Documentary Competition

Australian documentary Chasing Asylum is gritty and unglamorous, but the shocking reality of what it depicts leaves it compelling and significant.

‘Stop the boats’. The presiding philosophy behind Australia’s refugee immigration policy over the last decade has been exactly that, in those exact words. A steadfast refusal to grant citizenship, or even access to the country, spiralled into a devastating human rights disaster, an act of callous, purposeful negligence the moral implications of which many high-ranking Australian politicians still refuse to discuss. Eva Orner’s powerful, eye-opening documentary examines the widespread tragedy of the Sovereign Borders policy, including a wealth of footage recorded covertly from within the refugee internment camp in Nauru.

“a wholly necessary reminder of the importance of the ‘human cost’”

There is a keen focus on the human cost. In order to effectively deter potential refugees from crossing the ocean to enter Australia, efforts were made to ensure any existing asylum seekers were as miserably treated as possible. Not simply on a personal level – although there were innumerable instances of misconduct by the guards, and mistreatment on a day-to-day basis – but also on a mass, bureaucratic scale. People are kept in detention for devastatingly long periods of time, without any progress being made towards their acceptance or release. The toll this takes on the refugees, who come from a range of dangerous countries, is presented by Orner with brutal, efficient clarity. The film also makes judicious use of interviews, the most extensive being damning testimony from support workers on the centre on Nauru.

Chasing Asylum is no easy watch, but the facts it lays out constitute essential viewing. For a year in which Britain’s voting public has fallen prey to the easy promises of anti-immigrant buzzwords, this film is a wholly necessary reminder of the importance of the ‘human cost’, and the terrible consequences when it is taken lightly.

Louis Chilton


Image: Eva Orner

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