The Human Rights Arts & Film Festival returns to Melbourne for its eighth year with an exciting and expanded lineup. Natalie Ng talks to programme director Malcolm Blaylock who shares his personal highlights of the festival.
Art and cinema have the distinct power to reach out to audiences and cross cultural barriers, confronting issues that may have been elusive to audiences previously. Now returning to Melbourne for its eighth year, the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF) once again aims to educate and actively engage audiences on a diverse range of human rights issues from all over the world.
The HRAFF programme this year will feature 31 films, a mixture of narratives and documentaries with 18 short films, 15 forums and five exhibitions.
Meld caught up with HRAFF’s programme director Malcolm Blaylock who was excited to share his personal picks from the festival’s highlight.
“The festival is unique because it is firstly both an arts and film festival so we have both visual artists and filmmakers showcasing their work, and secondly, it is focused around human rights, so we look at really important social issues that are currently present in society,” said Mr Blaylock.
Mr Blaylock believes that there is a film for everyone at the festival and hopes festival goers gain a different perspective and greater understanding of the key issues on showcase.
“Ideally, it would be great if after the films, people think about getting involved, and want to help solve these issues. We don’t expect that at all, so at the very least we hope people are educated.”
Although every film at the festival is considered to be worth a watch, Mr Blaylock has helped to narrow down the programme for Meld’s readers and festival goers alike who have who have limited time and funds.
I Will Not Be Silenced
The premiere of Australian documentary I Will Not be Silenced will open the festival. Mr Blaylock summarises this documentary as “amazing”.
Telling the powerful and shocking story of Australian Charlotte Campbell Stephen who, after being raped by a gang of men while living in Kenya in 2006, embarks on a seven year struggle through Kenya’s legal system. Through these seven years, she becomes involved in advocacy groups who help shed light on Nairobi’s rape culture and bring hope to its many rape victims.
Charlotte Campbell Stephen will also be present with director Judy Rymer for the screening and will be available for a Q&A session.
“We are very fortunate to have Ms Stephen with us. She is a woman of great courage and character,” said Mr Blaylock.
Mr Blaylock believes Ivory Tower is a film that will be of particular interest to Meld readers as esteemed documentarian Andrew Rossi investigates the student debt crisis in America in this eye opening documentary.
“Although this is an American film that deals with tertiary education in the US, it’s very relevant for Australians too. There is a very real problem that there are more and more students that will be unable to pay their student debts back in their lifetime. They have debt up to their eyes and it’s becoming the same in Australia.”
The Beekeeper follows Ibrahim Gezer, a Kurdish refugee now living in Switzerland who has a lifelong love of bees. Throughout his tumultuous life, he has always found peace with caring for bees.
Mr Blayock describes the film as “beautiful, and very gentle compared to most of the other films in the lineup that can be quite heavy”.
“It’s a very positive refugee story and it is also very relevant to Australia because of the refugee issue that we are currently facing.”
Of Men and War
Of Men and War confronts the horrors of post traumatic stress disorder in US combat veterans as the traumas they face on the battlefield come back to haunt them and affect the relationships they have with their loved ones.
Mr. Blaylock believes the film is particularly relevant to Australians in light of the recent spate of suicides of young sailors in the Royal Australian Navy.
“This is a gruelling film but well worth it. It is very dark, but there is also hope as the veterans are coming to terms with their trauma and attempt to lead normal lives for their families.”
Other HRAFF 2015 Highlights
In addition to the above films that audiences can look forward to, HRAFF’s arts programme will also feature exhibitions by contemporary artist Christian Thompson at the Capitol Arcade’s Fort Delta Gallery, and Rushdi Anwar whose installations will be presented at the No Vacancy Project Space at the Atrium in Federation Square.
HRAFF will also feature a pop-up screening of Los Hongos at the Bella Union. The use of street art to express a political message is the driving force of this film which helps make it unique and invigorating. Following the screening audience members can discuss street art, politics and self expression with some of Melbourne’s finest street artists like Michael Fikaris and ‘Kaff-eine‘.
This is just a selection of some of the films and events from this year’s HRAFF program. The Human Rights Arts & Film Festival kicks off on May 7 and finishes on May 21. Screenings will take place at ACMI and Bella Union while art exhibitons and events will take place at various locations. For more information, ticketing prices and venues, please visit the festival’s official website.