Awarded Best Documentary at the 2019 St. Kilda Film Festival
Synopsis / Documentary Short Film / Duration 13min:28sec
Directors Statement: Angus McDonald
"MANUS is a 13 minute film which shines a light on the plight of hundreds of asylum seekers still held captive by the Australian Government on Manus Island in PNG after 6 years. I created the film based around footage shot there by two-time Walkley award winning journalist Olivia Rousset when she secretly visited the men for a single night with two others (Jarrod McKenna and Father Dave Brown) at the end of 2017 when the Detention facility at Lombrum on Manus Island was closed. The men held on Manus were ordered to move to new centres nearby on Manus but hundreds refused to leave, resulting in a standoff that lasted several weeks. The film focuses entirely on the testimonials of the men, and includes at the end, a poem about Manus written by Kurdish journalist, award-winning writer, and asylum seeker on Manus, Behrouz Boochani, voiced by him specifically for the film in Farsi.
I wanted the public to hear from the men themselves in this film, something that happens too rarely and suits the Federal government who has continually tried to keep those on Manus and Nauru invisible from the Australian public. I've attempted to create a carefully crafted film about innocent people in a long, brutal predicament, told in their own words, intended to provide powerful insights into their situation and humanise their plight for the public. The objective of all the films I'm making is to contribute towards the public rediscovering their compassion and contributing to a change in our collective approach of how we deal with those fleeing war and persecution. We need to recognise that those who arrive are not criminals or illegal. They are simply people running for their lives who seek our help and we need to begin helping them instead of adding further to their suffering. This is a film about humanity and solidarity.
Producer Angus McDonald for Howling Eagle Productions
Director Angus McDonald
Editing & Sound Design Nolan Verheij.
Original Footage & Field Production Olivia Rousset
Additional Editing Lisa Mulholland
Manus Island Poem written and voiced by Behrouz Boochani/Translated by Moones Mansoubi
Additional Translation Manhaz Alimardanian
Special Thanks Behrouz Boochani, Abdul Aziz Adam, Jarrod McKenna, Father Dave Smith
Communications Catherine Lyn Scott (London Flair)
FILM SUBTITLES TRANSLATION
Greek Stavroula Tasia
Italian Anna Di Russo
Arabic Fidel Azizi
Dedicated to all the men detained on Manus Island.
Producer & Director
Angus McDonald is an established Australian contemporary visual artist who has been exhibiting across Australia and internationally for 25 years. He began filmmaking in 2017 as part of social advocacy project he created called Howling Eagle which promotes the adoption of humanitarian approaches to support those seeking asylum. His documentary MANUS is his first standalone film. It was awarded Best Documentary at the 2019 St. Kilda Film Festival, receiving automatic eligibility for selection for the 2020 Academy Awards in the Documentary Short category.
After graduating with an Economics degree from the University of Sydney, McDonald enrolled at the Julian Ashton Art School in Sydney. He was awarded the the school's Brett Whiteley Scholarship in 1994 & was selected as a finalist in the NSW Travelling Art Scholarship in the same year. After completing his studies, McDonald moved to the small island of Leros in Eastern Greece, and afterwards to Italy, continuing his studies at the Florence Academy of Art in 1999 and 2000.
Since 1995, McDonald has staged over 30 solo exhibitions in Australia, Greece, Japan & the UK, & shown in group exhibitions and art fairs across Australia, South-East Asia, Canada, the United States and Europe.
In 2007, he travelled to Antarctica as the Expedition Artist at the invitation of the Mawson’s Huts Foundation and returned there in 2009. McDonald has been a frequent finalist in numerous national art awards including Australia’s biggest art competition, the Archibald Prize, where he has been a selected finalist on five occasions: 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and this year, 2019, with his portrait of inclusion and diversity advocate, Mariam Veiszadeh. McDonald is also an Ambassador for World Vision’s KidsOffNauru campaign.
McDonald began filmmaking in 2017 believing that film was the best medium in which to reach the public to advocate for more humanitarian approaches to managing the welfare of forcibly displaced people seeking asylum, particularly here in Australia.
His films are created under the name Howling Eagle and his series titled "Philoxenia" (a Greek word pronounced ‘filo-zenya’ meaning 'extending hospitality and friendship to the stranger') are a selection of short films and interviews about refugee protection across the globe and current refugee policies in Australia.
