Privilege is not in and of itself bad; what matters is what we do with privilege … Privilege does not have to be negative, but we have to share our resources and take direction about how to use our privilege in ways that empower those who lack it
bell hooks, Homegrown: Engaged Cultural Criticism
I recently attend the excellent Australian Human Rights Arts & Film Festial (HRAFF) in Melbourne where a collection of short films were presented at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI). The HRAFF has been running for nine few years, and seeks to “hold a mirror to the uneasy truths of our times and reflect our stories” through creative means – and that it does.
The International Shorts screening that I attended comprised a collection of five award winning films from around the globe that presented a broad range of international and social issues in bold, despairing, humorous and challenging ways. All of the five films (perhaps with exclusion of Ave Maria) where tied together by common themes of: power, privilege and capacity.
The film-suite seemed to emphasise how privileged we are in Australia, while also inspiring and subtly challenging the audience to consider how we can more fully use our vast capacity to facilitate change and empowerment of vulnerable people both locally and internationally.
I have briefly reviewed each of the respective short films:
Shipwreck (2014: Netherlands and Italy – 15min)
Using clever camerawork to provide a feeling of disorientation as well as buoyancy at sea, this Shipwreck is light on dialogue and heavy on impact. 26 year old Morgan Knibbe‘s moving film is shot through the perspective of one of the 155 survivors of the well publicised ship-wreck that was carrying 500 Eritrean refugees that sank off the cost of the Italian island Lampedusa, 3 October 2013. The viewer is presented a world of disperse, chaos and loss as the remaining survivors and the local police are forced to deal with the aftermath of the tragic voyage.
Listen (2014: Denmark, Finland and Colombia – 13min)
Listen is a painfully realistic lesson in understanding the difficulties of migrants who cannot communicate in the primary language of their new resident nation. Somewhat reminiscent of Alejandro González Iñárritu and Guillermo Arriaga‘s tragic film Bable, Listen tells the story of a Musilm woman seeking Police protection from her abusive husband against the wishes of her intentionally misleading Muslim translator and her teenage son. Change for this woman is shown as nearly impossible against such cultural inertia and language barriers.
A few seconds (2014: France – 16min)
Nora el Hourch‘s film tells the story of a small rough-edged band of young women in France that are coming of age amidst passively and actively abusive men. With plenty of humour, and plenty of shock A few seconds shows the importance of community and friendship when coping with life away from the support of family.
Everything will be OK (2015: Germany and Austria – 30min)
Patrick Vollrath’s ‘short’ film tells the story of a desperate father seeking to kidnap his child out of his loneliness, despair and anger at his current custody arrangement. Tastefully shot, Everything will be OK, allows the audience to simultaneously sympathise with the father while understanding the suffering of a poor child caught in the middle of parents’ fighting and broken relationships. In the final moving scenes the daughter seems to behave more like an adult than her Dad while literally being pried from his arms.
Ave Maria (2015: Palestine, France and Germany – 15min)
A start contrast to the other four shorts – it is clear that the program directors had learned from last year, the importance of allowing the audience to leave the cinema smiling as well as being shockingly moved. Ave Maria is a quirky tale of a handful of Nuns and Jews that are forced to help each other in the West Bank under the most unlikely of circumstances. Making light of some Jewish and Catholic cultural traditions and stereotypes, Ave Maria seems to ironically elucidate the similarities between different religious and cultural groups by forcing the audience to somewhat laugh at the small and large things that makes some communities appear different.