One regional theme and six thematic routes map their way across the various programme elements. These themes are Coming of Age, Delete Control, Maghreb, On the Move, LGBT, Save Our Spring and Women Voices.
Coming of Age, as the title suggests, is a series of feature films about children and young people and their development, generally focusing on the pursuit of their dreams. One example is the tale of the young homeless brothers Dana and Zana in the touching and funny road movie Bekas, crossing the dusty landscape of Iraq on their donkey, Michael Jackson, on their way to America, where they plan to live with their biggest hero: Superman. Other films in this thematic route include: Les Chevaux de Dieu, Children of Sarajevo, Kinshasa Kids, My Brother the Devil, Nairobi Half Life, Tall as the Baobab Tree and Wadjda. Coming of Age is a series about the strength, courage, resilience and perseverance of young people growing up in complicated circumstances who refuse to let their spirit be broken.
Esc Ctrl. How far does the right to information extend? Can censorship sometimes be warranted in order to safeguard stability? Esc Ctrl addresses journalistic dilemmas, such as the obligation to share information versus the importance of protecting witnesses and sources. The theme screens documentaries on blogging activists (Forbidden Voices and High Tech, Low Life) and Wikileaks: Secrets and Lies, a unique portrait of controversial Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the rise and fall of the biggest whistleblowers’ platform in modern history.
Maghreb refers to the northwestern region of Africa. Strictly speaking, it encompasses Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya. Films in this theme include The Repentant, an exciting feature film about Rachid, a young fighter who wants to use the Algerian amnesty for jihadis. Rouge Parole is a poetic documentary about reclaimed freedom in Tunisia, while Tea or Electricity tells the epic tale of how electricity came to an isolated Moroccan village in the Atlas Mountains. In Sons of the Clouds we see actor Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men, Biutiful) working to garner global awareness of the forgotten fight of the Sahrawi, one of the indigenous peoples living in the Western Sahara. Some live in exile in the desert, while others are repressed by Moroccan authorities. Bardem has tentatively announced that he will be coming to The Hague, but is not yet able to confirm that he’ll be able to make it due to his busy schedule and many film plans.
Sons of the Clouds could also be considered part of the thematic route On the Move, about refugees and migration. The same applies to the sarcastically comic Le Havre, an optimistic fairytale by Aki Kaurismäki, which is screened in the Harvest programme. Exit is a new Dutch TV film by Boris Paval Conen (Vuurzee, First Mission), based on an idea proposed by his brother, Romijn Paval Conen, who also stars in the film. Exit is about the hard, cold reality of deportation policies, in which a night-time confrontation between Dutch police officers and asylum-seekers whose applications have been denied ends in a pitched battle. Based on a true story, Exit will also be broadcast on Dutch TV during the festival.
The position of gays, lesbians and transgenders in widely diverse parts of the world is addressed in four LGBT festival films. One of those is a documentary film, Call Me Kuchu, about gay rights activists in Uganda. The others are about a transgender in Iran (Facing Mirrors), the relationship between Nimr, a psychology student from Ramallah, and his lover Roy, an Israeli lawyer (Out in the Dark), and the major award-winning coming of age film about Egyptian brothers Mo and Rashid growing up in the gangland streets of London’s Hackney area (My Brother the Devil).
LGBT is a catchall term used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
The Arab Spring is stretching into an unusually long season. In the Save Our Spring theme, the festival will be screening documentaries on the situation in Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Tunisia, with a Saturday afternoon debate in the lobby of Theater aan het Spui on 23 March.
The festival will also be hosting Top Goon, the satirical puppet show from Syria, as well as displaying work by cartoonist Ali Farzat, whose hands were broken by Syrian security forces. Farzat was awarded the Sacharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.
One of the eight films in the thematic route on Women´s Voices takes place in The Hague. De Sekspolitie (The Sex Police) offers a unique glimpse into the day-to-day life of John, a police detective in The Hague, and his thankless war on illegal prostitution and human trafficking. Another Dutch film in this thematic route is Bahar, by Carin Goeijers, which will have its world première at the festival. The ‘feel-good movie’ Wadjda, about an independent and self-willed little girl who wants to ride a bike ‘just like the boys’, won the audience appreciation award at the IFFR film festival in Rotterdam. Wadjda is the first feature film ever made in Saudi Arabia, directed by the country’s first woman filmmaker, Haifaa Al-Mansour.