Right Now’s Top 10 HRAFF 2015 Picks

By Multiple authors

The Right Now team got busy watching some of the incredible films that will be screening as part of the 2015 Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF). It was hard to narrow down to 10, but below are Right Now’s picks.

I Will Not Be Silenced | Judy Rymer

Film review by Donna Lu

HRAFF opening night film I Will Not Be Silenced is a documentary that follows Australian woman Charlotte Campbell-Steven in the aftermath of her horrific gang rape in eastern Kenya.

Campbell-Steven’s pursuit of justice culminates in a lengthy and highly publicised seven-year legal battle due to the rare occurrence of Kenyan rape victims coming forward. Due to the fact that perpetrators often include General Service Unit soldiers and policemen themselves, reporting a rape to the authorities is a futile exercise for many women.

Campbell-Steven’s case marks one of the first times a rape victim in Kenya has testified in open court. Driven by a sense of outrage at the rifeness of sexual violence and the fact that rape remains a taboo topic in Kenya, Campbell-Steven tirelessly campaigns for societal change, even in the face of threats to her life.

The film is a moving account of one woman’s fight for both personal justice and sexual rights for Kenyan girls and women. Her indomitable advocacy empowers marginalised Kenyan women, and more broadly women everywhere, to make themselves heard.

Difret | Zarerenay Mehari

Around 14 million girls are married before the age of 18 each year – equivalent to 38,000 girls every day or one girl every three seconds. Zeroing in on the old Ethiopian practice of forced marriage that still takes place in rural parts of the country, Difret tells the true story of 14-year-old Hirut who finds herself at the centre of an outrage after she accidentally shoots her would-be husband and abductor.

Aided by lawyer Meaza Ashenafi, the two find themselves at the forefront of the women’s rights movement in Ethiopia as they fight for justice and make a stand against the “aggressively rooted patriarchy” entrenched in the system. This powerful film won Audience Awards at both the Sundance and Berlin International Film Festivals.

Pervert Park | Frida Barkfors and Lasse Barkfors

Film review by Sam Ryan

If you believe in human rights, you have to be prepared to defend those of people whose actions infringe on the rights of others.

There will be many confronting films at HRAFF 2015, but Pervert Park is uncomfortable because it forces the viewer to empathise with some of society’s most unwanted – sex offenders.

Frida and Lasse Barkfors’ documentary takes place entirely within the Florida Justice Transitions trailer park, home to over 100 convicted sex offenders who can’t find lodging elsewhere because of their criminal record.

The intertwined, unfolding stories of a diverse range of offenders in the park fly in the face of common preconceptions. They are male and female, young and old, educated and disadvantaged; the one common thread seems to be a want for personal improvement.

Of course, we do meet only a selection of the park’s occupants, but with a recidivism rate of less than one per cent (the national rate for sex offenders in the US is five per cent), the park seems to be doing something right. This may be treating the inhabitants like humans.

The film deftly handles the swinging emotions invoked by stories that can simultaneously invoke disgust and sympathy. It is a difficult watch at times, but consistently fascinating, challenging and thought-provoking.

Sumé: The Sound of a Revolution | Inuk Silis Høegh

Film review by Samantha Jones

Set in 1973, Sumé: The Sound of a Revolution documents the conflict between two clashing cultures and the power of music. Sumé was the first rock band to sing in Greenlandic, penning poetic protest songs about social and political issues that Greenland was experiencing at the time, and ultimately acting as a catalyst for Greenland’s eventual independence from Danish colonial rule.

Sumé’s music provided a voice to the frustrations of the indigenous nation. Malik (songwriter and founder of Sumé) felt disenfranchised by the Danish government’s closure of the Greenlandic coal-mining town of Qullissat. The namesake song Qullissat was a response to this, with the lyric “money is in power, it controls the authorities”.

In light of what is currently happening in Australia, with closures of 100 indigenous Western Australian communities, this documentary shows how sadly timeless these songs are. Sumé’s other songs that mirrored present-day human rights struggles were Takornartaq (The Stranger) with the lyrics “what can you do when you’re oppressed?”, and Qanoqinuuguit (However You Live) protesting “if we remain silent there will be nothing left”.

Sumé: The Sound of a Revolution is an engaging documentary that leaves you feeling empowered.

Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story | Grant Baldwin

Film review by Christopher Ringrose

You may be aware of the quantities of food wasted in developed countries, but this excellent documentary, by turns charming and shocking, will move the issue to the front of your consciousness.

It argues that 40 per cent of what is grown in the developed world is never eaten, and suggests ways of addressing this appalling phenomenon, which has far-reaching consequences for the rights of the world’s poorest.

It holds out hope for a revolution in “citizen morality”, while noting the ways we can change our own habits, to promote a new sense of the value of food.

The documentary is pegged on to a Canadian couple that set out to exist for six months on only “discarded” food – even if this means climbing into dumpsters by torchlight. Their story is woven into investigations of abundance, consumption, supermarkets, 21st-century “gleaners”, sell-by dates and the absurd aesthetic demands on growers. It’s visually stunning, with shots of swimming pool-sized dumpsters full of out-of-date hummus, and gargantuan vats of pigswill generated by what Las Vegas tourists leave on their plates.

