s director, Ondřej Kamenický: “By screening films that are (not just) about the climate crisis, we want to show the global dimension of the entire problem while focusing chiefly on its impact at the local level. We not only want to draw attention to the issue, but to also look for a solution and find inspiration in the specific events organised in each of the thirty-seven towns including One World in Brussels where the festival takes place. In short, we don’t want to wait till a hot January comes along.”

For the third year in a row, Studio MT (Matyáš Trnka in collaboration with Matěj Růžička) have been entrusted with creating the festival’s PR campaign. The stag we see running against the backdrop of a burning horizon in the festival trailer gradually metamorphoses into a camel – this year’s key visual element. “Withered trees, no forests, bare plains, hot and arid – that is how the Czech landscape might look if steps are not taken to deal with climate change. We are offering a glimpse of such a horizon not only in the case of Prague, but also for all of the other towns where the festival is taking place. In fact, we made an individualised visual for each location in question. In addition, we tried to ensure that both the poster and the video trailer are accessible even to people with compromised vision. The bold and highly contrasting colours were therefore chosen not only to stress the subject but also to make the visuals intelligible to as many people as possible,” explains Matyáš Trnka, the campaign’s author.

The UnEarthed category publicises environmental films

One World has been addressing environmental themes since more or less the time the festival was first established. For the past three years, the documentaries matching this description have been included in the UnEarthed category, which just happens to be the festival’s most important thematic grouping this year. The included films look at topics such as climate change, energy, and pollution. One of them is Apolena Rychlíková’s new documentary, The Czechs Are Excellent Mushroom Pickers, which tracks these issues in the Czech Republic through extra-terrestrial eyes. Director Meng Han shot her documentary Smog Town in Langfang, a Chinese city near Beijing, which is considered to be one of the world’s most air-polluted locations. In it, she considers questions such as what life is like in a city without a sky and what local politicians have to say about it. 

Pollution is also the main theme of the Canadian film There’s Something in the Water. The well-known actress and activist Ellen Page and the director Ian Daniel visit with women in the agricultural regions of Nova Scotia, who are battling industrial companies in order to save the local landscape, their community and, most importantly, the future. The documentary Sovereign Soil looks at life in a landscape that has remained almost untouched by humans. This film by the Canadian director David Curtis is an ode to the beauty of the remote Yukon Territory and the local inhabitants of the town of Dawson, who strive for food self-sufficiency through alternative farming methods in what are often unfavourable conditions.

The festival’s virtual reality section, which is entirely focused on ecology and nature, will allow visitors to travel to forests, to the desert, and even to the highest peaks of an iceberg. All of the virtual reality exhibits will be housed at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague’s Holešovice district, where visitors will also find special installations with themes revolving around nature. The Ayahuasca virtual reality experience provides a glimpse of the vivid psychedelic visions of living nature one sees after drinking the hallucinogenic plant-based tea known as Ayahuasca. The Songbird project is actually an expedition tracking the recently extinct ‘ōʻō (Moho bird), while Le Lac takes the spectator to Lake Chad, which is in the process of drying up and vanishing.

In addition to the UnEarthed category, One World 2020 includes the three traditional competitive categories (the Czech Competition, the International Competition, and the Right to Know Competition), and eleven additional thematic categories. This will be the third year of the special discussion programme entitled Talking Cinema. Experts in various subjects will come to Prague and present lectures to accompany selected film screenings. This year, Leilani Farhani, a United Nations Special Rapporteur, will discuss the worldwide problem of inaccessible housing, and the activist Amon Yiu Yeuk-wa, a member of the Demosistō political movement in Hong Kong, will talk about the current political situation in a region that has been fraught with protests and demonstrations for the past six months.

One World: Balanced, Ecological, and Harmoniously Eco-Friendly

The festival organisers think about the environment not only when they are selecting the films for the programme, but also when preparing for the festival and during it. Some steps are a given, such as conserving both energy and water, recycling waste in all of the offices as well as at all of the cinemas, limiting the volume of printed materials, and using eco-friendly paper. This year, the festival catalogue is being replaced by a brochure that uses only half the amount of paper, and all information is being published on-line. 

