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Human Rights Arts & Film Festival 2016

Zoe Law

Thu Apr 28 2016


WITNESS stories from around the world that will inspire you into action at the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival, returning to Melbourne this May. Zoe Law shares her highlights from the festival. 


For its first stop of the festival’s national tour, the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF) will take place at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) from May 5 to 19.

HRAFF is a not-for-profit arts organisation that aims to explore diverse and inspiring human stories through the mediums of film, art, music and forums. Issues surrounding asylum seekers and refugees, Indigenous Australians, and women’s rights and more will be covered in the festival.

Special guest speakers at this year’s festival include former footballer and LGBTI advocate, Jason Ball, journalist and founder of Archer Magazine Amy Middleton and Monash University’s Associate Professor in the faculty of Law, Adam McBeth.

Esteemed Australian film critic and HRAFF Patron, Magaret Pomeranz says “film and the arts have so much power to influence the way we see the world, to heighten our awareness of the plight of those in our community and in the world community”.

Indeed the films at HRAFF each year possess the power to influence audiences’ perceptions on the world and the issues facing people in their local and world communities. Below is a sample of just some of the issues that will be represented on screen at the festival.

Prison Songs

This multi-award winning documentary was filmed at the infamous Berrimah Prison in the Northern Territory and tells the stories and life experiences of the the prison’s inmates through the power of music. telling the music story of inmates share their stories, experiences and feelings through hip-hop, blues, gospel and reggae.

Considered Australia’s first documentary musical, this film explores the various struggles of Indigenous Australians through hip-hop, blues, gospel and reggae.

Chasing Asylum


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One of the most pressing human rights issues that needs to be addressed internationally is that of asylum seekers and refugees.

Academy Award-winning filmmaker Eva Orner’s Chasing Asylum takes aim at Australia’s deeply problematic relationship with asylum seekers and refugees by focusing on the offshore detention centres on Nauru and the Manus Island — the latter, of which, recently made news for its planned closure.

In order to demonstrate the conditions of asylum seekers, the documentary features never-before-seen footage of the men, women and children held in detention at these facilities.

Director Orner hopes that Chasing Asylum informs and engages Australians to think more openly about the individual experiences of displaced people seeking a safer life.

Although tickets have sold out for Chasing Asylum’s opening night screening have sold out, a second screening is available but tickets are selling fast.

Hooligan Sparrow


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Put under surveillance and threatened by officials, first-time filmmaker Nanfu Wang and human rights activist, Ye Haiyan (also known as Hooligan Sparrow), become targets of the Chinese government as they travel to seek justice six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal.

Shot across three months using guerilla-style filming tactics — including hidden cameras and secret recording devices — this brave film documents Sparrow and her team’s advocacy work and how she had smuggle her footage out of China and onto screens around the world, including here in Australia.

The True Cost


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Have you ever thought about the reasons behind the ridiculous low price of some clothes?

The True Cost aims to change the way you shop by examining the effects that fast fashion leaves on the world. In addition to causing environmental pollution, the fashion fashion industry is also in violation of the working rights of many.

An award winning documentary, this film will certainly have you thinking twice about the clothes you’re wearing right now.

Some films have already sold out, so do make sure to check HRAFF’s ticketing page carefully. Alternatively, you can download festival’s official iPhone app to check ticket availability. For all other information, please visit the HRAFF official website.