Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights
Regionalne Centrum Wolontariatu w Kielcach (Regional Volunteer Centre in Kielce)
Stowarzyszenie Cześć, Chrzanów (“Hello” Association in Chrzanów)
Świetlica Krytyki Politycznej w Cieszynie – Stowarzyszenie im. Stanisława Brzozowskiego (Political Critique Club in Cieszyn – Stanisław Brzozowski Association)
The list above is not exhaustive or final – the project offers a format of activities that may be followed by other partners co-working with the HFHR in the frame of the Helsinki Initiative.
Living in diversity is getting difficult as the social polarization grows. In at least 4 Polish towns, a series of debates on contentious topics in mixed groups beyond the division lines will take place after the screenings of doc films. And in at least 1 town that declared itself an “LGBT-ideology-free zone” a conflict film lab will take place, where a debate will be recorded on camera and narrated through a video by the group. Thus a culture of dialogue will be partially reestablished.
The project will be implemented in at least five localities outside of the big urban centers.
The main challenge for social cohesion is increasing polarization of the society, evidenced by the election results showing geographical boundaries of support for two major political options (big urban centers vs small towns, Eastern vs Western Poland). The most contentious topics dividing the society are LGBT rights, gender equality, sexual education and attitudes towards minorities. Some of the social actors strive to create an equitable society, while others advocate a hierarchical social structure with specific roles for individual members. This discussion is a field of clash of various world-views and visions of Poland, both in the sphere of progressiveness and the relations with the EU that requires implementation of equality policies from the Member States.
Our idea is to offer members of local communities a way out of polarizing narratives imposed by politicians. We will invite people with different world-views to participate and provide them with a neutral space for conversation. The discussions will be moderated by facilitators, who will conduct the meetings in such a way that shows values uniting the participants instead of those dividing them, as well as that underlines the fact that differences are also natural in a democracy. This way we hope to activate agents of change in local communities. Such a role shall be played primarily by participants of the conflict film lab, who may go through a process of change during the project – from being a party to the conflict to being its narrator.
People somehow involved in a local conflict will form the main target group of the project. These will include local politicians (e.g. those who contributed to the adoption of a resolution establishing “LGBT-free zone” and those who opposed it), local journalists, as well as others vocal on a topic in question. Participation in the project will be open also to people who have been only observing the situation so far, but are ready to get more involved or just want to form their own judgement. The range of project participants' attitudes will be the key to its success and thus the recruitment process will be focused on creating the most diverse groups possible. We will work with at least five diverse groups in different towns, each composed of 30 participants as a maximum.
We will select approximately 6 documentary films fitting our objectives. They will include e.g. films on LGBT children growing up in religious families, films offering different views on remembering the past; a new doc on miners in Bełchatów on the one hand and the environmental activists on the other. Our partners will choose the films from the list and co-organize a series of at least 3 screenings followed by facilitated debates within the same, specially recruited group in their locality.
In 1 selected locality, where “LGBT-ideology-free zone” was declared, we will organize a conflict film lab. A moderated debate on the resolution establishing such a zone will be recorded on video, and then the two sides of the discussion will be asked to edit their own video about the process.
In at least five Polish towns, the group processes will lead to building bridges over the strong societal divisions and a culture of dialogue and respect will be at least in part re-established. Some of the involved group members will start to act as change agents, and the network of the Helsinki Initiative will offer them a potential forum for further activities. On a country scale, a promising practice of alleviating social polarization and enhancing local civic engagement will be established, tried and tested. We are aware that the proposed format of work is demanding, but still we hope that other activist groups across the country, and especially in impoverished regions, will follow, and that in a year more than 4 series of films and debates and one conflict film lab will be completed.
On the local level, the project strengthens democracy in Europe by contributing to the democratic culture of living together in diversity. Everywhere in Europe, but in our region especially, deep societal divisions along the lines of different world-views are being exploited and aggravated by the populist-nationalist politicians. It is the local level where people can resist the effects of a growing polarization by means of a real meeting and meaningful dialogue. The project enhances chances and qualities of such meetings beyond social divisions thanks to the power of documentary film as a trigger of discussion and thanks to the perspective-changing process of documentary filmmaking.
I coordinate Helsinki Initiative at the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. I am constantly challenged by the Initiative’s members presenting their new ideas, but also asking us at the Foundation to come up with new formats of activities they could get involved in. I have been thinking for a while how to engage deeper with documentary film medium, beyond a film screening /debate scheme that has been working so well with the Initiative’s members. Hence the idea of the series of local events for mixed groups beyond the societal divisions and of getting involved deeper in the group processes within the conflict film lab. I believe addressing somehow the growing polarization in the Polish society is still missing in the activities of the Helsinki Initiative and I would love to change that.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
Personnel costs, including debates facilitators and filmmakers involved in the conflict film lab 35 000 EUR
Licence fees – films 2400 EUR
Production of Polish language versions of the films 3000 EUR
Are there any similar initiatives we could learn from and share experience? How to work with the tangible results of the projects – the videos recorded, and video-recorded evaluation by participants? What specific contentious topics we could tackle with our films and debates?