The Kenyan documentary SOFTIE by director Sam Soko about the political activist Boniface Mwangi and his wife Njeri Mwangi was awarded the Willy Brandt Documentary Award for Freedom and Human Rights at the Human Rights Film Festival Berlin (HRFFB). The Belarusian opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya received the Honorary Award for Peace and Democracy.
"At a time when democracy is threatened in many countries around the world, it is extremely important to address this fact, as director Sam Soko did in his outstanding film SOFTIE. The fight of its protagonists for democracy reflects the spirit of Willy Brandt's life and political work," the jury said in its statement. The film SOFTIE portrays the photographer and activist Boniface Mwangi and his wife Njeri. Determined to put an end to political corruption, he stands as a candidate in a regional election in Kenya - thereby risking his family safety.
"Sam Soko created an extraordinary work of filmmaking about people caught between personal convictions and values, and threats to their own as well as their family’s lives. Up to the last shot, the film illustrates the importance of the decision to stand up for democracy," said historian Professor Peter Brandt in his laudation. The son of Willy Brandt is a member of the board of trustees of the Federal Chancellor Willy Brandt Foundation, which donated the prize.
The audience award went to the film MAXIMA. "This impressive film shows the struggle of Máxima Acuña against an international mining company - David against Goliath. Máxima manages to save the land of her ancestors from destruction. An inspiring story that shows what a single person can do," says Anna Ramskogler-Witt, Director of the HRFFB.
"What runs like a red line through our entire program this year is the special importance of women in all areas - in the fight against hunger, in resisting the interests of over-powerful corporations, and in tirelessly working for justice. We are all looking at the non-violent protest movement in Belarus. It is women who have shaped this movement. A symbolic figure in this fight for democracy and civil rights is the Belarusian opposition politician Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, whom we are awarding the Honorary Prize for Peace and Democracy today," said Jan Sebastian Friedrich-Rust, managing director of Aktion gegen den Hunger and initiator of the Human Rights Film Festival Berlin.
"Freedom is something we must fight for. This is what the people in my country are doing right now. This prize is not for me, it is for all citizens of Belarus," said Svetlana Tikhanovskaya in her video statement. The prize was handed over by Bettina Jarasch, member of the Berlin House of Representatives.