Filmed over 7 years, this is a story of love as much as a tale of persecution. Zahra and her family are Muslim refugees searching for re-settlement. Her parents, both orphans in Afghanistan, fled to Iran to continue their forbidden love for each other where Zahra and her two sisters are born. Here, they suffer persecution and witness severe brutality towards Afghan refugees. The children are not permitted to attend school and the family is in constant fear of being deported to Afghanistan.
After 12 years, they escape to Malaysia where they register as UN refugees and await re-settlement. In Kuala Lumpur, Zahra has the opportunity to attend a community school where she learns English and becomes a teacher. However, at 14, she is forced to begin work seven days a week to provide for her family. She is exploited in the workplace and her employer threatens to report her to the immigration police when she demands her wages.
Severely traumatised, her hair falls out from stress as she loses hope of being re-settled to another country. Her dream of receiving an education and becoming a doctor is crushed, leading to a suicide attempt. Luckily this attempt is thwarted by her father, preventing her from jumping from the top of their apartment building, just in the nick of time!
And how fortunate not to have boarded the boat bound for Australia the night the smuggler came to their house, promising ‘a good boat’, which claimed the life of the entire family they were living with. Zahra remains visibly upset by the loss of this family whom she loved so much.
Finally, after seven years of uncertainty and desperation, Zahra’s family receives word that they are going to Australia as part of the UN re-settlement program. They are overwhelmed with happiness. In Australia, the family blossoms and Zahra’s dream of attending a proper school and subsequently receiving a scholarship to university becomes a reality.
Journey Beyond Fear is an emotional rollercoaster taking us from despair to joy through hope, humour and love. A character driven film, featuring three magnetic daughters, it focuses on the experience of those who join the queue as opposed to those who ‘jump the queue’, making it clear that this is no easy option. It shatters prevailing stereotypes and highlights that becoming part of Australian society without losing one’s cultural identity is achievable. Further to this, Journey Beyond Fear draws attention to the fact that only 1% of refugees registered with the UN are ever resettled.
The film has been made with deep passion and commitment to the subject matter, the narrative is lyrical and the visuals are strong, speaking volumes about the family’s situation. The music for the film is written and performed by Alyce Platt whose recent sold-out Melbourne Cabaret Festival show received rave reviews. Her original songs are suitably heartfelt, providing a strong backdrop which emotionally resonates throughout.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
Refugees are among the most disadvantaged and marginalised on the planet. They are a growing diaspora with 68.5 million people worldwide forced to leave their homes as a result of conflict, persecution, violence and human rights violations. It is important to help develop educational and health services and fight for policy changes in the country or countries refugees have left behind. There is also a current need to break down prejudice directed at refugees in Australian communities and highlight the importance of raising the refugee intake within Australia, considering that only 1% of refugees are ever re-settled and that Australia offers only 13,750 annual resettlement places.Journey Beyond Fear is a completed feature film which raises awareness of the difficulties of awaiting re-settlement for refugees. It focuses on girls, education, exploitation in the workplace, and highlights the vulnerability refugees face on their long journey to settle in Australia. Many Australians ask the question, ‘why can’t refugees stay in the country to which they first flee?’ This film answers this question and breaks down prejudice currently directed at refugees in our communities by intimately following a family with 3 young daughters over a 7 year period. It’s an extraordinary psychological study of the effects of refugee status - an important document which will enlighten people about the plight of refugees - that even if you don’t ‘jump the queue’, it’s still a living hell.This film has expressions of interest from peak refugee, multicultural and human rights organisations including: the Australian Refugee Advocacy Network, the Refugee Council of Australia, Rural Australians for Refugees, the Victorian Multicultural Commission, Multicultural Arts Victoria and Amnesty International Australia. They have offered to assist with in kind marketing and exhibition. It is hoped that other philanthropic foundations devoted to the following may contribute cash to the proposed social outreach. In particular, those wanting to: advance refugee and human rights, contribute to social cohesion and respect for cultural diversity, promote gender equality and the empowerment of women, enhance the educational prospects of refugees, give youth a voice and build awareness of Australia's social relationship with South East Asia, specifically, Malaysia.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
* Improving public understanding of, and compassion for refugees, including those who join the so called ‘queue’, an option which is much tougher than most assume. This will be measured by levels of film attendance and viewings, including productive Q&A's to coincide with screenings, positive media coverage, positive audience feedback and impact on politicians and policy makers.
