Sunday 17 April 2016
The top picks in the 2016 Festival program from the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival Patrons
Margaret Pomeranz AM
When I look at the program for 2016 I can only admire the organisers and curators of this vitally important film festival. There is so much I want to see in the program, from Mor Louchy’s Censored Voices about the Six Day War and its consequences as revealed in recordings locked away until now, to the impact on women of the gaming industry in Shannon Sun-Higginson’s GTFO. But there’s much more in the documentary section: Michael Graversen’s meticulous depiction of the life of Wasi, a young unaccompanied refugee whose fate is linked to an identity he cannot claim; the importance of music in the lives of Sudanese and Malians in Hajooi Kuka’s Beats of the Antonov and Johanna Schwartz’ They Will Have to Kill Us First; the moral questions around the secret CIA drone war in Tonie Hessen Schei’s Drone. Many other issues are explored, climate change, the hidden cost of what we wear, men attempting to break their cycle of domestic violence, indigenous incarceration in this country, activism for women’s rights in China and the heroic fight by Claudia Paz y Paz to abandon the notion of impunity for past crimes in Joey Boink’s Burden of Peace.
Narratively I’m drawn towards The Measure of a Man which stars Vincent Lindon who won Best Actor in Cannes about tough times for one decent man and also The Stanford Prison Experiment which interests me greatly about the dynamic between being in control and not in control. I haven’t mentioned every film, but there is such a range of issues confronted here that you want to soak it up, immerse yourself in information, in experience, so that in some way you are better informed about the world around us, better armed to fight for injustice, better equipped to answer the questions that are at the heart of what makes us human. I hope we all gain from the experience of this year’s Human Rights Film Festival. I’m very privileged to be one of its patrons.
The dissenting and universal impact of music is explored in what promises to be a powerful insight into Mali’s musicians response to the Jihadist banning of music across the country. I’ve also always loved documentaries about music so really looking forward to this film about a creative communities courageous stance.
I’m a huge fan of Naomi Klein. I met Naomi when we screened my very first film The Bank to her in 2001 and I was starstruck. Together with Avi Lewis, they have contributed a passionate and intelligent voice in the mainstream, inspiring a generation of activists and beyond.
I’m fascinated by stories about political figures courageous in the face of huge personal danger and massive opposition, and the personal sacrifices subsequently made. Claudia Paz y Paz is an inspiring figure in Guatemalan politics, the first women to hold the position of Attorney General, and an uncompromising advocate for human rights in her country. Looking forward to learning more about this incredible woman.
Congratulations to the HRAFF committee on putting together a diverse and exciting new programme for the 2016 festival. The mixture of documentary and narrative films with a human rights focus offers numerous precious gems. There are so many relevant films that interest me that my choices are almost random, but here are some films that caught my attention in a special way.
Juxtaposing the fashion industry with the poor working conditions of the people in developing countries who create the garments is definitely a story that needs to be told. It won’t be easy viewing and I expect it will change our way of how we select our clothing. We need to support innovative designers who use sustainable materials and treat the workers who make them into outfits with dignity and fairness.
This documentary on climate change does not only inform on latest research, but also offers solutions to the problem - and with it hope. This is why I would want to see it. If you have missed Naomi Klein’s presentations or haven’t read her book, here is a chance to catch her message and start changing the world by changing yourself. We have an obligation to raise our global consciousness on this issue and to consider future generations with the decisions each one of us makes today.
The story of indigenous people being displaced from their homeland to make way for mining is told through the Wayúu people in Colombia. It is almost a universal story and it could have been filmed in Australia. We could learn from indigenous people how to live sustainably and simply yet we force on them our “modern” way of life in exchange for destroying their culture. I expect this film to be moving.
Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG
A cornucopia of films with human rights themes.
I will have to miss the Festival as I will be travelling to Geneva, Johannesburg and London in connection with my work for the UN Secretary General on the specific human rights theme of access to essential medicines. And how this can be reconciled with intellectual property law (patents) on pharmaceutical drugs essential to health and life.
Just the same, I wish I could be with you as the films are varied and look fantastically interesting.
Putting them in the order with which I would walk over hot coals to see them, my selection (based on the short descriptions that I have read) would be:
- Censored Voices: the untold story of the Six-Day War and its impact on Israel's self-image and people;
- Out to Win: the story of Martina and Billie Jean and the revelation of the truth of sexual minorities amongst champion sport performers.
- Drone: the story of these strange weapons which are unmanned and can contribute to the death of an differentiated people and groups. When there was a human being in the plane, there were human dimensions to the cruelty. Now it is mechanised.
- The Armor of Light : anti-abortion and guns in the United States. And whether discussion and debate can ever change the opinions of maturing adults locked in their respective camps.
- The Stanford Prison Experiment: how a semi-scientific experiment revealed the fine line between people playing a role and turning into cruel monsters ever so easily.
- Call Me Dad: to try to understand domestic violence as viewed from the inside.
- Dreaming of Denmark: the story of an Afghan refugee applicant in Denmark who is denied refugee status and must go back, in fear, to his village. There have been many such stories of refugee applicants who have set out full of hope to Australia.
- Hooligan Sparrow: a story of sex workers standing up for their own rights.
All of these, and others, look wonderful films. I only wish I could be there to look at them and think of solutions. But I will be out in the field working for the United Nations trying to solve the human rights challenge of access to medicines for poor people in developed countries and just about everyone else in developing countries. So the struggle goes on.