During the 17th edition of the Cinema, Human Rights and Advocacy (CHRA) Summer School, participants have had the opportunity to privately meet with several renowned film directors whose films are debuting at the 79th Venice International Film Festival.
On Saturday, CHRA students met with Teona Strugar Mitevska to learn more about her film ‘The Happiest Man in the World’ and how it explores the precariousness of life, the painful past, the chance encounters bringing together the aggressor and the victim, and the impossible connections of love and absurdity. Set thirty years since the war in Bosnia, the film highlights how the past war still festers under the surface and with the deep-seated wounds ready to erupt at any point. Through the film, viewers can see that new beginnings are never truly fresh; they are haunted and influenced by previous experiences.
As Mitevska mentions, ‘The Happiest Man in the World’ poses many existential questions: How to live with war? Is there life after war? Is there love after war? And when does war stop?
Gioanni Maro d’Agostino, a CHRA student asked how Mitevska feels about the fact that some viewers may not know about the war in Bosnia and why didn’t she include more context. In response, Mitevska mentioned that it is always a dilemma for any director as to whether to give a more detailed explanation, but in this instance, she felt it is more interesting to enter this particular situation and deal with something unexpected happening. “I can’t tell you that everyone will understand the film in relation to the (Bosnian) war, but that’s not so important as this story is about living in war, any war, 30 years later. Today, it reminds us about the war in Ukraine and its impact. The film is a story about trauma and how it comes to the surface."
During the Summer School, students have also met with Jafar Najafi, the director of ‘Alone’, Evgeny Afineevsky, the director of ‘Freedom of Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom’, and they will meet with S. Kaadan, the director of ‘Nezouh’ this week.
Nick Danziger, Co-Founder of Picture People commented, “The Cinema, Human Rights and Advocacy’s film selection for the students at the Venice Film Festival is intended to reinforce the key touchstones of our Summer School programme as well as the discussion points that our facilitators have made in their workshops.
The films are selected based on the issues they tackle. Our focus is on stories around child and human rights whether they be contemporary or historical, small or large budget films. Above all, we are looking for powerful and compelling stories regardless of whether they are from new or much-acclaimed directors. We hope they will have emotional impact and leave our students inspired with plenty to think about in the days, weeks and months to come.”
Students will also attend film screenings as part of the Biennale College Cinema including ‘Mountain Onion’ by director E. Shibanov and ‘Banu’ by director T. Rafaella.
The CHRA Summer School is aimed at young professionals from diverse backgrounds and experiences, wishing to broaden their understanding of the connections between human rights, films, digital media and video advocacy, and to learn how to use film as a tool for social change.
The Summer School is jointly developed by PicturePeople and the Global Campus of Human Rights, and taught by renowned international lecturers and experts.