Openingstoespraak Taco Ruighaver

Openingstoespraak Taco Ruighaver op doenderdag 22 maart 2012:

Dear friends, partners, filmmakers, human rights defenders and colleagues,

Spring is in the air, so the Movies that Matter butterflies fly out again, bringing you the best of over thousand films we’ve seen this year.

Please allow me to start of with a lot of thank you’s. We certainly cannot take the support of so many people and organisation for granted. Thank you all for coming, especially our guests who travelled far to present their film, to be in a jury, or to contribute to the debates, the workshops or the pitches. Thank you to all those other hands that helped: moderators, volunteers and supporting partners. And thanks to all you who made this festival possible through your funding and cooperation.

You have just seen our essential partners on the screen. Allow me to mention in particular Amnesty International, the municipality of The Hague and the vfonds. And finally, the men and women that matter to me very, very much: my wonderful, hardworking and cheerful team members. Without you this festival would be a mess instead of a firm, fast-growing event. Please give them a hand, they deserve it…!

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s been a turbulent year since we met. In the newspapers and on television we’ve been flooded with crises, conflicts and violence. Daily news items are short, loud and instant, and often forgotten as soon as the next crisis occurs.

Who’s reporting about the gay activist Sergei Yenin from Belarus whose leader claims to rather be a dictator than a homosexual?

Where is the story of Houda al-Habash, the female director of an Islamic school in Syria that emancipates teenage girls by encouraging them to interpret ate the Koran themselves?

What about Noha El Ostaz, the first Egyptian woman that dared to accuse a man for sexual harassment?  And what about Geodry, Ragip and Alain –whom you get to know tonight– who have been deported from Switzerland, the country that has the strictest immigration laws in Europe.

Unless of course your name is Harry Belafonte, Ai Weiwei or Aung San Suu Kyi the voice of those who strive to better this world is pretty weak. Fortunately the filmmakers of this festival zoom in; they are the megaphones, the binoculars that magnify the face in the crowd, the voice of the marginalised. By raising the voices of both the powerless ánd the powerful, their cinema not only brings us remarkable stories and entertainment, it also brings new understandings, insights, possibilities for change and questions – especially this: a lot of questions! Because that’s exactly what art does. And that’s what makes art too valuable too economize on.

So, sit back, enjoy the art, gain knowledge and ask questions at this celebration of human rights called Movies that Matter Festival. A celebration that includes: four world premieres twenty-five Dutch premieres the best of documentary festival IDFA, a special programme on the role of women in the Arabic spring exhibitions, a symposium, the workshop programme Cinema without Borders for those who want to set up human rights film events elsewhere in the world, the launch of a new fund for gay activists the presentation of a new album with gypsy music, and lots of live music. Our broadcast partner VARA will show a selection of  films on Dutch Television. And you will see a lot of school kids in our theatres.

A new part of the festival is The Good Pitch Squared, a live matchmaking and networking event for professionals bringing together decision makers from the film industry, media, funds and civil-society organisations to form powerful alliances around seven selected documentary film projects. It aims to find funding for these films and especially to ensure that these films have an optimal impact on society by the development of effective outreach campaigns.

As the mayor just stated The Hague has always been an open city and so it has always attracted freethinkers, scientists, non-conformist activists and artists. And so does the festival.  Some of the prominent guests that will appear in the debates and talk shows are Mrs. Sekaggya, Ilya Yashin - one the main opposition leaders from Russia and Sharmeen Aboid Chinnoy and Daniel Junge who recently won an Oscar for best short documentary and who present their film Saving Face both at the festival and The Good Pitch.

Unfortunately we can’t add people like Liu Xiaobo and Ai Weiwei, two other well-known thorns in a government’s flesh, to our list of festival guests…

Last February the International Film Festival Rotterdam presented films by Ai Weiwei. Here in The Hague we  proudly present the Dutch première of a new documentary about the famous Chinese artist and dissident and gallery GEMAK presents a special interactive exhibition about his work. For Ai Weiwei, creating art and resisting injustice are one and the same. In honour of the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, he produced the video series Fuck You Motherland. In tribute to Ai Weiwei and all other individual, wise and provocative non-conformists, I will be wearing this button throughout the festival.                        

So don’t worry…. it’s nothing personal.

Enjoy the festival. Thank you.