Eva Orner’s Chasing Asylum to open Human Rights Arts and Film Festival

10 April, 2016 by Staff Writer

Eva Orner's Chasing Asylum.


The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival has unveiled its full 2016 program, featuring 31 feature films and 25 shorts.

The festival will open with the Australian premiere of Eva Orner's offshore-detention documentary Chasing Asylum, fresh off its Hot Docs international premiere.

Also featured is Michael Graversen's Dreaming of Denmark, which follows a teenager who has spent his adolescent years in Denmark after fleeing his native country of Afghanistan. 

The festival will close with the Australian premiere of Sundance award-winner The Bad Kids, an immersive dive into America’s most pressing education problem: poverty. 

Another highlight is documentary They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile, which follows various musicians in Mali in the wake of a jihadist takeover and subsequent banning of music in the region. The film features Damon Albarn (Blur), Brian Eno and Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and the band Songhoy Blues.

Prison Songs, Australia’s first-ever musical documentary, shares the stories of the inmates of the notorious Berrimah Prison in Northern Territory through the songs they helped create. 

First-time filmmaker Nanfu Wang's Hooligan Sparrow follows human-rights activist Ye Haiyan as she seeks justice for six elementary school girls who have been sexually abused by their principal. 

Beats of the Antonov, winner of the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, paints a vivid portrait of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains people while also depicting stories of survival in the face of a prolonged civil war.

This year’s arts program will feature the works of renowned artist Alex Seton in Someone Else’s Problem, a sculpture installation on the issue of asylum seekers, which will be accompanied by Seton’s immersive soundscape, Odyssey, presented at Dark Horse Experiment space. 

And for the first time ever, the festival sets foot in Footscray for HRAFF Goes West, which will include Seeking Refuge, an afternoon of discussion presented in partnership with Footscray Community Arts Centre and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, showcasing the stories of our newest Australians; and May Day: Activism, a celebration of activism through a unique and conversational exhibition and event program. 

This year the festival also teams with Melbourne-based outfit Hear My Eyes, co-presenting a screening of Patricio Guzmán’s Berlinale Silver Bear-winning The Pearl Button with live score by local musician Mick Turner of The Dirty Three.

HRAFF will also join forces again with the Melbourne Cinémathèque to co-present three retrospective pieces that examinepostcolonialism through French New Wave and African heritage with the presentation of Ousmane Sembéne’s Black Girl and Borom Sarret, and Jean Rouch’s Petit á Petit.

Local emerging filmmaking talent will be showcased in the Australian Shorts session, including Nulla Nulla starring Wayne Blair and Khan Chittenden. This year’s festival will feature three International Shorts sessions, including two sessions themed around War + Conflict and Love + Intimacy, featuring the Academy Award-winner for Best Short Film (Live Action), Stutterer.

The CineSeeds program, designed to engage young audiences aged 5 – 18 with human rights issues through film and live performance, returns this year with two films: Ernest & Celestine and Girl Rising. Ernest & Celestine is a heart-warming animated tale of cross-cultural friendship narrated by Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Selena Gomez.

Other highlights include thriller The Stanford Prison Experiment, starring Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller and Thomas Mann and winner of the the 2015 Sundance best screenplay award, which explores abusive behavior in the prison system based on an experiment conducted in a simulated jail; and This Changes Everything, directed by journalist-filmmaker Avi Lewis and produced in conjunction with Naomi Klein’s best-selling book of the same name about the vast challenges of climate change.