From the small but growing field of feature movies taken on smart phones, there are more dazzling efforts than Chauka, Please Tell Us that the Time but surely none more adventuresome.
A portrait of life within the Manus Island detention center, this unconventional documentary was made by Arash Kamali Sarvestani along with Behrouz Boochani, the former an Iranian filmmaker living in the Netherlands, the latter that an undercover journalist that has been living in detention on Manus Island since August 2013.
Trailer: Chauka, Please Tell Us that the Time
A documentary about life at the Manus Island detention center, filmed on a Cell Phone by Behrouz Boochani, a Kurdish journalist and Manus Island detainee.
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Trailer: Chauka, Please Tell Us that the Time
A documentary about life from the Manus Island detention center, filmed on a mobile phone a Kurdish journalist by Behrouz Boochani and Manus Island detainee.
Boochani shot at the movie on the sly and, he believes, in danger; while detainees are allowed phones they are not permitted to utilize them to shoot photographs or video.
“The project was secret,” Boochani says via telephone by Manus, where he stays resident (technically free to leave the center, but just like many fellow asylum seekers, fearing it’s dangerous to do this). “Shots of these guards were very difficult, because I was afraid they’d understand and accept my mobile phone. Because some of them do not wish to be in the movie or from the press, I had been fearful of the refugees also. Some of the shots I wanted to shoot — for example, long lines to the meals — I could not because the refugees did not need that. I am so sorry for that.”
Boochani shot on a Samsung Galaxy S6, taking good care to maintain his phone. “Some of those shots I set my phone onto the chair and asked some of the guys that they protect me, let me know whether the guards are still coming. Sometimes I set the telephone into a hat.”
Kamali Sarvestani place the ball rolling when he delivered Boochani a message saying he wanted to make a movie about life. Both fans of the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, they agreed that it would not be a documentary — its own terms of manufacturing ruled against this but rather a mood piece.
“I understood that most probably we can not change anything with the coverage at the moment, but we wanted to make something that would stay in the history of the nation,” Kamali Sarvestani says. “They’ll stun the camp, say there wasn’t anything there, but now we’ve got a list.”
Boochani listed interviews in their remedy on Manus Island with fellow detainees. One talks of getting had his throat cut by a protector, of fearing for his own life, another because he witnessed the murder of Reza Barati at 2014. Confinement had been undergone by many at a remote camp called Chauka, perversely named by the Australian government after the island bird.
Above all what Boochani seized was that the feeling of tedium, of waiting without conclusion that life here produces.
“We wanted to show people that the refugees are the same as you — they’re listening to songs, they have visions, they understand love, they have families and kids,” says Boochani. “They are not perfect, they’re human.”
The documentary has screened at the Sydney Film Festival, where the two filmmakers were invited. Boochani didn’t while Kamali Sarvestani attended.
“A month ago I wrote to the Immigration Department,” he says. “Two days prior to the screening they send me a letter saying you cannot come because you do not have a visa.”
Chauka, Please Tell Us that the Time screens at ACMI June 16-18. Arash Kamali Sarvestani participate in a Q&A on Saturday and Sunday and will present most of sessions. Details: acmi.net.au/chauka