About the Studio

“Let the atrocious images haunt us. Even if they are only tokens and cannot possibly encompass most of the reality to which they refer, they still perform a vital function. The images say: This is what human beings are capable of doing—may volunteer to do, enthusiastically, self righteously Don’t forget.”

Susan Sontag (2003)

If documentary films generate empathy in audiences, illuminating new perspectives and activating powerful emotions, then what happens next? How can film impact audiences to reflect upon and move to act to redress human rights violations?


Human rights films and film festivals have grown in numbers since the late 1980s underlined by the hope of “transforming spectators into responsible, historical subjects” (Brenez 2012). However, a key issue according to human rights filmmakers and organizations concerns the development of effective post screening campaigns that suggest coherent and practical actions to desensitised audiences. Addressing this concern, the aim of this studio is to explore how film can be mobilized to empower audiences to take action against human rights violations. In a real sense, how can we close the distance between screen and spectator to build solidarity towards coordinated post screening action? How do we enlist audience emotion and empathy with human rights screen stories, issues and partners towards a concrete process of social change?

In this studio you will be making videos with the possibility of public screening at the 2020 HRAFF (Human Rights Arts Film Festival) in Melbourne. You will work with the HRAFF film programme to create 30-60 second “call to action” videos that create momentum towards three key audience actions specific to each film. Amplifying cinematic messages, the videos will connect audiences to individual issues and online and offline strategies to bring positive change. You will analyse films to ask for instance; What are the key human rights issues and who are the people most at risk? What are the most effective actions that audiences can take? What are the campaigns, tools and actions that will make an effective strategy?

Working individually and in groups, you will experiment with audio/video techniques and visual storytelling (e.g.

composition, montage) and documentary strategies (e.g. interviews, voice over, text) to create succinct and impactful videos. The studio will draw on thematically significant footage from the HRAFF 2020 film programme categories of:

• Gender Equality
• Climate Action
• Indigenous Voices
• Global Movement of People

• Peace, Justice and Truth

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