The Plus Ones’ Guide to the 2017 Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF)

HRAFF is celebrating ten years of showcasing stories from here and around the globe using various mediums of film, music, art and forums. These have all been hand picked to engage audiences on various human rights issues and spark an interest in social change. This year’s selection includes hard-hitting documentaries, entertaining narratives of love, family and custom, as well as various guest presenters for panel discussions on a range of topics. Check out the full festival program here, and read on for the Plus Ones’ Guide for some suggestions.


China imports millions of tonnes of plastic waste every year from developed countries. Plastic China documents what life is like for workers running a household-recycling plant. We see a family raking through mountains of rubbish by hand, the children learning about the world through the packaging and broken toys they sift through. As part of the Official Selection at Sundance (2017), this film unmasks what is arguably ‘out of sight, out of mind’: the social inequality and associated health problems of a world tied up in plastic waste.

Tanna features the wild, volcanic scenery from one of Vanuatu’s most remote islands. A work of fiction, this film depicts a love story set amid powerful tribal custom. Two young lovers are kept apart due to elders having arranged marriages for them to other people. This film is an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film. This session features a post-film Q&A forum with one of the directors, Bentley Dean.

Raving Iran follows Anoosh and Arash (aka Blade & Beard) in their quest to become DJs, despite techno music being outlawed in conservative Iran. Constantly trying to avoid incarceration and keep their creative pursuits under the radar, they are confronted with a hard choice when they are invited to perform at a Zurich festival. How much are they willing to risk for a taste of musical freedom?

The Freedom to Marry is a moving documentary about the socio-political movement in the US that led to the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court. It spotlights the lawyers and advocates who are indefatigable in their quest for marriage equality. You can also purchase a Film + Forum Pass for $30 and join panellists including writer Benjamin Law for a discussion about non-traditional partnerships and family structures amidst Australia’s current political landscape.

Weaving the Waterways: Women and Fishing is presented by the Koorie Heritage Trust. It is an exhibition of traditional fishing nets, baskets, hooks and bird nests, demonstrating tools of river life, as passed down from the ancestors. This work features an array of accompanying artists. Centrally located, this venue also houses other works and events that are free to check out, so do drop in if you’re near Fed Square.

With such a huge variety of shows on offer, you’re sure to find something that feeds your curiosity. The exhibits are sometimes controversial, often confronting and always conversation-starting. HRAFF events are popping up all around Melbourne including ACMI, Footscray Community Arts Centre, No Vacancy Gallery, The Substation and many more. Check here for access details.


– Kaz
With eco-friendly takeaway coffee cup in hand, Karalyn enjoys exploring random activities and events throughout Melbourne.

The 2017 Human Rights Arts & Film Festival is showing in Melbourne 4-18 May.  You can purchase a Festival Pass, or simply scroll through the program and book tickets online. 

Many films have been exempt from classification, but may be restricted to people over 15 years. Check official website for details.

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Q Strategies.
Image credit: Human Rights Arts & Film Festival.