Film shot at Australian camp for asylum hopefuls hits foreign screens

A screen grab from the trailer of Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time. (Photo courtesy: video grab)
Updated 10 October 2017

Film shot at Australian camp for asylum hopefuls hits foreign screens

LONDON: Footage from within one of Australia’s offshore detention facilities for asylum seekers reached its first international audience this week in London, with one of the filmmakers highlighting the plight of his co-director who remains inside the camp.
“Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time” portrays life within Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island camp, built as part of Australia’s immigration crackdown which has seen asylum seekers who try to reach the country by boat taken to an offshore site.
The footage was shot on a smartphone by Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian who has spent four years in the camp since the boat he was trying to reach Australia on was intercepted by the authorities.
“We build the story with WhatsApp footage, really low-quality video, and it took a long time to transfer,” said co-director Arash Kamali Sarvestani, who originally contacted Boochani through Facebook asking him to film inside the camp.
The outcome includes playful scenes of children on the other side of the fence and a scrawny cat, shot alongside those of men recounting their treatment and of ambulances arriving to treat detainees.
The film’s title is a reference to the camp’s solitary confinement cells, nicknamed “Chauka” after a type of bird native to Manus Island.
“We just talked about the ideas and then he found it in his own way because he’s living there,” Kamali Sarvestani told AFP during the London Film Festival.
Boochani is one of 1,000 people spread between the Manus facility and one on the island of Nauru, many of them from Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There has been a push to relocate the detainees to third countries after the country’s Supreme Court ruled last year that holding people on the island was unconstitutional and illegal.
A first group of refugees from the Pacific camps was approved for resettlement in the United States in a deal struck with Washington under former president Barack Obama.
The pact has angered President Donald Trump, who has begrudgingly agreed to accept an unspecified number of people who can fulfil rigorously vetted requirements.
But it remains unclear what will happen to those not taken by the US.
Three men held at Manus have died, and the filmmakers hope that seeing the inside view of the camp’s conditions — widely criticized by refugee advocates and medical professionals — will have an impact on audiences.
“This is the first place that the movie is screening outside Australia, so we can test it if it works or not; if people from other countries become angry or put pressure on Australia,” Kamali Sarvestani said.
Boochani had been invited by the British Film Institute to attend the screening of his film, with the festival hosts praising the documentary as “brave, thoughtful and urgent filmmaking.”
But despite writing to the British High Commissioner to Australia, Menna Rawlings, requesting help in coming to London, Boochani remains on Manus.
Kamali Sarvestani said his co-director is stuck in limbo, unable to go back to Iran but with no third country willing to accept him.
“If he can get out of that camp I think he will have a great life in the future, but I don’t know. I really hope he can leave, but I think it would be difficult,” he said.


Israeli jeweler makes $1.5m gold coronavirus mask

Updated 11 August 2020

Israeli jeweler makes $1.5m gold coronavirus mask

  • The 18-karat white gold mask will be decorated with 3,600 white and black diamonds
  • The Israeli company says it will be the world’s most expensive coronavirus mask

MOTZA: An Israeli jewelry company is working on what it says will be the world’s most expensive coronavirus mask, a gold, diamond-encrusted face covering with a price tag of $1.5 million.

The 18-karat white gold mask will be decorated with 3,600 white and black diamonds and fitted with top-rated N99 filters at the request of the buyer, said designer Isaac Levy.

Levy, owner of the Yvel company, said the buyer had two other demands: that it be completed by the end of the year, and that it would be the priciest in the world. That last condition, he said, “was the easiest to fulfill.”

He declined to identify the buyer, but said he was a Chinese businessman living in the United States.

The glitzed-up face mask may lend some pizzazz to the protective gear now mandatory in public spaces in many countries. But at 270 grams (over half a pound) — nearly 100 times that of a typical surgical mask — it is not likely to be a practical accessory to wear.

n an interview at his factory near Jerusalem, Levy showed off several pieces of the mask, covered in diamonds. One gold plate had a hole for the filter.

“Money maybe doesn’t buy everything, but if it can buy a very expensive COVID-19 mask and the guy wants to wear it and walk around and get the attention, he should be happy with that,” Levy said.

Such an ostentatious mask might also rub some the wrong way at a time when millions of people around the world are out of work or suffering economically. Levy said that while he would not wear it himself, he was thankful for the opportunity.

“I am happy that this mask gave us enough work for our employees to be able to provide their jobs in very challenging times like these times right now,” he said.