Released: 2016 (UK)
Reviewed by: Isaac Tomiczek (Instagram: @iceydirector)
Eva Omer’s documentary is a stick of dynamite. Topical, vital, brave and an unflinching warts and all depiction of the inhumane and illegal lengths the Australian government have taken with refugees seeking safety within their borders.
After fleeing war torn, unsafe homelands, asylum seekers who reach their shores have been detained at inhospitable detention camps off shore, designed with the singular purpose of being worse than lands they have fled.
Australia’s open declarations of non-compliance with numerous international treatise, refugee and human rights acts, are statements of intent to protect their borders, yet they fly in the face of humanity.
The film’s screening coincides with the recent release of documents and evidence detailing the levels of abuse. In some cases these have included deaths and rapes in the centres, and the surrounding areas.
It is in the moments of testimony and first hand footage that the sheer scale of the situation is laid bare. They offer a stark reminder that for many people, leaving their homes where they are in danger opens them up to an even more uncertain future.
Orner does wonders with covert footage she has gathered, blending this with testimony from volunteers and workers from the camps, who had no idea what they would become part of, a morally corrupt situation bigger than themselves.
Two particular cases of death resulting from inhumane treatment and negligence by officials are incredibly hard hitting, especially when Orner tracks down the bereaved families of the victims.
The film also pulls no punches in pointing the finger (and rightly so) at the Australian government.
Opening with a montage of the embarrassing anti immigration rhetoric various Australian Prime Ministers have spouted to appease their voting base and the country at large, the film then finds personal stories from all angles and makes these the hands which guide us through the harsh environment we have seemingly been left in, much like the people we are watching.
What is frighteningly apparent by the films conclusion is that the Australian government is still finding ways to neglect their care of duty, silence the whistleblowers (who could face up to 2 years in prison) and abuse their power.
Orner’s film exposes the frightening and mind boggling fact that countless millions have been spent to operate these camps, with the result being nothing less short of a monumental taint on Australian as a nation and the Australian people.
I have Australian roots and never have I felt as queasy and shameful of them. That is not to say it is just an Australian problem but when the film makes an effort to show ways other nations have dealt with asylum seekers, it is a tough pill to swallow.
Chasing Asylum leaves you in no doubt that compassion and humanity trump detention and confinement.
With the worlds displaced population at the highest since WWII this film feels like a powder keg that will start discussion where there was none and even more where there was plenty already.