The Year of Facing Fire – Sydney Jewish Writers Festival

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Date(s) - 20/08/2020
8:00 pm - 9:30 pm



Helena Kriel’s debut memoir, set in 1990s South Africa, emerges from the darkness of apartheid. The Year of Facing Fire centres around Helena’s dying brother, who has kept his illness a shameful secret as he leads his family through the fire. Rita Nash will interview Helena about the real-life inspiration for her powerful book.

 “My brother was on the list of the first twenty people in South Africa that were diagnosed with HIV. Nobody even knew what HIV was. My siblings didn’t know he was diagnosed with HIV because our parents decided not to disclose to us.” Helena Kriel, The Year of Facing Fire


Helena Kriel

Award-winning playwright and Hollywood screenwriter, Helena Kriel, is a world-traveller. The Year of Facing Fire, about her dynamic South African family, was set in the year Helena was commissioned to write the screenplay for the hit film Kama Sutra. Helena teaches screenwriting at Spalding University, and is the founder of Baby Rhino Rescue, a NFP dedicated to saving rhinos from extinction. Helena divides her time between South Africa, and Los Angeles.


Interviewer – Rita Nash

With an extensive career as a librarian, book shop manager and teacher, Rita Nash’s story, The Last Barrier, was published in Children of the Shadows, Australia’s first collection of second-generation Holocaust survivor stories. In the 1990s, Rita also worked at a high school as Student Welfare Coordinator, where she developed programs to reduce the stigma around HIV and AIDS, and in 1991 cared for a family friend as he battled his AIDS diagnosis. Rita is a dedicated guide at the Sydney Jewish Museum and a long-standing member of the SJWF Programming Committee.