Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time
A film by Arash Kamali Sarvestani & Behrouz Boochani
NL 2017, 90 min, English and Farsi with English subtitles
Over a period of several months, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani – detained on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for over four years – had access to a mobile phone on which he covertly shot footage from within the camp. Collaborating arduously via e-mail and social media with Iranian-Dutch filmmaker Arash Kamali Sarvestani, whom he had never met before, the two created a film that portrays what Boochani has described as “the coarsening banality and repetition” of indefinite detention. The erosion of the sense of time as a condition of forced migration and open-ended detention is revealed as a concealed form of torture.
The name “Chauka” comes to play a central role in this poetic film document. Chauka is a bird species unique to Manus Island. While for the Manusians it is a symbol of time regarded with a sense of reverence, it is also being used as a name for the prison’s solitary confinement unit – a cynical twist reflexive of neo-colonial power.