Outrage HIV Justice Film Festival debuts at AIDS 2014 in Melbourne, first ever film festival to focus on HIV criminalisation

Edwin J Bernard - June 30, 2014

In the lead-up to AIDS 2014, ten powerful thought-provoking films from seven countries over three days (18, 19 and 21 July 2014) will outrage Melbourne film-goers by exploring how laws and policies aimed at controlling, punishing or disempowering specific groups of people living with, or at risk of HIV, harms not only human rights, but also the broader response to the HIV epidemic.

Curated by international HIV activist Edwin Bernard, co-ordinator of the HIV Justice Network, the Outrage HIV Justice Film Festival is presented in partnership with ACMI (Australian Centre for the Moving Image), Victorian AIDS Council and Living Positive Victoria.

The Outrage HIV Justice Film Festival includes four themed sessions: Women’s Injustices; Challenging HIV Criminalisation; Australian Responses to HIV Injustices; and Activism Against HIV Injustices.

“As the AIDS 2014 ‘Melbourne Declaration’ shines a spotlight on HIV injustices at the conference, the Outrage HIV Justice Film Festival‘s films, director Q&As, and panel discussions, will reveal the real stories behind the stigmatising mainstream media headlines, hopefully changing hearts and minds so that people understand why it’s important to advocate for change,” says the festival’s curator, Edwin Bernard, whose HIV Justice Network campaigns for an end to inappropriate uses of criminal laws to regulate and punish people living with HIV.

The Outrage HIV Justice Film Festival includes films never seen before in Australia and visits countries as diverse as Canada and Cambodia. “I hope that the sophisticated Melbourne cinema audience will be interested in challenging themselves to learn more about the forced HIV testing and imprisonment of a group of disenfranchised women in Greece, who were scapegoated by a cynical government trying to win votes in the 2012 election (in Zoe Mavroudi’s ‘Ruins: Chronicle of an HIV Witch-Hunt‘) or the harrowing impact of state-sponsored homophobia on the lives gay men and women in Jamaica (in Micah Fink’s ‘The Abominable Crime’),” says Edwin Bernard.

Other HIV criminalisation-related films include Positive Women: Exposing Injustice (Canada, 2012); Mark S King: HIV Criminalization Face-Off (US, 2012); HIV is Not a Crime (US, 2011); and How could she go on living as if weren’t there (Sweden, 2010).

“After each screening we’ll also be hearing from the film-makers themselves, many of whom are coming to Melbourne to talk about why they were outraged enough by these HIV injustices to make these films,” notes Bernard, whose own film ‘More Harm Than Good‘ is showing alongside three other short films that explore why a criminal justice approach to HIV prevention is hurting the HIV response.

“The moving image is a powerful expression of human experience. Through a diversity of perspectives, opinion, ideas, stories and images, the moving image helps us make sense of ourselves and our world through dynamic social, cultural and creative exchange. We’re delighted to have worked with our partners to present a compelling programme of cinema and talks focused on such a critical and important issue”. Helen Simondson, ACMI Public Programs Manager.

“This festival will, for the first time in Melbourne, bring together activist voices from around the world showing powerful work that highlights the injustice of HIV related discrimination,” says Simon Ruth, Chief Executive Officer of the Victorian AIDS Council. “Through documentary and drama, the diversity of the films is compelling, moving and ultimately inspiring.”

Punitive laws and policies aimed at controlling, punishing or disempowering specific groups of people living with, or at risk of HIV, is a hot topic and central theme of AIDS 2014, the much anticipated meeting of the International AIDS Society and largest international conference ever to be held in Melbourne.

“HIV justice is a key issue for people living with HIV in Melbourne as it is in many places around the world where even worse laws exist. Victoria still has punitive laws in place that we are fighting to have repealed. Outrage HIV Justice Film Festival takes advantage of AIDS 2014 to bring broader awareness of the damaging impact of unfair laws about HIV,” says Brent Alan, Executive Officer of Living Positive Victoria. “I hope as many Victorians as possible take advantage of the marvellous programme Edwin has curated to be presented in Melbourne’s home of cinema, ACMI.”

For more information and bookings visit www.outragefilmfestival.com or http://www.acmi.net.au/justice-film-festival-2014.aspx.

MEDIA ANNOUNCEMENT – Outrage HIV Justice Film Festival 18-21 July 2014