Detainees on Manus Island are featured in a short documentary by Lennox Head filmmaker, Angus McDonald.
Detainees on Manus Island are featured in a short documentary by Lennox Head filmmaker, Angus McDonald. Howling Eagle Productions

Filmmaker says 'cruelty and brutality' of Manus must end

A NORTHERN Rivers filmmaker whose documentary on the Manus Island detention centre will be eligible for Academy Awards consideration hopes the global attention could change Australia's approach to asylum seekers.

Lennox Head artist and filmmaker Angus McDonald has produced Manus, which features secretly-filmed footage of men who've been detained on the island for years.

Mr McDonald said the film was made possible by the footage taken by journalist Olivia Rousse, who travelled to Manus in secret with two other Australians in 2017.

In June, Manus claimed the best documentary prize at the Oscar-qualifying St Kilda Film Festival.

He said the significance of this recognition was two-fold.

"As an artist, I'm trying to craft beautiful engaging work that's emotive for the viewer," he said.

But he hoped the work would also lead to changes in "the way we manage people who arrive here".

"I got into this for one reason really and that was to try and raise awareness with the Australian public," he said.

It's not the first foray into the asylum seeker crisis for his film company, Howling Eagle.

Youtube series Philoxenia, released last year, looked at the situation in other parts of the world.

"It always was (the plan), I wanted to start overseas so I could get some global perspective," Mr McDonald said.

"They have to handle massive numbers of people in comparison to the smaller numbers we have here.

"The cruelty and brutality of (Australia's) policy is so unnecessary, so expensive as well and not any real solution, just inflicting more suffering."

With ongoing conflicts and the looming threat of some communities being displaced in the future by climate change, Mr McDonald said the issue of people seeking genuine asylum was not going to disappear.

Through the film, he's asking Australian authorities to consider "a humanitarian way of dealing with it", something he said other countries had mastered.

Seeing the faces and hearing the voices of men still detained on Manus would help to make any alternative to this difficult, he said.

Manus will be shown in two private screenings in Victoria and in Gosford on the Central Coast this month but the film's also being considered for further film festivals.

A trailer for the film includes Iranian refugee and Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani, author of No Friend But the Mountains, a book written on a mobile phone smuggled into Manus.

In the trailer, Mr Boochani spoke of men who'd been recognised as refugees under international law and who "deserve to get freedom".