Filmmakers from 35 countries are in Geneva for the 16th North-South Media Festival. They are hoping to win one of the prestigious prizes awarded to reporters whose work leads to a better understanding of development issues.
Filmmakers from 35 countries are in Geneva to take part in the 16th North-South Media Festival. They are hoping to win one of the prestigious prizes awarded to reporters whose work leads to a better understanding of development issues.
The Geneva International Television Award, which was created in 1985, is open to television broadcasts by private or public networks. The sole condition needed to take part is that the films deal with relations between the North and South or the problems of development. There’s now also a highly-regarded prize for independent producers.
"We receive a lot of films, so there has to be a selection process," the festival coordinator, Anne Rist, told swissinfo. "We look for whether the message in the film is really important, how the subject has been treated and if the journalist’s research is really new or not."
The week-long festival has grown three-fold since its inception and now attracts five times as many people to its films. It has become an important forum for airing the concerns of the developing world, where journalists from around the globe can exchange ideas. That’s if they can make it to Geneva. In the past, competitors have been prevented by the governments from attending.
That may be because the festival has earned a reputation for tackling sensitive subjects. This year, the theme is being 20 in the year 2000, and some of the films reflect the problems of young people in developing countries. They deal with such issues as female genital mutilation in Senegal, child soldiers in Liberia, street children in Brazil and the effect of religious missionaries on Papua New Guinea.
Rist explains the thinking behind the decision: "In previous years, we noticed that many of the prize-winning films were about the problems of youth. We decided to make that the theme this year, because this is the future."
Rist and her colleagues are clearly hoping that this theme will attract a young audience. Entrance to many of the films is free, and screenings have been scheduled for the afternoons, so that students will have the chance to come along. Debates have also been organised to discuss the involvement of young people in politics and their relationship with tobacco.
Another innovation this year is the Swiss Prize for Radios of the South, which is being sponsored by Swiss Radio International. The thinking is that radio, more than television and newspapers, is the medium that has the greatest impact on the lives of people in the Third World. SRI says it wants to encourage these countries to produce quality reporting on issues that matter to them.
Other prizes on offer include: Prix de la Francophonie for the best French-language broadcast, the Pierre-Alain Donnier Award for the programme that best highlights the human dimension of development and a Youth Award. All these prizes, along with those in the main television and independents competitions will be awarded on Friday April 14, the last day of the festival.
The Swiss Prize for Radios of the South will be presented on Wednesday.
This year, the prestigious Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights - won in the past by the likes of Harry Wu and Clement Nwankwo - will be presented during the festival. The winner will receive the prize on Thursday from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson.
By Roy Probert
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