Human Rights Arts & Film Festival turns 10 in 2017

HRAFF 2017 Hear My Eyes - Fire at SeaCelebrating a milestone 10th Anniversary, the Human Rights Arts & Film Festival (HRAFF) is back for 2017 with an exciting new selection of international and locally made films, a vibrant arts program and topical forums. Opening in Melbourne on Thursday 4 May, the festival then tours a highlights package to Sydney, Canberra and Brisbane.

A sneak peek into the 2017 program, ahead of the full program launch on Tuesday 4 April, includes HRAFF’s first world premiere, international festival favourites and works of bravery, resilience, activism and compassion specially curated to inspire, activate and celebrate. The first highlights include:

The world premiere of Marti Salva’s Happyland – set in Manila’s slum communities of Baseco and Happyland (from a local word ‘hapilan’ for dumpsite) where most residents live in makeshift homes built with scavenged waste. In 2016, street artists Cheeseagle and Kaff-eine decided to change this with an art installation and housing project.

They raised money and installed thirty large art tarpaulins, featuring Kaff-eine’s portraits of local residents. The art tarps can be used as shelter for up to 120 residents. The film follows the daily life in Baseco and Happyland, interwoven with captivating interviews of the dynamic individuals featured on the art tarps. This session will include a post-film Q&A with filmmakers.

An exhibition of Kaff-eine’s work will also be showcased as part of the HRAFF program at No Vacancy in Federation Square. Kaff-eine will also participate in a workshop as part of this year’s HRAFF Goes West event held at the Footscray Community Arts Centre.

Other documentaries include the international film festival favourite Raving Iran which spotlights the music of Iranian DJ’s Blade & Bear whose music is deemed illegal in their country. Susanne Regina Meurs followed the DJ’s for a year, during a crucial phase in their lives. She films their life in Tehran, where they are constantly on their guard, and capture them as they experience the freedom of Switzerland. Most of the footage was shot using mobile phones, for reasons of security.

From the Netherlands comes Radio Kobanî. When liberation came to The Syrian border town of Kobanî, 20-year-old Kurdish reporter Dilovan started a radio station. She and her friend Biter report on refugee camps, talk to survivors and interview fighters and musicians.

Filmed over 10 years, Australian feature documentary Constance on the Edge by director Belinda Mason is an unflinchingly honest portrayal of one refugee family’s resettlement story in Australia. This session will be followed by a post-film Q&A with the producer Marguerite Grey.  

Winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival (2016), Hear My Eyes: Fire at Sea is Gianfranco Rosi’s incisive, poignant and deeply moving portrait of the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa – and the humanitarian crisis occurring in the seas around it. The film is both a masterly work of documentary filmmaking and a timely call for urgent action.

This session is a special event and will feature a live rescore by Evelyn Ida Morris (Pikelet) and a group of specifically chosen musicians who will provide a completely original score to accompany the film using a variety of rare instruments from Ethiopia and the middle-east.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize Best Documentary Feature at Tribeca Film Festival (2016), director Craig Atkinson’s Do Not Resist is a shocking exposé that crosses the United States to reveal the heavily militarized face of policing and the insidious racism that lies just below the surface. Masterfully observed and extremely topical given the vast amount of films this year on the topics of police brutality.

We are also excited about our special Opening Night film and after-party. We’re not going to tell you what it is yet though, but we can say it’s the Australian premiere of a highly publicised and controversial documentary. You won’t want to miss being part of this very special presentation.

The 2017 Human Rights Arts & Film Festival kicks off in Melbourne on Thursday 4 May, followed by dates in Sydney – Dendy Cinema, Newtown (23 – 27 May), Canberra – Palace Electric Cinema (29 – 31 May), and Brisbane – Palace Barracks (1 – 3 June). For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Hear My Eyes: Fire at Sea (film still)