Complicit is an animated documentary feature based on the experiences of Mary Brabenec- a nurse who worked at Australia’s Detention Centres. Mary witnessed firsthand the treatment of refugees shift from humane to “absolutely shameful”. In 2001, ‘Stop the Boats’ became the Howard government’s catch cry and refugees became ‘illegals’, following the notorious Tampa incident, when Australia refused 400 refugees safe passage into Australia, though their boat was sinking.
Using the animation technique of rotoscoping, Complicit creates a fresh and impactful statement about Australia’s position on refugees. Rotoscoping allows both Mary’s real face and images from her frank and detailed story to coexist in the same frame creating a screen story audiences will want to engage with.
Complicit will leave audiences asking questions about Australia’s management of humanitarian issues, racism and our capacity to challenge decisions made by those we have elected.
A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing
Since the criminalization of unplanned refugee arrivals in Australia in 2001 we have incarcerated thousands of asylum seekers in a way that is inhumane and brought criticism from around the world. People fleeing from war and abuse in their own countries who risked their lives to seek asylum in Australia found themselves detained in a prison like setting, often separated from family and without any consideration for their cultural or religious beliefs. Not only was this experience re-traumatizing but added to their trauma. The stories told by Mary are shocking. Why have Australians – who pride ourselves on our sense of fairness – tacitly allowed this to continue? Has the political campaign to demonize these refugees been so successful that the federal government will never be accountable for what is seen internationally as a violation of human rights. Are Australians racist?
What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?
Our intention is to raise the awareness of the Australian public around the mistreatment of refugees by the Australian Federal government after John Howard criminalized unplanned arrivals. We want our documentary to raise debate around targeting a particular cultural group and to highlight the importance the Australian public’s responsibility to hold our government accountable for its actions and to explore the racial implications for our failure to act on their behalf.
What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?
This project aims to have two distinct types of outcome:
1) RAISING AWARENESS THROUGH MEDIA
To produce a high quality feature length, animated documentary to raise awareness, and hopefully outrage, in the wider community about Australia’s mistreatment of innocent refugees seeking Asylum in Australia.
2) DIRECT ACTION
Equally important, is Cath’s social vision for this project- for it to be highly socially inclusive in its production methods. Rotoscope work is perfectly suited to distribute online, in job lots, to a number of marginalized women who have trained as animators on our Socially Sanctioned series. Women were trained by Cath personally in the technological and creative aspects of the rotoscope process, thus providing them with new computer and IT skills – while being paid appropriately as trainees and then animators. It is Cath’s intention to continue this working method, making sure the production process is as inclusive as possible.
How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?
1. RAISING AWARENESS THROUGH MEDIA
Using a unique combination of raw verbatim truth-telling - presented through a ‘once removed’ animation style is designed to give the audience a new way of seeing, and engaging with, serious social issues. We believe that this combination of creative choices will be slightly less confronting, and more compelling, than straight live action - enabling individual audience members to stay engaged with the central character and the sometimes hard-to-hear content.
2) DIRECT ACTION
Pollyannafilms will undertake the employment methods described above, employing marginalised women, including refugees, as rotoscope animators on the series.
How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?
We are consulting with Producer/Distributor Tait Brady at Acme Film Co. to discuss early distribution and funding strategies,
We have developed a working relationship with the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC)and Cath is currently training two women attached to their Women’s Employment Program as entry level animators. The conversations Cath has with these women have informed to the approach to content used on the project and the trainees will ultimately work on Complicit. We hope to train more women from the ASRC as animators.
Pollyannafilms also has a longstanding teaching relationship with the Shepparton English Language Centre who prepare newly arrived teenagers from detention Centres for high school. The stories shared during these teaching sessions greatly inform Pollyanna Films approach and understanding of asylum seekers’ collective experience.
Audience Engagement and Social Impact
What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?
One of the main reasons for making Complicit is to help shift the audience from a passive to an active state by engaging with our documentary – to move from ‘knowing’ to ‘doing’. Actions might involve joining campaigns, signing online petitions, writing to Members of Parliament as well as offering empathy and direct support for refugees who have experienced years of unlawful detention.
We also hope to highlight the need for the public to hold the federal government we have elected to be accountable for their inhumane actions and that this awareness will influence the voting public when they consider the political parties’ position on accepting and detaining asylum seekers.
Measurement and Evaluation
What is the projects indicators for success?
1) RAISING AWARENESS THROUGH MEDIA
The media offer an incredible platform to expose human rights violations and to excite a response in an audience. We will know we have succeeded if we demonstrably help shift audience focus to issues presented in our documentary – for example through attracting a high-profile online distributor and/or gaining a wide audience. To spark further discussion, for example through talkback radio, would also be a mark of success.
2) DIRECT ACTION
If the documentary is made, we WILL have succeeded in the Social Enterprise objective of this series. Through directly employing marginalised women and in particular women who are refugees in Australia as rotoscope animators, through training and upskilling them in areas of technology, we will be achieving the direct-action component of this socially inclusive project.