Manus Island detention movie shot in secret

3:36 pm on 8 April 2017

A documentary filmed in secret on a mobile phone will soon give movie goers a glimpse inside Australia's refugee detention centre on Papua New Guinea's Manus Island.

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 was shot by the Kurdish journalist and Manus Island detainee, Behrouz Boochani.

Interned on the island for almost four years as part of Australia's policy of processing asylum seekers abroad, Mr Boochani is a refugee from Iran and the film's co-director.

"Chauka is actually a movie against racists and it is not only about the refugees," he said.

"It's about Manusian people too and how Australia use them, use local people and use this island against the refugees."

Over six months, Mr Boochani filmed the 88-minute movie on his cell phone, sending the shots to his co-director in the Netherlands, Arash Kamali Sarvestani.

Arash Kamali Sarvestani.

Arash Kamali Sarvestani. Photo: Arash Kamali Sarvestani

"He sent one by one. It took long time," said Mr Sarvestani.

"Sometimes for one thirty second shot it takes half a day. It depends on the internet."

Eventually, Mr Boochani was able to smuggle his footage to Amsterdam on a USB drive.

"It is a documentary film, but in some ways it is artistic work," he said.

"We have some actors and some shots about Manusian culture, about Manusian dance and some songs from my homeland, Kurdistan."

Behrouz Boochani.

Behrouz Boochani. Photo: Behrouz Boochani

The movie was named after a bird endemic to Manus Island, whose morning call is like an alarm clock for the Manusian people.

But Chauka is not just the name of a bird. It was also the name given to the detention centre's notorious solitary confinement jail.

Chauka, please tell us the time, poster.

Chauka, please tell us the time, poster. Photo: Hesam Fetrati

"That's the worst jail in the camp. When they want to torture somebody they send them to the Chauka." said Mr Sarvestani.

"Chauka is the name of the bird found just in Manus Island. It's so important for people in Manus, it's their identity. It's in their flag"

In dialogue from the movie, a Manusian man explained that Australia's use of the name Chauka was deeply offensive to the people of the island.

"It's so frustrating to hear that name Chauka being used for the purpose of abusing people, or torturing people, or threatening people," he said.

"We took them here to care for them until they find such place where they can settle."

Mr Sarvestani said at the heart of the movie was how Australia abdicated responsibility for the refugees it detained offshore.

"The whole story is kind of metaphor. They use the Manusian identity to torture refugees," he said.

"Refugees and Manusian are both victims. Australia is always, if somebody commits suicide, it's not our responsibility. It's about Manusian responsibility."

The film's directors hope the movie will soon be accepted by film festivals worldwide.