The 7th Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF) has announced its 2014 program of films, art and forums. The Festival opens in Melbourne on 8 May and then tours nationally to Sydney, Alice Springs, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth and Darwin.
Direct from the 2014 Academy Awards, where it was nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category, the Festival’s Opening Night film, The Square, takes audiences right to the heart of a movement, a country and a people committed to the ideals of freedom and human rights.
Assembled from footage filmed in, alongside and after the Egyptian Revolution, Jehane Noujaim’s film follows a small band of Egyptian activists united against their corrupt government. Weaved into a stunning narrative of struggle, The Square will be an unforgettable Opening Night experience. Following the film, ticket-holders are invited to kick on at the Kelvin Club for the Festival after-party with complimentary drinks, food and entertainment.
The Closing Night film is the 2014 Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning Rich Hill, a documentary that explores the challenges three adolescent boys face growing up in a deteriorating town. As they navigate the hardships of poverty, broken families and mental illness, along with the regular challenges of being a teenager, their belief in a brighter future makes this an extraordinarily moving film. A Q&A with director Tracy Droz Tragos will follow the Closing Night screening.
“This year’s program is as strong as ever. We’ve got an Academy Award nominee, premieres from Sundance, an incredible selection of female directors, unique Indigenous Australian perspectives and a rich program of industry events,” said HRAFF Festival Director Ella McNeill.
This year the Festival will draw special attention to its Spotlight film, The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. Directed by Brian Knappenberger (We Are Legion: The Story of the Hactivist), this timely documentary traces the life story of the programming prodigy and hacktivist who, at the age of 26, took his own life while on trial fighting for the rights in which he believed. The Internet’s Own Boy pioneers a discussion about a new frontier of human rights: freedom of information in the digital age.
The CineSeeds program for children and their parents continues this year with a screening of Jaques-Rémy Girerd’s Mia and the Migoo in French with English subtitles. A multiple award-winner at the time of its original release in 2009, Mia and the Migoo brings important environmental issues to life in a narrative created through 500,000 frames of hand-painted animation.
The centrepiece of the Festival’s Arts program is Vietnam/Australia: Voicing the Unspoken – a co-presentation with Multicultural Arts Victoria at Yarra Gallery. This exhibition brings together five contemporary artists – Thanh Duong, Phuong Ngo, Khue Nguyen, Minh Phan and Quan Tre – whose practices are informed by their links to Vietnam and Australia. Their work offers a fresh perspective on the profound experience of migrating to Australia as a Vietnamese refugee.
Connecting HRAFF’s arts and film programs is a special double-presentation of two music films that break with classical conventions. Unogumbe: Noye’s Fludde and Rêve Kakudji rewrite the traditions usually associated with European opera and vividly celebrate the music of Africa.
The Festival is proud to be able to present a number of panels and Q&As following several films in its program this year. Panel discussions will follow films including: Breastmilk, a documentary that straddles the controversial debate surrounding infant feeding; Everyday Rebellion, a high-velocity exploration of the power of ideas and non-violent protest; This May Be The Last Time, which revives some of the forgotten stories embedded in Native American music; and God Loves Uganda, which follows a group of young Americans on their first evangelical mission to Uganda, offering insight into religious fundamentalism in the post-colonial world.
There will be live and Skype Q&A conversations with several filmmakers including Adelaide-based Christopher Houghton, the director of Sons and Mothers, which introduces audiences to performers in the Men’s Ensemble of Adelaide’s No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability and goes behind the scenes of a production dedicated to their mothers. This film will be captioned and audio described and the panel discussion will be AUSLAN-interpreted.
The discussion extends with several stand-alone events. Beyond the Cinema: The Power of Storytelling invites a panel of Australian and US filmmakers to discuss the practical points filmmakers can use to create positive social change through impact filmmaking; Make An Impact! is a Masterclass with Ian Darling, the award-winning documentary filmmaker (Paul Kelly – Stories of Me) and global social impact campaigner; and Meet the Filmmakers brings together filmmakers presenting at the Festival for a special panel discussion about what it takes to make a film.
Other program highlights include Light Fly, Fly High, an inspiring documentary that follows the story of Thulasi, an ‘untouchable’ Indian girl who trained as a professional boxer in order to fight her way out of poverty.
Two programs of short films – Australian and International Shorts – will screen in this year’s Festival, and the Australian program will be followed by a Q&A with local directors. This year’s special event at Bella Union is Hindsight: Death to the Fascist Vultures! – a collection of nine animated Russian propaganda films from the 1920s through to the 1980s with an accompanying DJ. In a co-presentation with the Melbourne Cinémathèque, HRAFF is proud to present two groundbreaking films that reflect on experiences of war and how it is remembered on screen: Alain Resnais’ Hiroshima Mon Amour and Jean-Luc Godard’s Far From Vietnam.
The 2014 Human Rights Arts & Film Festival dates are: Melbourne: 8 – 22 May; Sydney: 27 – 31 May; Alice Springs: 29 – 31 May; Canberra: 3 – 5 June; Brisbane: 3 – 5 June; Perth: 3 – 5 June; and Darwin: 15 – 17 August – part of 2014 Darwin Festival.
For more information and complete program, visit: www.hraff.org.au for details.
Image: Sons and Mothers – No Strings Attached Theatre of Disability