Published Apr 29, 2016Chasing Asylum is a solid expository documentary about Australia's terrible treatment of refugees, an exposé in the truest sense that intends to shock us into action and demand justice. Director Eva Orner has collected undercover footage shot in the nightmarish island refugee camps, showing us just how bad life is for the refugees seeking asylum in Australia. Well-researched and featuring compelling testimonies, the film works well as a blunt-force political tool, with plenty of poignancy but not much momentum: this is a collection of arguments that are effective on their own but fail to add up to a solid whole.
Still, the film is timely, and should be seen by anyone who wants to make a change in the ongoing global refugee crisis. Orner begins by fading in on an overcrowded boat in the middle of the ocean carrying hundreds of people, with no destination in sight. She returns to this image throughout the film, punctuating the segments with the bitter realization there is no visible horizon. The film traces the history of Australia's refugee policy, exposing the racist government practices developed over the years that have resulted in a cruel zero-tolerance policy for all arriving by boat to Australia.
The strength of the film comes from the testimonies and undercover footage shot by workers in the dilapidated refugee camps, where asylum-seekers have to deal with terrible conditions, abuse from the guards and no information about when or if they'll ever be released. Heartbreaking interviews with medical support workers highlight just how dire the situation is for many in the camps, and Orner delicately adds plenty of emotion to these scenes.
While Chasing Asylum suffers from far too much on-screen text and gets a little too weighed down in exposition, the film still works as a powerful piece of journalism that's should inspire viewers to take action and demand better treatment for refugees.