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Human Rights Arts and Film Festival 2012

Gayertree Subramaniam

Wed May 16 2012

Human Rights Arts and Film Festival

UNDERSTAND the issues of human rights through creative expressions in film, art, music and forums at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival.

THE issue of human rights can be a complex minefield to navigate, and has, more often than not, been presented as depressing indignant lectures about something we can do little to affect.

But the 2012 Human Rights Arts and Film Festival has attempted to reinvigorate interest with a very different slant.

The festival aims to use the power of the arts to unify and mobilise audiences in their approach to human rights. In its fifth year running, it brings to the Australian screen extraordinary stories of people and communities from across the globe.

The festival opened yesterday at the Forum Theatre with the screening of the highly anticipated documentary Under African Skies by award-winning filmmaker Joe Berlinger, who pays homage to the role of artists during the Apartheid in South Africa.

Festival director Matthew Benetti said by fusing creative expression with human rights content, he hopes the mix of films, art, music and forums will “inform, fascinate and initiate debate”.

“This year’s film program offers some incredible stories, including a president fighting for his nation’s existence and a legendary musician’s personal confrontation with his questionable past,” Benetti said.


With 15 Australian premieres, film highlights include award-winning documentary At Night They Dance, which sheds light on the chaotic world of Egyptian belly dancers working in downtown Cairo;  the animated feature film Wrinklesabout Emilio, who, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, is sent by his son to live in an aged-care facility; Beer is Cheaper Than Therapy – a poignant documentary which examines the psychological distress suffered by numerous soldierss; and Australian feature film Fantome Island about Joe Eggmolesse, who at the age of seven was taken from his family and sent to a leprosarium on Fantome Island off the Queensland coast. Many years later, he returns to confront the memory of his childhood to pay tribute to those who lived and died there and to inscribe his own unique story into official Australian history.

A number of film screenings will be accompanied by Q&As.

A selection of eight Australian shorts will also be screened, including Telegram Man, which explores the impact of war on a close-knit community, and Carmen Rupe, which documents the life and times of a much loved transgendered icon.

The festival will close with Jon Shenk’s The Island President – the story of former president Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives, a man confronting a problem greater than any other world leader has ever faced. Having brought democracy to the Maldives after thirty years of despotic rule, Nasheed was faced with an even greater challenge – as one of the most low-lying countries in the world, a rise of three feet in sea level would submerge the 1200 islands of the Maldives enough to make them uninhabitable.

If music is more your thing, lose all abandon and surrender yourself to the seductive sounds and bold beats from the world over, at the HRAFF Rhythm & Rights event, at Abbotsford Convent.

The art exhibition, Echoes of Others: Illuminating the Gaps Amid Translationis also very relevant in this digital age, as it explores how the translation of information affects our responses to human rights and global issues.

The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival is on till Sunday 27 May 27. For more information as well as to purchase tickets, visit the HRAFF website.