Director of Photography, Stills & Editing
Nolan Verheij is a cinematographer and photographer from Byron Bay, Australia, specializing in lifestyle and documentary work. His documentary filmmaking has taken him to the Middle East covering the refugee crisis and commercially he has worked with national and international brands shooting lifestyle. He is currently based in Berlin, Germany.
Field Producer & Footage
Olivia Rousset has been working as a journalist and documentary filmmaker for 20 years, traveling the world making films in many countries including Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Ethiopia, Kosovo, Brazil, Indonesia and Bosnia . She usually works alone, shooting and directing, and is passionate about social justice issues. Her films have screen on the BBC, CBC (Canada) and the ABC and SBS in Australia. Olivia won two Walkley Awards (Australia's highest journalism prize), UN Media Awards as well as the George Munster Award for Independent Journalism for her reporting for SBS TV’s 'Dateline' programme. Last year Olivia produced a radio documentary for 'Reveal' at the Centre for Investigative Reporting in the U.S.
Behrouz Boochani (born 23 July 1983) is an Iranian-Kurdish journalist, human rights defender, poet and film producer. He was born in western Iran. He has been detained by the Australian Federal government on Manus Island since 2013.
Boochani is the co-director, along with Iranian film maker Arash Kamali Sarvestani, of the 2017 documentary Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time, selected for the BFI awards and awarded the audience award for best documentary at the Sydney Film Festival in 2018. He has published numerous articles in leading media internationally about the plight of refugees held by the Australian government on Manus Island, and has won several awards.
His memoir, No Friend But the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison, won the Victorian Prize for Literature and the Victorian Premier's Prize for Nonfiction in January 2019. The book was tapped out on a mobile phone in a series of single messages over time and translated from Persianinto English by Omid Tofighian.
Abdul Aziz Adam is a committed and tireless advocate for refugee rights.
He belongs to the Zaghawa ethnic group of Darfur, in north-western Sudan. In 2013, the conflict forced him to seek asylum. He flew to Indonesia and travelled onward by boat for Australia. The 26 year old was held in the detention camp on Manus Island for six years and has become a prominent activist for the rights of others who remain there.
Over the course of two years, he sent over 4000 thousand voice messages to report on his experiences for the multi award-winning podcast, The Messenger.
Abdul Aziz was named the 2019 Martin Ennals Award Laureate at a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, an award that honours individuals who have shown outstanding commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, often working under threat of imprisonment, torture or worse.
Aziz was recently granted asylum in Switzerland where he continues to actively rail for freedom and safety on behalf of all this who still remain held by Australia on Manus and Nauru.
David Smith, also known as Fighting Father Dave, is an Australian Anglican priest best known for his work with at-risk youths, especially in his use of boxing for those suffering from substance abuse problems and anger management issues. He is also a 6th degree black belt and a professional boxer. His progression into martial arts and boxing happened while he was attempting to raise funds for the community in Dulwich Hill, where he has been the parish priest of the Anglican Church since 1990. Smith's "Trinity's Youth Centre" opened in the church hall in 1994, providing a safe-place for young people after school.
In 2002 Dave established "Binacrombi" - a remote facility in the heart of the Australian bush – as a centre for both prayer and martial arts training for young people. He runs regular 'Warrior Weekend'camps at Binacrombi, aimed at teaching both physical and spiritual fitness, and (increasingly) at developing social integration between Muslim and non-Muslim youth.
Much of Dave's energy is indeed focused on inter-faith and social-justice work. He has built close ties with the Shia Muslim community in Sydney and works hard at trying to combat Islamophobia and anti-Arab prejudice.
Smith is also a published author and has taken a very public stance on various human-rights issues, including refugee protection.
Smith has been twice awarded Marrickville Citizen of the Year award and was nominated for Australian of the Year in 2004 and 2009. In 2012, he broke the world record for the most continuous rounds boxing.
Dr Mahnaz Alimardanian is a Consultant Anthropologist. She is an Honorary Associate with the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Australia. She provides community-based research services at PiiR Consulting and has a background in visual and performing arts and design.www.piir.com.au