Film and Human Rights - Our Take on HRAFF 2016

(Originally posted on 20 May, 2016)

It’s a buzzing time to be in Sydney this week with the Sydney Writers Festival bringing authors, filmmakers and storytellers to our city. Lucky for us, the fun won’t end with Sunday as next week sees the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival make its way up here from Melbourne. Headed by the idea that film, art and music can bring about social change, HRAFF has curated a truly excellent array of talent and stories from around the world. Melbourne dwellers are fortunate to experience the festival in its full form, but we’ll still get a pretty great taste with five features and a selection of shorts held over the coming week at Dendy Newtown. Here’s our take on HRAFF 2016 - Films for Social Justice. Tickets are selling fast, so make sure you get in and set your eyeballs on some quality and important films.

Here's our take on each of the films featured this week:

Chasing Asylum (sold out)- Tues 24th May


Chasing Asylum facebook:


Aussie Director Eva Orner’s latest film shows us the true human cost of our harsh asylum seeking and detention policies. Using news clips, talking heads and secretly recorded unseen footage, it’s easy to see how it’s described as ‘the film the Australian government doesn’t want you to see’. Orner throws herself into her stories, danger and all, as she proved by winning the Academy Award for Best Documentary with her 2008 film Taxi to the Dark Side which examined US torture practices in the Middle East, and her new film is no different. Perhaps one of the most important Australian films of the year, this is not one to miss. The HRAFF screening has sold out, but lucky for us it’s also hitting cinemas this week.   


They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile - Weds 25th May



Johanna on Vimeo:

In 2012, Islamic extremists took over most of Northern Mali and enforced a ban on music. Johanna Schwartz jumped straight on a plane to tell the story of four musicians who refused to put their instruments down and continue throwing gigs from refugee camps and making music in exile despite home raids and death threats. An incredible story with a soundtrack to match, Schwartz’s film provides an alternative to the recounts of Al Qaeda’s activities in Mali more commonly heard.  


Prison Songs - Thurs 26th May


The Northern Territory’s Berrimah Prison has had a controversial history - though initially opened to hold 115 prisoners, by the time it closed in 2014 it was holding 800, the majority of whom were Indigenous. Alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence are recurring themes with the inmates, but their individual stories, fears, faults and experiences shine through a program of hip-hop, gospel, blues and reggae. Director Kelrick Martin brings these stories to the world in Australia’s first ever musical documentary. This film has racked up a well-deserved share of awards in the festival circuit including the Walkley Documentary Award, Best Humanitarian Film at the BANFF Media Festival and five AACTAs.


International Shorts - Friday 27th May

We love a short films at Freshflix, and froth at any chance to see talent from around the world. This excellent curation will introduce you to a talented crew of filmmakers bravely sharing stories from usually unheard voices. From the tale of a refugee shipwreck told by the only survivor to the experience of troubled teen girls in Paris, this is a perfect way to drink in the essence of HRAFF in a night.


Land Grabbing - Sat 28th May


Film website:

After the 2008 financial crisis, the world saw a huge spike in land acquisitions for valuable  and profitable resources like palm oil and soy beans. As a result we are losing billions of hectares of farmland every year to soil sealing, a practice that is impacting climate, biodiversity and environment, and dispossessing farmers globally.  Austria’s Kurt Langbein takes us through Romania, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Indonesia to tell both sides of the story in this contentious issue.


The Bad Kids - Sat 28th May



Black Rock Continuation High School is the last chance for ‘bad kids’ in an impoverished community in California’s Mojave Desert. Filmmakers Keith Fulton and Luis Pepe follow three students for a year under the guidance of an extraordinary principal who believes that love, empathy and life skills can give these kids the chance they deserve. Through non-obtrusive observational documentary we meet a young father struggling to support his family, an angry man from an unstable home and a young woman struggling with sexual abuse. This film took home the US Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking at Sundance this year.

P.S. - If you dig HRAFF and are looking for other ways to support independent film, we'd love to see you at our next Freshflix event!  Seats are limited and events are announced on short notice. Save yourself a spot now.

Post by Jess Hamilton