Manus Island detention movie premieres in London

8:35 pm on 9 October 2017

A movie secretly shot in Australia's immigration detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island has had its international premiere at the London Film Festival.

An image from the movie, Chauka, please tell us the time.

An image from the movie, Chauka, please tell us the time. Photo: Arash Kamali Sarvestani

Chauka, Please Tell us the Time highlights the plight of about 2000 refugees and asylum seekers who have been marooned for four years on Manus and Nauru.

Its co-director, the Kurdish journalist and detainee Behrouz Boochani, says the movie speaks for Australia's detainees.

"This movie is our voice and we want people around the world to hear it," Mr Boochani told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Manus, where he has been held since 2013.

Canberra's hardline immigration policy requires asylum seekers intercepted at sea trying to reach Australia to be sent to Manus and Nauru for processing.

In reality they are incarcerated indefinitely and told they will never be settled in Australia.

"People are dying on this island," said Mr Boochani, referring to the alleged suicide of two asylum seekers in 2017 and the deaths of four other detainees.

He filmed the documentary on a mobile phone and sent it in short clips via WhatsApp to his Amsterdam based co-director Arash Kamali Sarvestani.

The movie shows asylum seekers struggling to cope with the camp's monotony and prolonged separation from their families, while a journalist investigates reports of ill-treatment in a solitary confinement unit named Chauka after a local bird.

Interviews are alternated with stark, silent shots of a butterfly, a kitten or children playing on the other side of the security fence separating the camp from the outside world.

"We wanted to make it poetic, we wanted to give space to the audience to think," Mr Sarvestani said.

Mr Boochani was prevented from attending the London premiere despite an invitation from festival organisers and a letter of support from Australian Senators.

He and Sarvestani have never met in person.

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