Furthermore, the festival strives to collaborate only with partners who are just as careful with regard to the environment. The same level of consideration applies when it comes to transport for the festival’s guests – mainly bus and rail transport are offered, and in those cases when flying is unavoidable, One World provides financial compensation for the resulting carbon footprint. This year, the festival is also offering its guests transport from the airport using Prague’s integrated transport system. “Guides will meet our guests at the airport and accompany them on public transport to their hotel or the Langhans Audience Centre,” explains Sabina Solničková, One World’s Head of Guest Services. She goes on to add that if a guest prefers to be transported around Prague by car, the festival partly uses electric cars some of the time. A change in the means of transport has also been implemented with respect to the delivery of film copies – as a matter of fact, the majority of them are only in digital format. Some things have remained the same however – the vegetarian buffets and the use of the festival’s own glasses and dinnerware make it possible to minimise the amount of generated waste.

In addition to being eco-friendly, the festival also considers it important to support filmmakers and local creativity in countries where there are non-democratic and dictatorial regimes – a quarter of all of this year’s films were made by local makers. Just as significant is the festival’s effort to ensure the balance between male and female directors.

One World for All

Over the past three years, accessibility to the festival for individuals with disabilities has become the norm and this year will be no different as One World strives to achieve universal accessibility. As explained by Mariana Chytilová, the festival’s accessibility expert: “We don’t focus only on some particular group of people with disabilities like so many other cultural events do, but instead want to implement measures that make the festival experience available to the broadest possible spectrum of visitors.” All of the documentaries screened in Prague, including those in Czech, will have Czech captions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing. Just like last year, headphones with audio commentaries describing what is happening on the screen will be available at screenings of four different films for people who are blind or have vision loss. In addition, the festival includes three relaxed screenings which have a looser organisation that may be more comfortable for people who have mental disabilities or difficulty concentrating. And last but certainly not least, we aim to increase the number of places accessible to audience members who need a wheelchair or have other mobility issues.

One World in Schools

“To the cinema instead of class!” will be heard in many schools while the festival is underway. One World is organising special afternoon screenings for schools in all of the towns where the festival will be held. Just like in previous years, we have selected a range of films that will ensure the interest of all age categories. For primary school students, we have chosen three series of short films covering diverse subjects, including bullying, family relationships, and environmental issues. The selection for secondary school students consists of two short and two feature length films. One of them, Mai Khoi and The Dissidents, is about a Vietnamese singer who was forced to leave her homeland and its uncompromising censorship because of her anti-regime lyrics. Another, entitled For Sama, is set in Aleppo, the centre of the armed conflict in Syria, and has recently received an Oscar nomination. All of the films shown during the school screenings are followed by a discussion. Schools wishing to participate must register for the screening in advance – in Prague, via the JSNS.CZ portal during the first week in February, and in the other towns, through the local festival coordinators. For more information, see

East Doc Platform

The East Doc Platform (March 7–13, 2020) during One World IHRDFF offers free open programme in English for industry professionals and documentary film lovers: discussions, masterclasses, presentation Czech Docs… Coming Soon and East Doc Forum – prestigious central pitch for feature-length projects in development and early production stage. The East Doc Platform is the largest co-production, funding and distribution platform tailor-made for Central and Eastern European documentaries, every year connecting filmmakers and key decision makers – producers, broadcasters, distributors and festival programmers from around the world. Internationally successful titles, such as Over the Limit, When the War Comes, The Sound Is Innocent, Sofia’s Last Ambulance, Village Without Women, Ukrainian Sheriffs, The Russian Job and Brothers, were presented at the East Doc Platform. Film professionals who want to attend the industry programme can buy the industry accreditation until February 14.

We will publicise the festival programme as well as the names of our international guests at the accreditation press conference scheduled for Tuesday, 18 February at 10 am, which will take place at our audience centre in the Tibet Open House (Školská 28). You should be receiving an invitation from us soon via email.

Additional information, as well as this year’s visuals, are available for download at

Media Contacts:

Gabriela Gálová, Media Spokesperson and Head of PR,,

+420 605 919 769

Nikola Páleníčková, Media Coordinator,,

+420 732 989 638 

Author: Člověk v tísni

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