Editorial 2023

Irène Challand

Programme Director

For 21 years, the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights has been a unique event of screenings and debates in constant motion.  This year, the new Focus section will put into perspective the paradoxes of a world torn between its digital conquests and tangible threats, as suggested in the silver triptych of our poster, of global warming, constant wars and the distress associated with migration.

Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights encourages us to examine these rights at the crossroads of their continuities, breakdowns and developments. With around thirty films and debates, the FIFDH will address issues such as the use of humiliation as a tool of oppression, common thread of this edition, the rise of ethical issues in the digital world, as well as the expansion of human rights in the physical world. 

Who will be the subject of the films and debates in future editions of our Festival? Will it be an avatar of itself or a real being, capable of acting against subservient formatting and for the respect of the rights of the living? 

Looking forward to sharing with you the new features of this edition - my first as a Programme Director - I would like to pay tribute to two personalities who are dear to me. To Jean-Luc Godard who, as he liked to quote Elias Canetti, believed that one is never sad enough to make the world a better place. To Sergio Vieira de Mello, the first patron of the FIFDH and a tireless builder of bridges, who twenty years ago lost his life in an attack in Baghdad, Iraq.

Barbara Hendricks

Patron of the Festival

For me, several dates marked the year 2003: the beginning of the unjust, immoral and illegal war in Iraq on 19 March, the birth of the FIFDH on March 28th and the death of its patron Sergio Vieira de Mello, assassinated with 21 of his UN colleagues on August 19th in Baghdad. 

I had the honour of joining the group of illustrious patrons of the Festival’s first edition. Sergio, my friend and brother, had great hopes for this child born from the marriage of a film festival and a forum open to dialogue between a keen and motivated audience and human rights defenders from around the world. 

The FIFDH, orphaned too young, has become a caring, courageous, audacious and militant adult, which continues to fight to defend the human rights of all people everywhere, just as Sergio did.

Official messages

Volker Türk

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Human rights have gone global, not because they serve the interests of the powerful, but because they have captured the imagination of the powerless. 

Seventy five years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, there is an urgent need to rekindle the spirit of justice, freedom and human dignity. 

In this simple and powerful text, there is no North and South, no poor and rich, no right and left, no barriers of gender, colour or class. We are all born equal. 

This text, and these rights, are the language of humanity's unity. They constitute deep-rooted and far-reaching solutions to the turmoil and injustice of our world. 

The Human Rights 75 initiative that my Office will be leading throughout the year aims to revive the world's support for the fundamental rights that all of us share. 

I thank this Festival for its constant work to tell stories that voice the rights of all human beings, and I look forward to taking part.


Simon Geissbühler

Ambassador, Head of the Peace and Human Rights Division (PHRD) of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA)

It seems that the world is spinning faster than usual in this period of successive crises, generating a feeling of insecurity and some loss of trust, even within Western countries. What is the role of culture in this context? Once again, the FIFDH is ready to confront its audience with stark reality and to plunge directly into the abyss where people are deprived of their rights and of their dignity. The FIFDH makes a point of observing and provoking us. The festival encourages lively discussions, the expression of diverging opinions and the search for innovative solutions. Thus, through its films and debates, the festival not only provides hope, but also a concrete basis for change. The FDFA values this important cultural contribution and the spotlight that the festival shines on international Geneva and human rights.

Alfonso Gomez

Administrative Councillor of the City of Geneva

This year we will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An important date, but also a reminder of the many challenges that remain. While there have been significant advances in some countries, there is also a continuing rise in authoritarianism and crimes perpetrated by violent extremist groups. During this time, individuals are resisting, demonstrating, demanding or standing up to the many powers of States, systems, ideologies and economic interests. For 10 days, the FIFDH invites us to understand these struggles, to meet these women and men, to consider human rights in their full complexity. This event allows us to come together, to share these struggles, because the path to human advancement has always been a struggle. The FIFDH also allows us to enjoy great cinematic moments and to reflect together on a world where humanity, the values of peace and dialogue will triumph over barbarism and terror. I therefore warmly congratulate the entire team for its commitment and wish you all a very successful Festival.


