Q&A: Alithia Barampataz, human rights officer
The human rights advocate talks about the growing success of the PNG Human Rights Film Festival, touring the country from September until November.
What is the festival about?
It’s an annual festival in its ninth year, showing films about human rights issues that impact PNG, such as gender-based violence, the right to health and land, and freedom of speech. This year, we are showing between 25 and 30 films, as short as five minutes up to feature length. The festival travels to Port Moresby, Madang, Goroka and Bougainville. Last year, more than 1000 people attended: it’s one of those catchy events that can inspire people of all ages and backgrounds.
How did you get involved?
In 2010, I came home to Port Moresby after studying in the US, and became involved with the festival committee. It was the first year of the festival. In 2013, I became the national human rights officer for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which leads the festival committee, so I’ve been lucky enough to be involved every year since the beginning.
What’s the theme of this year’s festival?
This year’s theme is ‘ Tokaut nau long senisim tumora’. It means ‘Speak up today to change tomorrow’. We’re highlighting films that show the change that one individual can inspire or make. We want to emphasise that you don’t have to be a lawyer or someone with a lot of money to make change. Included in the line-up are three short films by PNG filmmakers. They cover the right to education, sorcery accusation-related violence and the challenges of living in a modern society with strong traditional influences. It’s amazing how they’re able to bring you on a full journey in just 10 minutes.
Is a human rights film festival necessary?
Art has the power to move people. There is an appetite among the PNG public to learn more about human rights issues, and the festival is a rare chance to engage with public officials and NGOs working in this space. Some topics can be very delicate to discuss publicly, such as domestic violence. Film creates enough distance so that you’re able to first talk about the film, then reflect on your own situation. Each night, we show films with a common theme, and have an interactive panel discussion with the audience on how that issue affects PNG and how people can get involved in addressing it.
Where are the films from?
The PNG films feature locations including Nagamuifa and Goroka in Eastern Highlands Province, as well as scenes shot in East New Britain, Madang, Milne Bay as well as Port Moresby and the urban village of Vabukori, in the National Capital District. They’re in Tok Pisin, English and some have local Tok Ples languages/ dialects as well, while the international films are in a range of languages, from Kiribati to Swahili, with English subtitles.
– BELINDA JACKSON