The Human Rights Arts and Film Festival is coming back to Byron Bay for four days, 12 to 15 June. The festival celebrates arts that promote awareness, inspiration and change in the world and in local communities. The five-year-old festival was such a hit in Byron last year that it’s coming back up the coast with an array of films and shorts to be screened at Pighouse Flicks over three days.
Opening the festival is the award-winning documentary The Island President, which brilliantly captures the dramatic first year in office of President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives. The film follows President Nasheed on his journey to take on the UN at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in 2009, attempting to stop his nation from sinking under rising sea levels.
It is one of the most anticipated films of the festival, winning an array of awards on the festival circuit including People’s Choice for best documentary at Toronto’s International Film Festival.
The Island President documents the Maldives’ struggle for democracy and its fight to stay above water as the lowest lying nation in the world, unraveling more like a gripping thriller than an informative documentary. The current political climate of the Maldives makes the film even more significant, as once again, the nation’s freedom and democracy is threatened.
Another highlight of this year’s program is Fantome Island, which exposes and explores the masked history of leprosy in Australia through the story of Joe Eggmolesse. This stirring tale plunges into the horrific treatment of Australia’s Indigenous leper communities, following Joe as he confronts his childhood memories of being sent to a leper colony at age seven. Through sharing his story he hopes to find healing for himself and those resting on Fantome Island.
As well as the festival’s feature films, a diverse hand selected range of Australian and international shorts will be screening.
Australian shorts will move, surprise and enlighten through a diverse range of documentaries, dramas, and animations. This eclectic compilation will explore issues of discrimination, identity and conflict in past and present Australia: delving into Australia’s local communities, prisons, schools, and red light districts, while retelling local folklore and examining the lives of radical icons.
From roving projectionists to proclamations of bald love, international shorts will take you on an enthralling world tour. The program aims to both delight and challenge, as it takes its audience across cultural borders to explore the underground Cuban drag scene, or peek into the homes of Beirut civilians in wartime. The selection also features the French animation Barking Island, a dark political allegory that won the Cannes Palme d’Or for best short film in 2011.
For full program details head to http://www.hraff.org.au/city/byronbay