2016 Human Rights Arts & Film Festival

They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in ExileGiving audiences a chance to delve into an entertaining, powerful and inspiring collection of diverse human stories, the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF) has announced its 2016 program that includes 31 feature films, 25 shorts, 5 forums and 9 diverse arts events.

The Festival will open with the Australian premiere of the ambitiously moving and confronting film, Chasing Asylum. Australian director Eva Orner reveals the conditions asylum seekers are living in through never-­before-­seen footage of offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island.

Adding an additional perspective to the conversation around asylum seekers will be Michael Graversen’s Dreaming of Denmark. The film follows 15 year old Wasiullah, who has spent his adolescent years in Denmark after fleeing his native country of Afghanistan. Wasi is nervously awaiting acceptance for permanent residency in Denmark, which provides support for unaccompanied child refugees -­ but only until they reach 18. Graversen’s eye-­opening film investigates what happens to the many refugee children who disappear from asylum seeker centres year after  year.

The Festival will close with the Australian Premiere of the 2016 Sundance award-­winner The Bad Kids. Rich in its use of intimate, verité camerawork and poetic, stylized sequences, the film is an immersive, emotional experience that gives information and insight into America’s most pressing education problem: poverty.

The moving and celebratory documentary, They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile will take centre stage as the spotlight film of the Festival. The documentary follows various musicians in Mali, in the wake of a jihadist takeover and subsequent banning of music in the region. The film features Damon Albarn (Blur), Brian Eno and Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and one of the world’s most exciting new bands, Songhoy Blues.

Other highlights of the 2016 Human Rights Arts & Film Festival include:

Prison Songs, Australia’s first-­ever musical documentary, where inmates of the notorious Berrimah Prison in Northern Territory share their stories, experiences and feelings through songs they helped create. The Festival welcomes director Kelrick Martin as a Festival guest.

Hooligan Sparrow (Sundance 2016) by first-­time filmmaker Nanfu Wang, follows human rights activist Ye Haiyan -­ whose personal supporters include artist Ai Weiwei -­ as she seeks justice, at great personal risk to herself, her family and Nanfu,  for  six  elementary  school  girls  who  have  been  sexually  abused  by  their  principal.

Beats  of  the  Antonov, winner of the People’s Choice Award at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival, is an uplifting documentary which paints an incredible portrait of the Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains people, celebrating the vibrant local musical culture and traditions, while also depicting stories of survival in the face of a prolonged civil war.

Someone Else’s Problem, a sculpture installation that forms part of Alex Seton’s work on the issue of asylum seekers, which will be accompanied by his immersive soundscape, Odyssey – presented at Dark Horse Experiment space.

The  Stanford  Prison  Experiment, winner of  the  2015 Sundance Film Festival Best Screenplay award and stars Billy Crudup, Ezra Miller and Thomas Mann – explores the source of abusive behavior in the prison system based on an experiment conducted in a simulated jail.

This Changes Everything, directed by journalist and filmmaker Avi Lewis and produced in conjunction with Naomi Klein’s best-­selling book of the same name, is an epic attempt to reimagine the vast challenges of climate change.

Out to Win, a powerful documentary which chronicles the dramatic history of gay and lesbian sports professionals – including  interviews with tennis legends Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova – explores the potential of sport, as a cultural phenomenon, to be an inclusive community that provides positive representation for future LGBTIQ sports players.

The CineSeeds program, designed to engage young audiences aged 5 – 18 with human rights issues through film and live performance, returns with two films: Ernest & Celestine and Girl Rising. Recommended for ages 5+, Ernest & Celestine – a hand-­drawn, animated French film, is a heart-­warming tale of cross-­cultural friendship; recommended for ages 12+ and narrated by A-­list stars including Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway and Selena Gomez, Girl Rising is a call to everyone, male or female, to stand for girls education.

Breakfast sessions – covering a range of topics at the forefront of current human rights debates, are back with sessions themed around: asylum seeker policy and the refugee experiment, cyber harassment, cultural diversity on stage and screen and cultural displacement.

The 2016 Human Rights Arts & Film Festival runs: Melbourne (5 – 19 May); Sydney (24 – 28 May); Brisbane (24 – 26 May); Alice Springs (30 – 31 May); Perth (30 May – 1 June); Canberra (3 – 5 June); and Darwin (6 – 8 June). For more information and complete program, visit: www.hraff.org.au for details.

Image: Songhoy Blues in They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile (supplied)