Social Institute of Film

  • Warsaw



Przanowskiego 4/44

About Us

Social Institute of Film was founded in 2005 to support socially engaged documentary film from Central and Eastern Europe. Its main project is WATCH DOCS International Film Festival.

"WATCH DOCS. Human Rights in Film" is one of the oldest and largest human rights film festivals in the world, which annually gathers several dosen thousand viewers in the whole country.

Films do not overthrow inhumane regimes. Only rarely do they influence the course of history. Nevertheless, films are one of the most important factors shaping our conceptions, understanding, and views. The concept of human rights also shapes our conception, understanding, and views on how the social world should look like. To some extent (too small, in our opinion) human rights also shape the social world itself. Through films, human rights cease being merely abstract concepts. By portraying people’s actual lives with their struggles to take advantage of rights or confronting violations, films give human rights authentic substance and a human face.

Documentary films are especially well suited in this respect. They have the power of testimonial and unique impact as they are received as candid representation of reality. WATCH DOCS harnesses this strength, exposing viewers to their own immediate and more distant contexts from the angle of human rights. We want viewers to see and feel these rights as something important and common. We want to influence conceptions, knowledge, sensitivity, and, ultimately, attitudes.

Information (and its context) is a powerful force in the contemporary world – and people have the right to know. To further this right, WATCH DOCS constructs contexts which we deem important. For documentary film, debate, meetings, and social activism under the civil society umbrella provide an excellent context - it is enough to read the programming manifestos of documentary classics or statements of the genre’s eminent representatives of today. WATCH DOCS builds this context by combining the most poignant documentaries with discussions involving filmmakers and their subjects, NGO activists, experts, journalists, and politicians.

WATCH DOCS does not stifle controversy. Though we have our opinions, we do not pretend to have answers to all human rights-related issues. Quite the opposite, we expose these controversies because we want WATCH DOCS to be a place of authentic debate. We use film as a means, but do not engage in propaganda. Going further, propagandistic abuse of persuasion is one of our permanent themes. Instead of journalism, we prefer a more cinematic approach, offering more acute perspective, deeper, genuine emotions, and less simplifications