Politics and programming practices at human rights film festivals: a study of Document Human Rights Film Festival

Colta, Alexandra-Maria (2019) Politics and programming practices at human rights film festivals: a study of Document Human Rights Film Festival. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis focuses on the function, programming practices, politics and activism of human rights film festivals, using Document Human Rights Film Festival in Glasgow as a case study. It is a study of how human rights film festivals, in general, and Document in particular, contribute to human rights culture through programming films and off-screen events. This thesis produces both a historical and a contemporary account of the human rights film festival landscape, illustrating the practices of networking and solidarity employed towards common human rights principles. The longitudinal study of Document traces the festival’s development from its community-oriented origins to a professional arts organisation. This thesis argues that human rights are not fixed but interpreted and implemented in different ways. Using the theoretical framework of the cultural intermediary, it reveals how human rights film festivals evolved and interpreted human rights discourses and how they became the main entities through which human rights cinema is exhibited to the public.

This thesis reveals the influence of three main factors when analysing film festivals: temporality, locality and stakeholders. Therefore, this thesis examines the politics of space, time and the people who work to make festivals happen. It contributes to the developing field of film festival research in that it is (1) the first study of Document, (2) it adds to our understanding of the particular role of human rights film festivals and (3) it provides a new methodological framework for a collaborative, applied research of a film festival. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, including ethnography, this thesis offers a nuanced understanding of the function and operation of a festival within broader contexts of cultural policy and societal change. As such, this thesis produces the first and only history of Document, revealing how it created a niche for itself and how it constantly renewed its identity in order to maintain relevance. Exploring the festival’s contemporary practices of programming, this study identifies ten primary curatorial criteria used in the selection of documentary films on human rights topics. This research also uncovers the creativity and the labour involved in this process, arguing that the precarity and the emotion provoked by watching images of suffering are important influencing factors. This thesis explores the role of off-screen events at the festival and the potential for encouraging activism. As this thesis argues, activism can take many forms and nuances, and Document enacts a form of cultural activism by using cinephilia strategically.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: human rights, film festivals, documentary, ethnography
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > Theatre Film and TV Studies
Supervisor's Name: Archibald, Mr David, Torchin, Ms Leshu and Velez-Serna, Ms Maria Antonia
Date of Award: 2019
Embargo Date: 16 June 2023
Depositing User: Ms Alexandra Colta
Unique ID: glathesis:2019-81455
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Jun 2020 15:53
Last Modified: 16 Jun 2020 15:53
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81455

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