Dialog Box

Human Rights | Refugees | Rural | Social Justice | Youth
Molly and Mobarak

Case Study Synopsis

Molly and Mobarak is the story of Mobarak Tahiri, a young Hazara refugee, who is living in the town of Young, in rural NSW. Categorized as an illegal immigrant by the Australian government, Mobarak was initially detained in the Curtin Detention Centre near Derby, WA, before being granted a Temporary Protection Visa (TPV) that allowed him to live and work in the general Australian community and then return home once the visa expires. Mobarak and a small group of other Hazaras are working at the Burrangong abattoirs. They are paid slightly above award wages and their English skills are improving rapidly—largely due to the efforts of volunteer English teachers organized by Ann Bell, an instructor at the local TAFE. Despite several racist incidents, Mobarak has begun to feel a part of the local community and has become especially close to Lyn Rule and her daughter Molly. Like a number of other local people, they have befriended the Hazara refugees and offered them support. Mobarak's life becomes even more complicated when he falls in love with Molly, a teacher at the local high school. However Molly insists that she has a boyfriend in another town and Lyn tells Mobarak that he and Molly cannot be together. The documentary creates a delicate tension as the hopes and uncertainty of the relationship between Molly and Mobarak run parallel to the hopes and uncertainties Mobarak feels as he waits to know whether he will be allowed to stay permanently in Australia. When the film starts there are ninety Hazara refugees in Young. However by the conclusion of the documentary their number has dropped to about thirty-three of a population of 9000 residents in the town. The publicity they generated has made them visible in the community. In cities they just meld in with multicultural Australia and no-one notices them, whereas in Young they stand out. People know who they are. They are conspicuous in the community Mobarak is one of the Hazaras who leaves the town after the Bali Bombing causes more racial incidents in the town. However, in Mobarak's case the main motivating factor is the realisation that his relationship with Molly is not going to produce the results he wanted. On top of that his Temporary Protection Visa is running out. Mobarak goes to see his lawyer in Sydney to prepare his case to why he should remain in Australia. The film ends with the case unresolved and Mobarak only having 6 months left on his visa.

Case Study Impact

The Director's StatementI set out to begin making this film in 2002 with the aim of putting 'a human face on the refugee situation in Australia'. I wanted to pursue the themes of human rights, refugees, racism and rural communities in a compassionate and thought-provoking way. The Government at the time had a tendency to vilify the asylum seekers, calling them “illegals, boat people, queue jumpers” and other derogatory terms, I felt the film I was going to make would play a significant role in humanising refugees and asylum seekers. The film deals with what it means to be a refugee and confront loss and separation, but in particular with the confronting issue of racism in Australia. Racism exists in all country towns and cities in Australia, but so do generous, out-going and compassionate Australians who supply a psychological shelter for strangers in their midst'. The film projects 'the possibility of a “future Australia” that's built on the idea of hope and caring, rather than fear'. There are many towns across Australia where Afghans are employed – in Abattoirs, as fruit and vegetable pickers, farm labourers etc. Temporary Protection Visa holders provide a cheap and reliable labour pool for towns and country areas railing against population drift to the city. Initial hostility and suspicion has largely given way to respect and genuine affection for the newcomers. Small towns would like to keep their temporary refugees. Strong representations have been made to the Federal Government by Coalition MP's and local government bodies. The film has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people in Australia and overseas, in the US, Canada and Europe. Most people saw it on television, but others would have seen it at film festivals, in cinemas or in small group discussion screenings. The film had it's premiere at the Sydney Film Festival in 2003. and was then distributed to refugee support networks throughout the country. These groups, in particular Amnesty and Rural Australians for Refugees, organised screenings in country halls and cinemas across Australia. I attended many of these screenings - from Glebe in Sydney, to Perth Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne, to big towns like Mildura and small towns like Gerringong on the NSW South Coast. At all screenings the film resonated powerfully with audiences, especially in evoking strong sympathy for the plight of refugees. The film had a cinema season in Sydney and Melbourne and generated a lot of publicity in the media, especially in the national press. Articles were written about the film and also about the general plight of Afghani Hazaras on Temporary Protection Visas. I believe the publicity surrounding the film fuelled a general concern already present within the community about the government's unsympathetic and heavy-handed treatment of the refugees. Criticism was coming from both sides of the political spectrum. It ranged from political activists on the left of the Labor Party including Democrats like Andrew Bartlett, to National Party MP's concerned about what would happen to rural industries like meat processing and fruit-picking that were so heavily reliant on refugee labour for their on-going viability. The fact that the film had a critical part to play in this debate was confirmed for me when a request that it be screened by Tanya Plibersek, a Labor back-bencher, in Parliament House, Canberra was initially turned down. The screening was refused on the grounds that the film was “critical of the Government's policy, selectively quotes the Prime Minister and promotes the theme of widespread resistance to government policy,” according to Joint House Department executive leader Bob Wedgwood w on the advice of Speaker Neil Andrew. After the letter of refusal was leaked to the press, the ban was immediately overturned “Molly & Mobarak” is not a shrill political advocacy film, but by being a love story, it allows for the issues to emerge in a much more subtle way. The honesty, directness and intimacy produces an emotional affect on audiences which effects change in small and personal ways.

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Aims & Objectives

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Tom Zubrycki
Tom Zubrycki
Total budget
87 Minutes