Whether you love romance, want to be inspired or see something with all the feels, HRAFF Co-Founder and Chairperson, Evelyn Tadros has the perfect set of festival recommendations just for you! 

The annual Human Rights Arts and Film Festival kicks off in just two days, and there are dozens of great films to see. Here’s a list to suit everyone’s tastes.

For those of you who feel overwhelmed about climate change and want to see a possible pathway to a positive, sustainable future (and have a rad party at the same time!): then do NOT miss Opening Night film 2040 + Q&A (Thurs 9 May), which follows Damon Gameau (That Sugar Film) around the world to explore what the future would look like by 2040 if we embraced the best solutions already available to us to improve our planet and shifted them to the mainstream. Featuring a Q&A with director Damon Gameau and after-party, get your tix before it sells out!

For those of you who love love and a bit of romance, then make sure you check out Top End Wedding + Q&A  (Fri 10 May), a hilarious film by Wayne Blair (The Saphires) which will take you on a sweeping journey to the Top End for a lavish Outback Wedding and Australia Says Yes + Q&A (Weds 15 May), an emotional documentary that goes behind-the-scenes of the Yes campaign as they strategise to deliver marriage equality in Australia.


For those of you who want to hear Indigenous peoples’ perspectives on land rights and cultural rights, then you must see Wik v Queensland + Q&A (Sunday 19 May), an incredible documentary told from the perspective of the Wik Peoples as they fight for their native title rights both in and outside of court; as well as Etched in Bone + Q&A (Thursday 16 May) which chronicles Nayinggul’s tireless, decades-long effort to have the bones of his ancestors repatriated to their rightful resting place.

For those of you who want to be inspired by strong women taking the lead, check out: #Female Pleasure (Friday 17 May) which chronicles five extraordinary women fighting for change, from a Somali anti-FGM activist in the UK, to a Japanese artist and self-described “vagina defender” to women fighting religious oppression around the world; On Her Shoulders + Q&A (Tues 14 May) which follows 23 year old Nadia Murad who survived the 2014 genocide of the Yzaidis in Northern Iraq to become a relentless beacon of hope for her people; and A Thousand Girls Like Me (Sat 18 May) by Afghan filmmaker Sahra Mani who presents an awe-inspiring story of one woman’s battle against cultural, familial and legal pressures to set a positive example for her daughter and other girls like her.


For those of you who want to be blown away by absolutely stunning and heart-in-your-mouth filmmaking, then see The Distant Barking of Dogs (Sat 18 May) – a devastating beautiful and poignant story of a grandmother trying to protect her orphaned grandson Oleg as the conflict frontline encroaches upon them in Eastern Ukraine. This documentary was shortlisted for the Oscars and really should have won.

For those of you who want to understand the biggest global corruption scandal in history, check out The Panama Papers (Sat 11 May) which delivers a shocking and comprehensive inside look at how 300 journalists from 107 media organisations in over 80 countries worked together to break a story of political corruption, economic inequality and even murder.

For those of you who want to see life-changing films that celebrates life’s differences and challenges, do not miss Far From the Tree + Q&A  (Sat 11 May) and The Sign For Love (Sat 11 May). Based on Andrew Solomon’s bestselling book of the same name, Far From the Tree follows parents and their extraordinary children – from those with dwarfism or Down syndrome, to child prodigies, to transgender kids – and shows the ways in which diversity units us and celebrates the power of love and understanding.  The Sign For Love is a profoundly intimate, funny and heartwarming self-documentary by Elad Cohen, a deaf gay Israeli who decides to have a baby with his deaf best friend Yaeli, but both are unprepared for the realities of being new parents.

For those of you who want to really understand the impact of Australia’s asylum seekers policy, Stop.The.Boats + Q&A (Sat 18 and 23 May at Lido and Nova) and Journey Beyond Fear + Q&A (Sat 18 May) are not to be missed.  Filmed in secret and smuggled out on USB drives a few shots at a time, Stop.The.Boats is told from the perspective of the detainees themselves in Manus and Nauru, including award-winning journalist and Manus detainee, Behrouz Boochani.  Journey Beyond Fear follows a family of Afghan refugees in Malaysia who battle poverty and rapidly declining mental health as they wait for Australia’s government bureaucracy to file and process their formal request for asylum.

For those of you who want to see beautifully told, profoundly heart-wrenching films, then bring your tissues to see Waru (Fri 10 May) and Still Recording (Fri 10 May).  The first feature-length production written and directed by Maori women in 30 years, Waru explores how the death and trauma of a boy killed at the hands of a caregiver, impacts the community.  Still Recording is an up close and personal documentation of the Syrian civilian insurgency, told from the perspective of two Syrian art students.

For those of you want to see a film with all the feels, check out Becoming Colleen (Sun 12 May) in which 85 year old Colleen Young recounts her remarkable life as a police officer, husband, father, film projectionist – and octogenarian transwoman. Recently winning the Audience Award at Mardi Gras Film Festival, this is a story of love, family, understanding, and most importantly finding the shoe that fits.


