“More than ever, we face a time when human rights needs to be at the forefront of our consciousness,” says Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF) director Ella McNeill in her festival statement. “We need to be vocal about what matters to us and encourage a society driven by values and compassion.” McNeill and her small team are passionately devoted to bringing this mission statement to cities across the country.

HRAFF (a not-for-profit festival) is in its seventh year. On now in Melbourne and soon to hit Sydney, it is a national festival that uses film, art and discussion to engage with true-life stories and struggles from around the globe. In this way it aims to influence the way we view our community and to unite those with a social conscious.

This year’s program will explore personal and political struggles, emphasising the extraordinary power of peace, rebellion, ideas and education. It will also bring taboo topics and discussions to the surface. There will be six films showing in Sydney, while the Melbourne program, already halfway through, will partner with ACMI to screen more than 25. Here are some of the highlights.

The Square
This Oscar-nominated documentary charts a small group of Tahrir Square activists over three years during the Egyptian revolution. This political documentary was the first Egyptian film to earn an Academy Award nomination. It was also the winner of the Cinema for Peace Awards’ Most Valuable Documentary. Despite this it cannot be shown in Egypt – which speaks volumes about why a film such as this is key to the festival.
Screening May 24

No Burqas Behind Bars
A heartbreaking and inspiring documentary that shadows three resilient women, all residents of Afghanistan’s Takhar Prison, who were jailed for ‘moral crimes’ after fleeing abusive or arranged marriages. The film shows how prison has become their refuge.
Screening May 25

Rich Hill
This is an American eye-opener. It tracks three teenagers living below the poverty line in Missouri, showing the daily battles of many first world families who are victims of economic collapse. This film depicts the dissolving American dream and the impact this is having on a new generation.
Screening May 22

Human Rights Arts and Film Festival is on in Melbourne until May 22 and in Sydney from May 27–31.

We're giving away a double pass to Hindsight: Death to Fascist Vultures! on Saturday May 17 and a double pass to Rich Hill on Thursday May 22. To win, email win@broadsheet.com.au with 'HRAFF' in the subject line. Please also let us know which film you would prefer to see.