Sami Kanaan

Administrative Councillor in charge of the Department of Culture and Digital Transition

The feeling of being humiliated, individually or collectively, is often at the root of conflicts. History reminds us of this and the current situation proves it. However, the humiliation experienced is rarely brought to the fore. It is kept to oneself rather than admitted. By taking up this theme throughout its 2023 programme, the International Film Festival and Forum on Human Rights (FIFDH) will allow us to delve into the latest headlines, but also to take a moment to reflect and take a more distant look at our world.

The war in Ukraine, the revolt in Iran and the climate emergency are just some of the news items that will be discussed. In the face of this dark reality and the despair it brings, the aim is to give people reasons for hope, notably thanks to the presence and participation of activists from around the world.

It is therefore with a certain degree of curiosity that I - and, I hope, you too - approach this 21st edition of the FIFDH. Enjoy the Festival!


Leo Kaneman

Founder and Honorary President of the FIFDH

The Russian aggression against Ukraine has highlighted the serious threat to the respect of human rights in the world.  We are in effect witnessing the clash of two visions of the world. On the one hand, there is the duel between the autocratic regimes of Russia and China, which refuse to accept any form of democratisation and which give precedence to force over law. On the other hand, Ukraine's united democracy wants to be part of the European structures and promotes the values of democracy, freedom and human rights. Putin's war is a dramatic manifestation of this, on the one hand the Russian strikes on civilians and on the other hand Ukraine where only military targets are attacked. Barbarity versus respect for human dignity. The policy of appeasement, "peace at any price" advocated by some can be interpreted as a weak attitude, which constitutes an invitation to attack and which endangers not only Ukraine but our own democracies.

Gilbert Vonlanthen

Président de l’Association des communes genevoises (ACG) 

Geopolitical tensions, natural and political cataclysms are superimposed on one another, causing no improvement in the fate of populations, let alone their fundamental rights. On the contrary, it is unfortunately alert that we experience, still in the 21st century, the nightmares of dystopias that impose their violent power on social injustices and human tragedies, when they should only be bad dreams, quickly dissipated upon awakening.

"As an open window on human dignity”, the FIFDH denounces the violation of human rights and gives voice to those who resist.

Thank you to the organizers of the 21st FIFDH for bringing together these individuals, militants, personalities, artists and filmmakers, who have gathered to defend human rights.

The Geneva municipalities continue to support this international event, one that brings people together and is essential for the promotion of human rights, which gives voice to fundamental yet threatened freedoms.

Let us remain committed to defending a culture of solidarity, valuing proximity and opening ourselves to the world through this Festival!



Eléonore Sulser

Rédactrice en chef adjointe, Le Temps

Le FIFDH, est, au cœur de Genève et de la Suisse, une invitation à se transporter ailleurs, à rencontrer l’autre. Une invitation aussi à retrouver et à apprendre à connaître celles et ceux qui ont d’autres vies que les nôtres ; à écouter aussi celles et ceux aussi qui s’engagent, qui témoignent, qui débattent, qui disent non, qui prennent la plume ou la caméra, le porte-voix ou le micro pour dire haut et fort ce qu’il en est.

Conflits armés, migrations, crise écologique, défis technologiques, condition des femmes* à travers le monde, la question des droits humains se pose dans tous ces domaines, et tous sont présents au FIFDH. En cette année anniversaire de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’Homme, il y a toujours plus de questions que de réponses, plus de récits en cours que de fins heureuses. Mais s’il y a des drames et de la souffrance, il y a aussi de l’espoir. Et c’est cet espoir qu’un tel Festival s’acharne à faire vivre. 

Gilles Marchand and Pascal Crittin

Director General of SSR and Director of Swiss Radio and Television

Once again, the FIFDH will be at the very heart of current events. For more than 20 years, this Festival has managed to capture the essence of the world and its upheavals, to report on human rights violations wherever they occur. This is its vocation, and it has not faltered. 2023 is a special date, as the ongoing war in Europe once again raises questions about the foundations of peace and security. The many current uprisings reflect a need for freedom, democracy and justice.

The SSR and RTS are pleased to be associated with the FIFDH. They find the principles that are important to them and are keen to take part in the current debates by presenting documentaries, participating in debates, and reporting on the exchanges and reflections on their airwaves.  

The FIFDH is more relevant, more important than ever. We wish you inspiring encounters and exciting new discoveries! Enjoy the Festival!