For those of you who want an insight into the power of forgiveness, you must see the powerful documentary, Risking Light + Q&A (with film subject Debra Hocking) (Fri 17 May), which follows the stories of three people, from the streets of Minneapolis, the Stolen Generations of Tasmania , and the killing fields of Cambodia, who have to courage to step out of the darkness of the past and risk everything to reach the light of their own compassion.


For those of you looking for something kid-friendly: do not miss our Cineseeds Youth Program featuring Damon Gameau’s film 2040.  Structured as a visual letter to his 4-year-old daughter, Gameau explores what the future would look like by the year 2040 if we embraced the best solutions already available to us to improve our planet and shift them to the mainstream.  Featuring a Q&A with Damon Gameau and Gemma Borgo-Carati from the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

For those of you who are ready to be challenged about our consumerist way of life, check out Invisible Hands (Fri 10 May) as Director Shraysi Tandon crosses the globe to expose the dangerous and deplorable conditions under which the world’s estimated 200 million child labourers are forced to work to make the clothes we wear, the mobile phones we use and the chocolate we eat.

For those of you who want to be moved by profound coming-of-age dramas, do not miss our award winning Closing Night Film Giant Little Ones (Thurs 23 May) about a teen who is forced to confront his sexuality, featuring evocative performances, particularly Kyle MacLachlan; the stunning film Fig Tree (Sat 12 May) which follows 16 year old Mina whose Jewish Ethiopian family is planning on fleeing Ethiopia for Israel but doesn’t want to leave her Christian boyfriend behind; and Being Impossible (Sat 18 May) about a young woman who discovers she was born intersex but subjected to corrective surgery and now is faced with a difficult choice: carry on living as a woman, or risk judgment and social alienation by living as her true self.

For those of you… Who loves short shorts? do not miss our Australian shorts  program ( Mon 13 May, and out West Sun 19 May), our International Shorts program (Mon 20 May), our Femme Shorts program (Mon 14 May) highlighting a variety of femme voices and stories and our First Nations Shorts: HRAFF Goes West (Sat 18 May), paying tribute to the vibrancy of Indigenous film and Indigenous languages.

For those of you who love art, check out:

  • National Anthem (Fri 8 Mar to Sun 7 July) at Buxton Contemporary featuring 24 artists who critically address Australian National Identity, including Brook Andrew, Abdul Abdullah, Hoda Afshar, Richard Bell and Christian Thompson.
  • Bodies of Work (Weds 8 May to Sat 11 May) at Bus Projects brings together 10 International and Australian artists to examine women’s work both inside and outside the home featuring performances and talks.
  • insideOUT (Sat 4 May to Sun 28 July) at Koorie Heritage Trust features new works and collaborations by Ngarigo artist Peter Waples-Crowe which builds space for queer and black people, stories and experiences
  • Art+Climate=Change 2019: Yang Yonglian Exhibition (Sun 30 Mar to Sun 12 May) at Brighton Town Hall Vera Moller – A Thousand Tides (Sun 10 Mar to Sun 9 June) at Bunjil Place.
  • Awaken Exhibition (Weds 8 to Thurs 23 May) featuring Australian Aboriginal cultural heritage objects from one of the most important anthropological collections in the world on display at the University of Melbourne
  • HOPEFREEDOM (Mon 13 to Fri 19 May) at No Vacancy Gallery presented by Melbourne Artists for Asylum Seekers
  • Pearlescent Verse Screening (Fri 17 May) at Dancehouse featuring a video exhibition featuring artists including Hoda Afshar, Tane Andrews and Nikki Lam.
  • Ali MC’s Nong Shain Maw: Stone Breakers of the East Khasi Highlands (Sat 18 May to Sat 8 June) at Footscray Community Arts Centre
  • From Bark to Neon: Indigenous Art from the NGV Collection (Thurs 9 to Sun 26 May) at the Ian Potter Centre celebrating Indigenous Art in Australia

For those of you who love spoken word, performance art and music, check out:

For those of you who want to learn from the experts, do not miss:

For those of you who live or know people who live in ACT, HRAFF is touring to Canberra 23 to 25 May and screening Stop the Boats, The Panama Papers, Still Recording, Giant Little Ones and Femme Shorts.

For those of you who LOVE HRAFF and can help us spread the word, why not spread the word about the fest to your family, friends and colleagues or organise discounted group tix (< 7), or like and share HRAFF’s posts on social media (here are links to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) or distribute the electronic programs or hard copy programs at your workplace (just email me to arrange some programs)?

For those of you who have the capacity to support HRAFF and the work that we do, you can help us change the narrative and make a donation or consider becoming an annual Directors Circle donor. Large or small, your gift will make a real difference!

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