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Raising UnAustralia: Eva Orner's asylum seeker documentary

“A feature documentary that examines how Australia went from being the Lucky Country to a country that persecutes desperate asylum seekers,’’ is how film producer Eva Orner (pictured above) is selling her new project to potential investors.

Orner, who won both Academy and Emmy awards as the co-producer of the 2008 documentary Taxi to the Dark Side about Bush-era torture practices is now producing and planning to direct her new film Bloody UnAustralian.

An Indiegogo crowd fundraising campaign, which ends in 48 hours, had raised about $71,000 by time of publication just short of its $80,000 target. The original target had been been originally a “pie in the sky”  $200,000. Those sums are only a fraction of the total budget (which she declines to give other than to day “it’s much less than several million dollars”), but traditional fundraising has raised most of the budget from foundations and wealthy individuals.

Speaking via Skype from her home in Los Angeles where she has lived for ten years, Orner told Daily Review that the documentary will take her about a year to make and she will move home to Australia next month to make it.

“I didn’t want to go through the traditional funding agencies because I wanted to do this quickly,’’ Orner said, adding that the highly critical nature of her project might also have caused problems with getting funds from government agencies.

The title, Bloody UnAustralian, comes from the expression she grew up hearing in her hometown Melbourne when people expressed their very Australian disgust of unfair behaviour or persecution of the underdog.

Orner is outraged by the Australian government’s treatment of asylum-seekers and plans to use her story-telling skills to tell the world about it.

“I’ve raised the money in record time,” Orner said,  explaining that she’s tapping into a widespread anger about the asylum seeker issue that is not just attracting Australian money, but from donors around the world.

“This is the reason I hope the film goes well globally because refugees are a global crisis with new figures showing there are now 50 million refugees in the world.”

Orner said that while Australians are well aware of the current and previous governments’ treatment of asylum seekers, it has come as a surprise to people overseas, and to Americans in particular.

“People who work in human rights and journalists here know, but not that many people here know about it. I think people love Australia and they have this lovely perception of Australia, and so they can’t believe it.”

Taxi to the Dark Side (directed by American filmmaker Alex Gibney) exposed US government authorised torture and sensory deprivation methods which resulted in the death of an Afghan detainee in a US run prison in Afghanistan.

“I feel like I’m taxi-ing to the dark side of Australia,” Orner said of this film which has already attracted plenty of hate mail for her on public forums in Australia.

She said she is prepared for the film to be regarded by some as a sort of anti-Australian Tourism Commission campaign, but her hope is that the film will gain a widespread cinema release in Australia and reach a broader audience than television news feature programs that have investigated “boat people” issues.

Orner said she is a filmmaker, not a journalist, and she is not setting out to uncover new material, but to use her filmmaking skills to tell a compelling, albeit tragic, story.

“I think the only way you can change people’s minds is if you meet these people who are scared and desperate. I definitely want to humanise the story,” she said, which she plans to do by filming asylum seekers in Lebanon, Iran, Afghanistan and Indonesia.

She will use $8000 of her budget to apply for a non-refundable application for a visa for Nauru, which she said she would be surprised if she were granted.  But that is part of the story.

“A visa to North Korea costs $1200, India is $150 and 90 per cent of visa applications to Nauru are rejected. What does that say about what they don’t want us to see?”

Bloody Unaustralian from eva orner on Vimeo.


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