Dana’s picks for the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival

I go to the Human Rights and Arts Film Festival every year. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about human rights issues across the world and at home. It’s also a chance for me to reflect more deeply about human rights issues I think that I might already be across, like the way that refugees and people seeking asylum experience the world, in their struggle for safety.

This year HRAFF have really made an effort to highlight the experience of seeking asylum and what it means to be a refugee today in Australia and abroad.

So this year it’s your chance to get a new perspective about what it is to seek asylum or to deepen your understanding of it through the unique and moving lens of documentary film and the arts.

Make sure you get along to at least one of these:

Chasing Asylum

Chasing Asylum is a disruptive and subversive documentary that cracks open the detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru to shine the light in. With never before seen footage and heartbreaking and challenging interviews by whitsleblowers and refugees on those islands – this film will shock you. Highly recommended viewing for everyone – whether you work closely in this area or are a supporter of refugee rights from afar. Chasing Asylum is an important antidote to the government’s 1984 rhetoric and information black hole.

Chasing Asylum opened the festival to a sold-out crowd Thursday  night, but screens again on May 8. Not to be missed.

Dreaming of Denmark

Dreaming of Denmark, showing on Saturday, follows Wasiullah, who fled Afghanistan at just 15 years old. This film investigates what happens to the many refugee children who disappear from asylum centres year after year, providing brutally honest depictions of the transience, isolation and frightening uncertainty they face.

They Will Have to Kill Us First

After taking control of Northern Mali in 2012, Islamist extremists implemented a law banning all forms of music, effectively cutting off the lifeblood of Malian culture. Radio stations were demolished, instruments were destroyed and musicians faced torture, exile or death. Grab a spot to the Monday screening.

Rituals of Belonging

Rituals Of Belonging exhibition, running from May 10 to May 15, showcases an immersive visual, sound and performance experience from Australian contemporary artists and refugee perspectives.

Stories from Detention

On May 11, at Longplay, Behind the Wire (behindthewire.org.au) will play three stories of detention told to you by Mohammad, Donna and ‘Peter’ about their experiences of detention. This is a space where the voices of people who have been detained by the government are amplified and the white noise of Parliament and the media is turned off. There are two limited sessions, don’t miss out.

HRAFF Goes West

HRAFF Goes West is an afternoon of entertainment and discussion, showcasing the stories of our newest Australians and celebrating their cultural and creative contribution. The event kicks off with a rhythmic, cross-cultural performance by the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Music Group, followed by a selection of short films from the Festival’s 2016 line-up and  a panel discussion. This is a free event but you have to RSVP!

A Walnut Tree

A Walnut Tree is a film set in a Pakistani refugee camp. The film allows us to witness life from through Baba’s eyes, and by proxy, the experiences of many other displaced people around the globe today. This film will show on Saturday May 14

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Road to Refuge volunteer Emma Costa shares her new favourite cookbook

Yesterday I was introduced to the truly special cookbook, A Taste From Home, whose recipes are shared by refugees living in Malaysia. It was written by Haris Coussidis in partnership with UNHCR Malaysia with the understanding that food is both a way in which people can come together and a way in which people can maintain a connection to their culture and identity.

The book’s recipes are organised by home countries of the 17 contributing refugees which are Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Palestine, Syria, Irag, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.

What makes the cookbook most special is that before each recipe, readers learn the significance of the dish to its contributor which is sensitively and honestly intertwined with stories from their refugee experience.

For example, Helena Asefa, who discusses that learning to make doro wat (chicken stew) is a rite of passage dish in her home country Ethopia, and that she will soon share it with her family who she has not seen in four years when she is resettled with them in Australia.

Common to each story was the idea that food enabled them to feel close to home. These stories were also accompanied by poignant photographs by author and photographer Haris Coussidis , who says she aims to put human face to refugee issues in Malaysia.

I also found it so beautiful that Haris was able to produce the book by being welcomed into the kitchens of each of the refugees who feature in it. For me, their generosity and openness to others really contrasted with their descriptions of having felt unwelcome upon arriving in Malaysia, and what we can witness transpiring the world over.

It really highlighted the ways in which people come together over food to share experiences and listen.

Of course, on top of the beauty of the book itself, I haven’t even mentioned the incredible recipes including Ouzi (Syrian stuffed filo pockets with spiced mints and nut), Tennai sambol (Sri Lanan coconut sambal), and anjero (Somali flatbread), which themselves stand alone as an incredible reason to check out the book.

A Taste From Home is such an incredible way for people to hear the stories of refugees through relating to a shared passion for food. I am looking forward to eating, learning, and sharing with others from it

Fardous, one of the contributors the book, making M'sakhan djaaj
Fardous, one of the contributors the book, making M’sakhan djaaj
Haris A Taste From Home
A Taste From Home”
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