Activists unite! The 2016 The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF) is coming to Melbourne on the 5th of May and running through to the 19th. It showcases an incredible selection of documentaries, narrative films, animated features, and shorts.
I spoke to the festival’s program director, Malcolm Blaylock, and asked him about the selection process of the films. He told me that the films are viewed and chosen from a variety of internationally renowned film festivals including Sundance, the Copenhagen International Documentary Film Festival, and the Amsterdam Documentary Film Festival.
Blaylock also wanted audiences to know that, despite the serious and heavy tone implied by a festival focused on human rights, ‘most of the films are really quite joyous.’ They deal with difficult subject matter but provide solutions and offer ‘hope’, instead of remaining ‘grim and dark’.
Take a look at The Plus Ones’ top five picks:
- Chasing Asylum
Already with two sold-out sessions, Eva Orner’s documentary is one of the most popular films at the festival. Chasing Asylum exposes the Australian Government’s inhumane treatment of asylum seekers through undercover footage and interviews. Malcolm informed me that a third session has been added and it’s already selling fast, so get in quick!
- Stanford Prison Experiment
Based on Philip Zimbardo’s controversial study of authority, Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s film is a re-creation of the events that unfolded in the basement of the Stanford psychology building. Winner for best screenplay at the Sundance film festival, Alvarez’s nail-biter is a must for psychology enthusiasts and lovers of a good thriller.
- Ernest and Celestine
In a world where contact between mice and bears is strictly forbidden, young mouse Celestine befriends Ernest the musical bear against all odds. This hand-drawn animated film features the acting talents of Lauren Bacall, Forest Whitaker and Paul Giamatti, sure to be a hit with the whole family.
Another documentary concerned with the pressing issues of our day, Tonje Hessen Schei’s Drone exposes crucial information about the drone war in Pakistan. Winner of the Amnesty International Award, Hessen Schei’s documentary is essential viewing for anyone distrustful of the future of modern warfare.
A Kickstarter-funded feature from first-time director Shannon Sun-Higginson, this documentary looks at the misogynist culture in online gaming. Women and young girls who play online are subjected to barrages of abuse from the ‘boys club’ that is online gaming and Sun-Higginson is determined to expose it. An important independent feature concerned with an issue that’s only going to get more attention in the coming years.
This year’s HRAFF has an extraordinary catalogue of important films—these five are only a small sliver of what’s on offer. Other events include speaking panels with members of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, a pro footballer, and various cultural commentators on a variety of issues, as well as a live musical performance with one of the films.
The 2016 Human Rights Arts and Film Festival will be a rewarding experience. Enjoy and feel empowered by films dealing with issues that, as Malcolm explained to me, ‘we have to deal with, if society’s going to get any better’.
Tom Bensley is a freelance writer in Melbourne who reviews anything he attends, watches or reads. It’s a compulsion, really. Follow him @TomAliceBensley.
The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival runs from 5–19 May at the ACMI theatre on Federation Square. The venue is wheelchair accessible.
Non-English language films include English subtitles.