“Over a long period of time I’ve been watching what’s been happening in horror and I felt that I couldn’t just sit back anymore – I had to do something about it,” says filmmaker Eva Orner, who is targeting the Australian government’s treatment of asylum seekers in her new feature-length documentary, Bloody UnAustralian.
Previously, Orner was a producer on the Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side, Alex Gibney’s exposé of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 torture policies, and made her directorial documentary debut in 2013 with The Network, about the largest television station in Afghanistan.
The L.A-based filmmaker’s latest documentary was fuelled by the realisation of how little is known about the issue of asylum seekers in Australia outside of the country. “I think internationally this film will really shock people and hopefully in Australia it will amp up the dialogue and make people question some of their beliefs, because I think a lot of what people are hearing and reading in the media is not true,” she says. “My work is about giving a voice to people who may not get a voice and to contribute to the conversation.”
Orner has obtained financial support for her documentary via a combination of private investors, the tax-deductible Documentary Australian Foundation, and a successful crowd-funding campaign that reached its $80,000 target. “When I saw that 100,000 people marched against Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers, I figured if we could get a few thousand of them to put in money we would raise a big chunk of our budget.“
Also onboard is Robert Connolly, the AFI-winning director behind Balibo and Underground: The Julian Assange Story, who serves as an executive producer and whose own company, CinemaPlus, will distribute the documentary in Australia.
Orner says she’ll be returning to Australia to commence production of Bloody UnAustralian in August and plans to travel to Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon and Indonesia toward the end of this year. She's even considering applying for an $8,000 visa in an unlikely attempt to gain access to a detention centre in Nauru. "Over 90 percent of them are rejected and you don't get your money back – it's to deter journalists from going," she says. "There might be a scene in the film where I write a cheque and watch it go down the drain.”
Taking on such a polarising subject has unsurprisingly earned Orner a fair amount of criticism. “If you put things out there you have to be thick-skinned about it – it’s like critics reviewing your work," she says. “But when you sign UN refugee conventions and you don’t uphold them, and you’re a wealthy modern western country, what hope is there for the rest of the world if you don’t lead by example?”
Bloody UnAustralian will be released worldwide in 2015.
Pictured: Eva Orner during the making of The Network.