* Advancing understanding of the importance of granting refugees access to government recognised schools and better resourced community and NGO supported schools while in regionally close transit countries, such as Malaysia. This will be measured by the extent to which this cause is embraced by local and international authorities, including key advocacy organisations and community schools in Southeast Asia.
* Building bridges between teenage refugee students in Malaysia and Australia to enhance mutual understanding of each other’s similarities and differences. Thereby humanising non-refugee youth attitudes to refugees, combatting racism and easing the transition to resettlement in Australia should this become an option. This will be achieved by direct Skype and other social media link-ups between school students in Australia and community school classrooms in Malaysia and possibly other Asian countries where refugees are awaiting resettlement.This will be measured by associated social media levels of engagement and surveys of students participating both in Australian and Malaysian community schools.
* Increasing the refugee intake to Australia. This will be measured by Government legislative and policy outcomes, increased debate about this in parliament and the wider media.
* To raise awareness of the exploitation of refugees in the workplace in countries they are awaiting re-settlement with the hope of improving these conditions and having an influence on work policy in the Asian Pacific regions. This could be achieved by lobbying Australian politicians to engage with these regions for better work practices and conditions while these refugees wait to be re-settled to Australia. This will be measured by increased discussions in parliament and policy changes in these countries.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
Philanthropic donations will contribute to the cost of a Publicist, Social Impact Producer, event screening travel expenses and film festival entries.
On October 25th, 2018, the film premiered at a ‘special event’ screening co-hosted by the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) at Cinema NOVA in Melbourne. This was MC’d by lawyer, comedian and television presenter, Corrine Grant and Alyce Platt (ex ‘Sale of the Century’) performed live one of her heartfelt songs from the film’s soundtrack, followed by a hosted Q@A featuring Director, Robyn Hughan, Co-Producer, Steve Warne, the key character in the film, Writer, Arnold Zable and RCOA Director of Policy, Joyce Chia. On October 28th 2018 the Victorian Women's Trust (VWT) hosted another event screening hosted by Singer/Actress, Tottie Goldsmith, followed by a Q@A including VWT Executive Director and Mary Crooks and Nyah Shahab (Melbourne Youth for Refugees). On Nov 21st 2018 the film screened at Tasmania’s State Cinema, with a Q&A including Andrew Wilke MP, who’s currently championing a Refugee Protection Bill in Australia’s Federal Parliament.
Additional capital city event screenings are confirmed for the DENDY Canberra, March 21st and the DENDY Newtown, Sydney, on March 27th this year.
Rural Australians for Refugees (RAR) are hosting regional screenings nationally, the first of these having been at Victoria’s Swanpool Cinema, as part of the Benalla Festival.
The film has been hugely popular with audiences and has attracted very favourable media coverage to date.
It is being entered into national and international film festivals and will be offered to SBS and ABC TV.
The film will be made available to Australian secondary schools via the Association of Teachers of Media (ATOM) Education Shop online and via DVD, with an accompanying study guide. Kanopy will be approached to distribute to the tertiary sector.
It will be made available to public VoD platforms, such as SBS OnDemand, DocPlay, BeamAFilm and OZFLIX and we will pursue general public DVD prospects via self-distribution. And we are negotiating with international broadcasters/distributors, like WomenMake Movies (USA), LINKTV (USA), the BBC and Journeyman (UK).
The film’s web site and social media pages are regularly updated and we are facilitating connections between its viewers and those at the forefront of campaigning for better refugee access to education, working rights and alternative resettlement paths, such as a fairer community sponsorship program for refugees.