Chauka, Please Tell Us The Time is a documentary filmed entirely on an iPhone by Behrouz Boochani who is currently being detained in the Manus Island detention centre by the Australian government.
Boochani is a Kurdish journalist who fled his home country of Iran because of persecution by terrorists for his work on Kurdish magazine Werya, but was detained by the Australian government when he attempted to seek asylum in the extensive plains of their country. He has written a number of articles for major newspapers while imprisoned on Manus for the last five years, and has a book set to release this August.
The documentary follows Boochani talking to friends in the detention centre about their experiences, as well as following an Australian journalist visiting Manus, through whom the audience learns about the perspective of Manus locals about the detention centre. In regards to the title, a Chauka is both the official bird of Manus, a local treasure found only on the island; and the name given to the inhumane solitary confinement prison within the Manus detention centre which the interviewees in the film all focus on. A particularly heartbreaking narrative thread is the repeated scenes of one of Boochani’s friends making his weekly phone call to his family back home who don’t understand that he’s not yet been allowed into Australia.
The film is very upsetting and very informative. I was expecting it to be quite dark and it wasn’t. I was expecting it to be lower definition and it wasn’t. It’s a really powerful film even before you think about the fact that it was filmed in short bursts on a secret phone inside an island prison and then sent in short bursts to Arash Kamali Sarvestani in the Netherlands to edit together. I can guarantee you it’ll be a lot less effort for you to watch this film than it was for Sarvestani and Boochani to put together, and supporting it will increase visibility of the plight of refugees on Manus.