HRAFF Film Review – International Shorts

By Holly Kendall

The International Shorts program showing as part of the 2012 Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF) is a kaleidoscope of the human experience. Each short film frames the next, taking viewers on a journey that explores the similarities and differences in human rights issues that individuals around the world are struggling with every day.

Sinema Leo (Christiane Buchmann & Frank Schumacher, Germany, 2010) introduces us to a Tanzanian cinefile. He takes films to the villages of Tanzania, just as HRAFF is bringing the stories of the world to Australia.

Still image from "Sinema Leo"

We are then introduced to a young woman in Tehran in The Wind is Blowing on My Street (Saba Riazi, USA, 2010). It is a grey day. We look through the rain-stained windows of a cab. Our heroine runs through streets and a stairwell until she reaches her apartment. She receives a message to check the mailbox. The jubilation she expresses on retrieving her mail quickly turns to terror as she realises she has been locked out of her home without her headscarf.

For the next 12 minutes we are given true insight into the fear of a woman living in a society, influenced by misogynous attitudes, that places strict social rules on women. So too do we become privy to the social transformation that is occurring. The lead actress is known only as “anonymous”, serving as an accent to the film’s messages.

Still image from "The Wind is Blowing on My Street"

The viewer is then taken in transit through the manifestations of childhood imagination in Corridor (Isazaly Mohamed Isa, Singapore, 2010).

Lulled into the comfort of childhood we continue to Beirut, 7 August 2006. Two children have found a cat in Short Memory (Marwan Khneisser, Lebanon, 2010). The war on the television; refugees living in corridors; and overheard arguments form a stark backdrop as the children plot and plan how to keep the cat a secret from their parents – and then the war hits home.

The program continues to show us the destruction we can inflict on each other through Barking Island (Serge Avedikian, France, 2010). A sombrely painted scene develops into what has been touted as a political allegory on the dangers of racial profiling. Personally, I thought the film was about dogs. The audience is nevertheless left devastated.

Still image from "Barking Island"

The viewer enters a similarly sombre but ultra-modern Norwegian living room in Baldguy (Maria Bock, Norway, 2011). A father sits in the corner reading the paper as a mother flits and fusses waiting for her son, who comes home to declare he has “kissed a short, bald guy”. Viewers will know by the end of this film that a short, bald guy is known as a “skallamann” in Norwegian. If I could find a skallamann like his, I would kiss him too!

As the audience’s likely giggles subside, we are introduced to the women of Lady Razorbacks (Laura Green, USA, 2010). They are a team of female Fijian, Samoan and Tongan rugby players who have found themselves, their identity and their strength of community through playing rugby. As a netball player that was once described by her own mother as “not looking out of place on a rugby field”, I was struck by the honesty of this film and its characters when one player declared: “at home I’m a girl, on the field you are free”.

The ridiculousness of gender stereotyping is brought into even starker relief in Mila Caos (Simon Jaikiriuma Paetau, Cuba, Germany, 2011). This is the story of a young Cuban drag queen. He is not comfortable bragging about his conquests as his peers do and is attempting to find his mother’s acceptance.

Still image from "Mila Caos"

Each film introduces the audience to a different story; to different individuals who are looking for the same fundamental but intangible thing that every one of us seeks – to be loved and accepted for who we are.

The International Shorts program has so far screened at the Melbourne and Sydney Human Rights Arts and Film Festival. This review was written following the Sydney screening.

The film is also showing:

On Friday 8 June 2012 at 7pm, at Brisbane’s Tribal Cinema. To purchase tickets, click here.

On Saturday 9 June 2012 at 7pm, at Alice Springs’ Pop Cinema, Olive Pink Botanical Gardens. To purchase tickets, click here.

On Thursday 14 June 2012 at 7pm, at Byron Bay’s Pighouse Flicks. To purchase tickets, click here.

For more on our coverage of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival, click here.

To visit the HRAFF website, click here.


Review – Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia

By Georgia Cerni

Sophie Cousins’ book Renewal: Five Paths to a Fairer Australia is, in many respects, a proposal. For Cousins, the COVID-19 pandemic has provided Australians with an opportunity to reconsider the ways our society currently functions. Cousins aptly makes her case – while in some ways the pandemic reinforced burgeoning inequalities, it also presented us the chance to apply collectivist values to solve systemic problems.