Dear Australia, #CloseTheCamps #LetThemStay. Filmed in 26 cities worldwide. A video letter produced by the International Alliance Against Mandatory Detention + 501c3 productions
Zac Rudge: Co-Producer – International Alliance Against Mandatory Detention
Why is the International Alliance Against Mandatory Detention Australia’s anti-apartheid movement?
The development of the #LetThemStay campaign in Australia was an important development in the movement against Australia’s inhumane and illegal treatment of asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat. In response to the campaign, International Alliance Against Mandatory Detention members Steph Mawson, Emma Nichols, and Zoe Stewart, all based in Cambridge, UK, penned this piece*.
As the authors note, “The Alliance finds inspiration in the history of other international solidarity movements, but especially from the British-based anti-apartheid movement. Politicians like Jeremy Corbyn cut their political teeth standing outside the South African embassy, in opposition to that country’s system of apartheid.
While these international solidarity activists did not win the anti-apartheid struggle – that was won by South Africans – they did amplify the voices of those struggling for justice. They stood up, and through their actions of solidarity, they were part of changing global history.” In a similar vein, the International Alliance Against Mandatory Detention acts in solidarity with and supports the struggles of asylum seekers held in detention and activists based in Australia to dismantle an unjust, inhumane, and illegal system.
Why have you decided to produce a series of videos and in this instance, a video letter?
The Alliance has carried out local actions across the world to support those campaigning for change within Australia’s borders. However, living overseas it is challenging to find ways to meaningfully act on issues so geographically distant. The Alliance has therefore chosen to act using the most powerful tools available to us, which are online.
Using online tools and social media we organize, create, and distribute content that supports the struggles of those active on these campaigns in Australia, and educates the international community about Australia’s inhumane policies. As Steph, Emma, and Zoe state, “Those of us who live outside of Australia need to stand up in the name of human rights and social justice, to support those asylum seekers being treated by the Australian government as political refuse and to amplify the voices of many thousands of refugee activists.”
Why did you decide to structure the film Dear Australia as a video letter involving people in 26 different locations worldwide?
We decided to use the video letter format again in the 2016 #letthemstay campaign to highlight the diversity of Australians around the world who are concerned about this issue. Our 2015 global call to action for Palm Sunday actions successfully shon a light on these issues, and we aimed to build on this for the 2016 campaign.
I’m fascinated by how it all works in a logistical sense. Is there a co-ordinator? Series producer? Who writes the script?
Everything we do is collaborative. We are a volunteer organization and depend on each other's skills and experience. For this video it started as Palm Sunday actions were being planned in Australia, immediately following the high court decision in support of the offshore detention program, and as the #letthemstay campaign was gaining traction in Australia. Following an informal online discussion we decided to follow up our 2015 video using a similar concept, with an updated message.
Lizzie O’Shea, an NYC Chapter member and longstanding refugee rights campaigner and lawyer, wrote the text, which was agreed upon by our core group of members. I acted as producer to coordinate input from locations around the world and source music, which Michael Meeking very generously donated. In terms of nuts and bolts - we used Google sheets, email, and facebook as our primary tools.
For the final assembly we worked with 501c3Productions, an NYC based organization that makes media for movements, of which I am a part. The last piece of the puzzle was promotion. Though we have aimed for broader attention with media releases and communication with the press, our greatest strength has been in promotion via social media.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Feedback has been very positive (outside of internet trolling, which we do not engage with). We invited participants in the project to provide specific feedback, which we will use to increase the impact our next project! This included things like tightening up our headlines (achieving virality is tricky!), building relationships with specific journalists as we design campaigns, and encouraging participants to be as creative as they wish with their ‘signs’.
Aside from feedback on how we might have made it better, the response has been primarily emotional - this issue is deeply sad for many people and the video triggered many strong emotions. On the other hand, people have mentioned that the message and collective nature of the video, with people from across the globe, is also empowering and inspiring - this is a key aim of ours.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Feedback from internet trolls is always challenging. When I read the racist, violent language frequently used by trolls it is deeply troubling. Though I know the narratives subscribed to by many of these commenters have deep traction in many societies, I find it hard to confront the levels of hatred that people can feel towards vulnerable people that pose them no risk whatsoever. It poses bigger questions which I will not get into here. From an activist's point of view, next time we will spend much more time working on distribution strategies, not just production.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
For those that see this film on this platform we hope it helps to connect them to the tragedy and reality of Australia’s immigration policies, and may provide them some space to engage with this emotionally. We also hope that any individuals who see this piece who would like to get involved reach out to us! This work is only possible because of volunteers across the globe. To get involved and find out more go to www.closethecamps.wordpress.com
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message and audience?
This video was made for web-based distribution. It is not high enough quality for large format screening (some of it was shot on camera-phones). However, to amplify our message we would need greater uptake by web-based media organizations such as Huffington Post, Revolution News, and Slate Magazine. In addition, greater uptake by traditional media would increase our impact significantly.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
We made this film in solidarity with the #letthemstay campaign leading up to Palm Sunday actions in Australia. We hoped that it would act as a tool to increase participation in the associated (and future) campaigns and actions. We view this video as one piece in an ongoing effort to keep these issues in the public eye, as well as a tool to invite concerned individuals across the globe to raise their voice on the issue. As people join this movement we become more able to achieve our aims of policy change in Australia.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this issue and film?
What connections are there between anti-facist and anti-racist movements in Europe and the United States, and the movement to change immigration policies in Australia? Should these movements be connected, and if so how? How do non-place-based movements work and interact collaboratively?
Interview: April 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela