Human Rights through the Prism of Cinematography


This year, Human Rights Day on 10 December focused on ending discrimination. “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights”. These first few famous words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established 60 years ago the basic premise of international human rights law. Yet today, the fight against discrimination remains a daily struggle for millions around the globe.

This year was also special, because the world celebrated anniversaries of two major human rights instruments: the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on 20 November and the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women on 18 December. The conventions bring children and the female half of humanity into the focus of human rights concerns, they affirm human rights for all children and women; they speak about ending all forms of discrimination against children and women, which hamper the realization of their rights.

The United Nations in Russia selected these two topics as the main theme of the UN thematic day in the framework of XV ‘Stalker’ International Film Festival on Human Rights, acknowledging the role of film-makers, actors, of cinematography in highlighting human rights challenges and abuses, in bringing them close to the heart of everyone, in reaching to a very wide and diverse audience.

The UN in Russia has a long and successful experience of cooperating with ‘Stalker’ festival, which is organized by the Guild of Russian Film Makers and traditionally starts on 10 December, International Human Rights Day. It has long been an important forum for the United Nations in the Russian Federation and its individual agencies for the promotion of human rights messages to a very wide audience.

As Frode Mauring, UN Resident Coordinator in Russia, noted in his address to organizers and participants of the festival, “when we say ‘Stalker’, we remember the famous film by Andrei Tarkovsky about a guide to a dangerous and mysterious ‘zone’ for those who seek to regain hope, the ‘stalker’, who makes people think about their moral obligations, conscience, personal responsibility for what they are doing. This is how we perceive the festival itself.

The UN thematic day on 12 December was organized by the Resident Coordinator Office and supported by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNICEF, UN Population Fund, and World Health Organization.

Five feature films and 10 documentaries, included into the programme of the UN thematic day, reflected on the two selected topics, the rights of children and women. The United Nations in Russia awarded two prizes to films in our programme. The winning feature film ‘Roof’ by a renowned film director, Boris Grachevsky, is a story of three teenage girls and their parents, very different but similar in ignoring their daughters’ problems. The best documentary – ‘Documents of Love’ by a young director, Tatyana Soboleva, is about two women of different backgrounds, living difficult lives, but happy with their big families of many children.


In his address, Frode Mauring referred to Bernardo Bertolucci, the famous film director, once said that people come to see movies to share a joint dream. He expressed hope that the festival “will not only make all of us dream about how the rights of children and women should be guaranteed, but will inspire change for the better.” And the films, which the audience could watch during the UN day could not served the purpose better.


Dirk Hebecker, Senior Human Rights Advisor of the UN Country Team in Russia speaks from the stage of the House of Cinema

The fully booked cinema hall of the House of Cinema

The jury of the festival standing of the stage

UN representatives speaking from the stage during the opening ceremony of the film festival

Press conference of the organizers of ‘Stalker’ before its opening


state-owned land and water areas. Metsähallitus provides natural resources sector services to a diverse customer base, from private individuals to major companies.



Nuclear energy has played a major role in Finnish electricity production. Since 2007, the proportion of nuclear electricity totaled 25% of electricity consumption and about 9% of domestic production. Increased nuclear power production is expected to play an important role in meeting greenhouse gas emission target set for Finland by the Kyoto Protocol. In this context, it was interesting to visit the Olkiluoto nuclear plant and to learn about how its safety is ensured and environmental impact is assessed.


One of the most interesting sites, which the delegation saw, was the Katri Vala power plant.

The facility excavated under the Katri Vala Park houses the world's largest heat pump plant, producing district heat and cooling in a single process. Various parts of a similar type of production are used elsewhere in the world, but so far have not been combined in this way.

This was a good example of power generation with emission-free renewable energy sources.


The journalists were acquainted with the work of two very different enterprises - Russian owned Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta, the only nickel refining plant in Finland, and a confectionary factory of Fazer Group on the outskirts of Helsinki. Both companies are focused on compliance with all social and environmental responsibility principles in the various countries in which it operate, which is essential for ensuring sustainable and efficient business development.

Fazer is one of the biggest bakery companies in Russia.



The agenda included meeings with environmental experts from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), which is both a research institute and a centre for environmental expertise, and with civil society organisations, which work in the environment protection area. Two of them, which the delegation visited, the John Nurminen Foundation and the Foundation for a Living Baltic Sea implement projects aimed at the reduction of eutrophication of the Baltic Sea and increase of the environmental awareness of its condition.


The last but not the least important topic covered during the trip was the use of solar energy as an alternative and fully renewable energy source generating zero emissions. The journalists visited the ‘NAPS Systems Oy’ company, which provides systems and services related to solar power, and has already done it in 50 countries. They learnt that if 0.015% of the globe is covered with solar panels, the world energy needs would be fully satisfied. Though in northern countries, such as Finland, the solar energy could account only for a small portion of energy production, it is still popular among private consumers. Journalists were taken to see an apartment house in one of Helsinki districts, where solar panels serve as balcony screens and allow the owners of the building to save electricity and to even supply the excess to the city network.



The building of the nuclear station and a wind engine nearby

Underground facilities of the heat pump plant in Helsinki

TV journalists interview a worker at a shop of Fazer enterprise

An apartment building with solar panels installed on its balconies