University of Sydney to screen emotive homecoming film

18 June 2010

A sign on a South African bus during apartheid.
A sign on a South African bus during apartheid.

Melbourne psychiatrist Sidney Bloch returns to South Africa, the country of his birth, with his teenage son. Sid has been plagued by guilt for 'not doing enough' when segregation was introduced during the apartheid era more than 40 years ago. Now he's in search of forgiveness.

As a young medical student Sid Bloch sat with black South Africans on the 'wrong side of the bus' when segregation was introduced, but his protest was short-lived and his guilt over his inactivity is compounded by his heritage: he's the son of Lithuanian-Jews persecuted by the Nazis. More than 40 years later he reunites with his South African fellow students, and meets political activists and ex-prisoners including a hero of the freedom movement, Albie Sachs. These encounters challenge and help him to make peace with his own conscience.

The University of Sydney's Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine (VELiM) will host a free screening of the film made of Professor Bloch's journey, Wrong Side of the Bus. The screening will be held in the Wallace Theatre, Camperdown Campus at 6pm, Tuesday 22 June.

Professor Bloch will lead a panel discussion following the film, along with the film's producer Ron Freedman as well as ethics and human rights experts, Professor Raimond Gaita and Dr Danielle Celermajer.

Panel member profiles:

Professor Sidney Bloch is currently Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Adjunct Emeritus Professor in the Centre for Health and Society, and Senior Fellow, School of Philosophy, Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Melbourne. Professor Bloch is also Honorary Senior Psychiatrist at St Vincent's Hospital, Melbourne. He was chief editor of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry for 13 years and Associate Editor of the British Journal of Psychiatry for 10 years.

Rod Freedman is a writer, director and producer of independent films. Rod's films have screened in dozens of international film festivals, winning international and Australian awards, including two AFI nominations for Uncle Chatzkel.

Raimond Gaita is a Foundation Professor of Philosophy at ACU and Professor of Moral Philosophy at King's College London. He is a fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He is perhaps best known as the author of the prize-winning memoir, Romulus, My Father which was recently made into an award winning film starring Eric Bana.

Professor Gaita's main research interests and publications have been in ethics. He has also worked and written on scepticism, on the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of psychology, and on aspects of political philosophy. He has contributed extensively to public discussion about reconciliation, collective responsibility, the role of moral considerations in politics, genocide and the alleged uniqueness of the Holocaust and the plight of the universities.

Danielle Celermajer is director of the Asia Pacific Masters of Human Rights and Democratisation, a European Union funded project establishing networked postgraduate human rights education across the Asia Pacific Region.

Her research focuses on transitional justice and the question of how contemporary states and societies can deal with past violations, collective responsibility, apology and forgiveness, the relationship between human rights and religious norms and institutions and human rights education. She has held teaching positions at the University of Sydney and Columbia University and received her PhD in political theory (summa cum laudae) from Columbia University.

Visit the Wrong Side of the Bus website.

Media enquiries: Rachel Gleeson, 0403 067 342, 9351 4312,