Seeking to move and actively engage audiences on human rights issues, the Human Right Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF) consists of an impressive and entertaining line up of film, arts and forums at selected venues throughout Australia in May and June.
The 2015 HRAFF program features 31 feature films, 18 shorts, 15 forums and 5 exhibitions including the 2014 Sundance Candescent Award-winning Marmato – which will take centre stage as the Spotlight film at this year’s Festival.
Filmed over six years with stunning cinematography, this emotional documentary follows the residents of the Columbian mountain village of Marmato, which sits on top of one of the world’s last great reserves of gold, as they fight to save their identity and 500 years of cultural heritage from a wealthy and powerful global mining company looking to tear the mountain down.
Other program highlights that form part of this year’s strong film line up include Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story – exploring how much food we actually waste, with abundance being the success story of the human species – a discussion will follow the film exploring how waste impacts people across the world, while also offering solutions to have we can change our habits for a more sustainable outcome; and Ivory Tower – a fascinating and exploratory documentary that addresses concerns for the future of the higher education system with its investigation into the 2014 student debt crisis in America.
Drawing attention to a very real and prominent issue, often considered too difficult to address, the Festival will screen Pervert Park – which carefully explores the daily life of residents at Florida Justice Transitions, a halfway home to 120 registered sexual offenders. This is a bold, innovative and important documentary that provides a deeper context and contemplation of an issue too often ignored.
This year’s arts program will feature contemporary art exhibitions by Christian Thompson and Rushdi Anwar. Thompson’s exhibition The Imperial Relic at Melbourne’s Fort Delta Gallery will feature the world premiere of his brand new photographic series as well as a new video work, Refuge – a collaboration with James Young. Rushdi Anwar’s two incredible installation works Hanging Issues and Irhal (Expel) seek to explore ideas formed by Anwar’s personal experience, and will be presented at No Vacancy Project Space and the Atrium at Federation Square.
Art and film elements come together with the presentation of an evening of film and street art inspired by the vibrant, energetic and rebellious Cali-cityscapes of Los Hongos. This alternative pop-up screening of Oscar Ruiz Navia’s second feature will take place at Bella Union for an evening set to feature Melbourne’s finest street artists for a discussion on art, anarchy and action that all ultimately drives the films message – express yourself.
Other films in the program that explore activism and the power of art and music to spark social change include Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case, which follows world-renowned artist and activist Ai Weiwei during turbulent periods in his ongoing fight for human rights in China; Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock and Roll, set in 1960s Cambodia this film reminds us of the power that music can hold for a culture living in the shadow of conflict and fear; Sumé: The Sound of a Revolution, a documentary set in 1973 Greenland that demonstrates the way in which music can truly change cultural identity.
For the first time 2015 HRAFF will present a talk series: the Breakfast Sessions – four forums over two weekends that will discuss topics that are at the forefront of the human rights debate, including domestic violence, climate change, refugees, and women’s rights and culture. Looking to bring fresh perspectives and offer new insights, panels have been assembled to bring a variety of opinions, knowledge and expertise – visit the HRAFF website for more details.
This year HRAFF has expanded its Shorts program to present an impressive collection of Australian Shorts that together form to take a multi-dimensional look at the spectrum of the Australian experience and two International Shorts packages; one that explores the complexity of human existence and the other exploring themes of innocence and despair.
The CineSeeds program designed to stimulate young minds through film is back and will also expand this year to consist of two films, one for a younger audience aged 7 – 12: Felix – a coming-of-age story that looks at connection, creativity and music, and one for teenagers: Bekas – exploring the power of cinema as an inspiration to affect change.
HRAFF will once again join with Melbourne Cinémathèque to co-present two films that capture the essence of America at a time of change and upheaval: Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Bill Morrison’s documentary The Great Flood.
The Festival will close with the Australian premiere of The Beekeeper. Immigrant Ibrahim Gezer is a beekeeper who is able to draw comfort and wisdom from bees. They have been the constant throughout his life, from upheaval and war in his homeland, to his new home in Switzerland. Set in the stunning vista of the Swiss Alps, The Beekeeper is a beautiful human portrait of a remarkable individual.
The 2015 Human Right Arts & Film Festival has just opened in Melbourne (continues to 21 May), and then tours nationally to Canberra (22 – 25 May), Sydney (26 – 30 May), Darwin (30 may – 1 June), Brisbane (2 – 4 June), Perth (2 – 4 June) and Alice Springs (5 – 7 June). For more information and bookings, visit: www.hraff.org.au for details.
Image: Evaporating Borders