Screened as part of NZIFF 2016
Drawing on an abundance of whistle-blower testimony and stealthily shot footage, Australian filmmaker Eva Orner (producer of Alex Gibney’s Taxi to the Dark Side) exposes the squalid cruelty of the notorious detention centres established by the Australian government to house asylum-seekers on Nauru and Manus Island. Claiming, not inaccurately, that they carry the mandate of the Australian people, a succession of Australian prime ministers stonily insist that the net effect of the centres is humanitarian: by making it clear that asylum seekers are unwelcome, they have saved thousands from rat-shit boats and the clutches of ruthless people smugglers. Attesting in heartbreaking detail to the relentless degradation of the detainees, Orner’s film surely reinforces the deterrent effect, while exposing forever the grotesquerie of the conscience-salving humanitarian argument. Flouting a widespread disclosure ban that carries draconian penalties, former aid workers and security staff provide us, through their bravery, with some small hope that their compatriots may recoil just as decisively from the horrors being committed to keep Australia Fair.