May was a big month for film.  As Cannes Film Festival did its thing in France and we watched from afar, the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival created an exciting buzz locally.  The great thing about the HRAFF is that you always leave the cinema feeling really glad you saw that film and you are better for it, smarter, funnier, more attractive.  I’m not even joking!

Things kicked off with a powerful screening of The Square.  This story of ordinary people living in an extraordinary time scored Egypt its first ever Oscar nomination this year.  The reality of the 2011 Tahrir Square protests was summed up by Aida Al Kashef, “Everyone knew that if you were there you were prepared to die,” but it is hard to get a real sense of this from just a glimpse of footage on the news.  This film takes you right inside the events and the camera is an important part of the action too, connecting the viewer to the film in a remarkable way.   Also the cast is littered with Egyptian movie stars and handsome musicians, which no one was complaining about.

WhatToWatch
Another festival highlight, Internet’s Own Boy, brought us the story of Aaron Swartz.  A young computer genius, he was authoring code in primary school and co-founded Reddit at 19.  He wanted to make the world a better place and shunned Silicon Valley in favour of hacktivism and social justice.  Sadly he faced up to 35 years jail on questionable charges and took his own life in January 2013, aged 26.  I loved getting a glimpse into this exciting mind, so alive to the risks and possibilities and magic of the digital age.  A tragic loss but his work will live on through his many friends and fans.

Closing night film Rich Hill gave a heart and soul to those who are often written off as white trash.  It’s like an honest glimpse into the world that Kurt Cobain famously grew up in, complete with over-medicated and misunderstood kids and their parents struggling to get through the day.   The amazing music and cinematography paint a haunting picture of modern day America which seems to have strayed so far from the land of opportunity for all.   This film got off the ground thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign and it is such a testament to the merits of crowd funding in the Arts.  Do we even need Hollywood these days?

After so much worthiness, I will be kicking back with some TV this month, Game of Thrones and maybe even When LoveCcomes to Town.  What will you be watching?  Let me know!

Penny Ivison writes monthly for PEARL on film & TV. If there’s anything you’d like to let Penny know about that’s happening in the Bayside or Peninsula area in 2014, you can find her on twitter on @pipsicedtea.

PENNY IVISON