The 12th annual Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF) program has been announced, with over 30 films and events happening all around Melbourne. Running from May 9-23, the action will centre around festival hub ACMI, with other venues including Cinema Nova in Carlton and Lido Cinemas in Hawthorn. The fest goes west at the Footscray Community Arts Centre and the Sun Theatre in Yarraville, where short film nights and some powerful docos are being screened.
The focus for this year’s festival is to explore key themes of Indigenous affairs, gender equality, conflict and the global movement of people, economic justice, queer rights and the environment. This festival has become one of the major human rights events in the country, with the aim to change people’s hearts and minds so they then move forward and take action on injustice in their own lives.
Award-winning Australian filmmaker Damon Gameau’s latest film 2040 is headlining the festival on opening night. Billed as a visual letter to his four-year-old daughter, the film explores what our future could look like if we embraced the best solutions available for us today. There will also be a Q&A with special guests after the screening.
Another highlight from the festival, Stop the Boats, is a look into the dehumanising three-word slogan that distorted the way the Australian public views asylum seekers. Filmed in secret at Manus Island and Nauru, and smuggled out on USB sticks a few shots at a time, the hard-hitting story is told by the refugees themselves, including journalist Behrouz Boochani. The documentary features human rights activists Malcolm Fraser and Julian Burnside, and the latter of the two will join director Simon Kurian onstage after the screening for a discussion with the audience.
Wik vs Queensland features never-before-screened footage of famous Indigenous activists Pat Dodson, Noel Pearson and Marcia Langton as the Wik people tell their story of the political and cultural fall-out of the Wik decision in 1996, and what it means for their lives today.
Australia Says Yes takes a look at the marriage equality campaign in 2017 from inside the Yes camp, as well as reflecting on Australia’s dark, homophobic past, from those who were fighting it. Another doco, Becoming Colleen, follows an octogenarian transwoman through her incredible transition. Closing the festival is Canadian coming-of-age drama Giant Little Ones, where a teen boy is reeling from the shock of his father’s sexuality alongside his own sexual identity struggles.
International entries to the festival include the Sign for Love, a look into a deaf man’s journey in becoming a father, and Invisible Hands is an urgent examination of the exploitation of child labour to fuel consumerism. The Distant Barking of Dogs shines a light on the war on Eastern Ukraine through a year in the life of ten-year-old resident Oleg and his grandmother.
The festival will also screen dramas covering intersexuality and civil war, and the first feature directed by Maori women in 30 years.