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Kurdish refugee filmmaker asks to come to DocEdge Festival

Behrouz Boochani, Kurdish refugee filmmaker on Manus, asks to come to DocEdge Festival

The award-winning Kurdish journalist, poet, filmmaker and refugee Behrouz Boochani has requested permission to visit New Zealand to attend the Documentary Edge Film Festival, where his film “Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time” is screening. Boochani has written to the New Zealand High Commission in Port Moresby, asking that he be granted a visa to attend the festival.

For nearly five years, Boochani has been imprisoned on Manus Island. He shot the film entirely on a mobile phone from inside Australia’s notorious Lombrum detention centre, where journalists were prevented from visiting and foreign contractors were bound by silence about what they saw there – or face a two-year prison sentence. For months, Boochani painstakingly uploaded short video segments for Dutch-Iranian filmmaker Arash Kamali Sarvestani to edit into a feature-length documentary that offers audiences a never-before-seen glimpse behind Australia’s wall of secrecy.

“This is a great honour for any director and I would like to attend the festival with the other filmmakers. The movie is not only for me – it is for 2,000 children, women and men who are forgotten on Manus and Nauru. It’s important that I be there and have this opportunity to talk directly with the audience,” said Boochani.

While Australia portrays the “transit” centres on Manus and Nauru as comfortable and safe, the reality is anything but. Amnesty International has found that holding people indefinitely there amounts to torture. Detainees are fundamentally denied their freedom. While the centres on Manus are “open”, the men are prevented from leaving the island, much less leaving the country.

Meg de Ronde, Campaigns Director for Amnesty International, said, “Our research on Manus and Nauru has shown Australia’s shocking disregard for humanity. Despite that, some of the most inspiring human stories have emerged. Take Behrouz Boochani – from inside detention he reports for The Guardian and other news outlets, he’s writing a book, and now he’s made a film. But he is not free to come to New Zealand and present his own film to the festival. Australia needs to end its deliberately cruel and inhumane policies.”

“Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time” is named after the Chauka bird, which is native to Manus. Its call is a hallmark of life on the island, and Manusians think of the bird as a timekeeper. Chauka is also the name of the wing in the detention centre where Boochani and others were sent for solitary confinement. The film has been shown in 10 film festivals in cities around the world, including London, Sydney, Glasgow, Berlin and Gothenberg.


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