It features charismatic and articulate experts in food economics, a great musical soundtrack, dazzling picture quality, and mixes the homely and the surreal. It holds out hope for a revolution in “citizen morality”, while noting the ways we can change our own habits, to promote a new sense of the value of food.

Marmato | Mark Grieco

Film review by Samantha Jones

A spotlight event at HRAFF 2015, Marmato takes viewers into the heart and homes of the locals living in Marmato, a village situated atop a Colombian mountain with one of the world’s last great gold reserves. It documents the ongoing battle the community has faced to keep a Canadian mining company from leveling the mountain, taking with it 500 years of cultural heritage and leaving its 8,000 people displaced.

Filmed over six years, the documentary highlights the complexity of economic development and the cost to traditions and communities. It also humanises the reality of living with limited options and uncertainty. Combined with the looming threat of tearing the mountain down and the community apart, Marmato was and is already at risk of collapsing  due to the traditional mining being undertaken. These confronting and conflicting elements make the documentary so compelling.

Marmato is a visually stunning documentary that shares the resilience and resistance of a small town against a corporation; an all too familiar battle of money versus the environment and community.

Evaporating Borders | Iva Radivojevic

Drawing many parallels with the situation Australia currently finds itself in, Evaporating Borders depicts Cyprus’s struggle with refugee settlement. As one of the easiest entry points into the European Union, Cyprus is a popular and convenient final destination for refugees escaping from countries around the Mediterranean.

However, the influx of asylum seekers isn’t entirely welcomed by native Cypriots. An activist and exile from Iraq is denied asylum within 15 minutes; neo-nazi fundamentalists roam the streets in an attack on Muslim migrants; activists and academics organise an antifascist rally and clash with the neo-nazis; and 195 migrants drown in the Mediterranean.  This situation is mirrored in parts in Australia, with the privileged majority often looking to politicians for ways to “stop the boats”.

Directed by a Yugoslavian refugee who found asylum in Cyprus, the film uses a series of vignettes to delve into the antipathy and aggression towards the new citizens and what havoc it is wreaking on to an already divided nation.

1971 | Johanna Hamilton

In a similar vein to the HRAFF film fundraiser earlier this year that screened Edward Snowden’s biopic Citizenfour, 1971 tells of how a group known as the ‘Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI’ broke into an FBI bureau in Pennsylvania and stole every file. These files eventually made their way into the hands of journalists, causing a storm as they revealed that the Bureau was deliberately and illegally spying on their citizens.

Partaking in a broader commentary on America’s long – and unlawful – history of surveillance, and borrowing from previous HRAFF highlights such as 2014’s The Internet’s Own Boy, 1971 provides important context in a time when men and women are still persecuted for exposing the truth of their government’s operations.

ThuleTuvalu | Matthias von Gunten

Film review by Heath Chamerski

The absorbing, beautifully shot documentary ThuleTuvalu introduces viewers to the entwined plights of two small communities at opposite ends of the Earth; both directly impacted by the effects of catastrophic climate change.

Viewers journey first to Greenland’s Qaanaaq, formerly known as Thule, where melting icesheets will have concomitant effects on the sea levels of the low-lying Polynesian nation of Tuvalu.

By introducing viewers to those at the forefront of the climate change disaster, the documentary humanises the serious plight; there is a tragic element in how they seem resigned to a dire fate with no hope of salvation.

Much of the film is spent following the communities’ daily routines and customs, such as following the Inuit hunters at sea, and seeing the ways in which the Tuvaluan people source precious drinking water and other provisions.

By bestowing both a face and voice to two virtually unnoticed specks on the world map, von Gunten has crafted a quietly powerful picture of the uncertain future both regions face due to climate change.

The Ground Beneath Their Feet | Nausheen Dadabhoy

Film review by Samaya Borom

On the morning of 8 October, 2005, Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir suffered an earthquake which killed 82 thousand people, injured a further 100 thousand and rendered 3.5 million people homeless. Nausheen Dadabhoy’s The Ground Beneath Their Feet follows the story of two women who suffered spinal injuries and who must learn to deal with their injuries as well as social expectations around the role of women in Pakistani society.

Ruqiya and Khalida are two women who were injured in the quake and are forced to re-evaluate their position in society which revolves around defined gender roles. The film follows the the women over a period of five years, from the rehabilitation hospital to returning home to villages and the challenge they face in terms of mobility and acceptance around their disability.

The Ground Beneath Their Feet is an intimate look into the complexities around disability and how this affects gendered roles within established Muslim communities. The documentary will appeal to those viewers interested in the intersection between culture and disability, in particular how familial and social mechanisms can impact upon the way in which a community deals with disaster and disability.

HRAFF 2015 is from 7—21 May. Click here to view the full program. What are you looking forward to seeing at HRAFF? Tell us in the comments!


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.