"No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark” Warsan Shire
'Mouth of a Shark' is an intimate feature documentary illustrating the story of a young Somali woman seeking asylum in Australia. Twenty year old Aasiya’s childhood was one in transit, squatting in Somalia with her family and retreating to rural areas to escape the besieged country.
Fleeing war, slavery, and displaced from her family, Aasiya’s journey offers a first-hand insight into what it is like to be processed in offshore and onshore Immigration Detention Centres.
Now living in community detention in a Government-allocated unit in Sydney’s outer suburbs, Aasiya has been stripped of the right to make most basic decisions about her life. Under the current law, Aasiya is not allowed to work or study, and her stay in Australia is determined by her ongoing medical treatment, so she lives in fear of being sent back to Nauru at any time.
As Aasiya attempts to heal from the traumatic events in her life, the film explores the challenges of a 'boat person' that hopes to resettle in a country that doesn't want her. ‘Mouth of a Shark’ is a testament to Aasiya’s charisma and maturity, as we follow her day-to-day life- attempting to reconcile her Somali culture and familial separation with her new identity, friends and interests in Australia.
Through Aasiya’s reflections and alongside interviews with renowned journalists, legal, and medical practitioners on both sides of the debate, the film offers an honest and human depiction of an asylum seeker against the backdrop of Australia’s heated legal and political environment.
‘Mouth of a Shark’ takes a fresh approach to the issues at the heart of refugee politics: why so many are forced to leave their country and risk their lives to seek asylum, the limbo of immigration detention, and life as an asylum seeker in Australia. These highly debated subjects are approached through rarely-heard voices from those at the heart of the issue: the asylum seekers themselves.
How does the project meet the aims of a philanthropic foundation?
There are thousands of people in Australian Immigration detention centres and community detention. As a group, they are subject to extensive media coverage, but there are few narratives told by asylum seekers and refugees themselves.In 2017, the Australian Government revealed on their website that there are 1400 people in onshore immigration detention facilities and 542 people living in community detention. By the end of 2016, there were 872 people on Manus Island and 390 people on Nauru.
'Mouth of a Shark' aims to engage Australians in a humanistic portrayal of refugees through the story of one asylum seeker: Aasiya. Her intimate story will push the national discourse forward, as it is both fiercely individual and one of many like narratives. The film is a humanistic, meaningful, and nuanced representation of Aasiya, depicting her attempts to resettle in Australia and her identity outside of ‘refugeehood’. In a world where there is an increasing social and political divide regarding refugees, a considered and observational approach canvassing a range of views will appeal to a wide range of people. Too often, politics and the media distance us from the very people at the heart of this crisis - here, we will go beyond the tired notions of struggling masses and possible security threats that have shaped refugee media representation for decades.
Conversely, we will use film to recognise the journey of a young woman who has sought asylum. She, and others who share similar stories, are the centre of the issue. The film will raise awareness of the barriers within the system and the indecencies faced by those who are rarely understood or recognised in the political discourse. Philanthropists investing in this socially-focused production can rest assured that they are helping to shed light on this issue. Any profit made from the film will go directly to the invaluable work of organisations in the refugee sector.'Mouth of a Shark' has the potential to become a significant social and educational document – a film that is relevant and engaging to anyone who wants to understand more about the complexities of seeking asylum.
What outcomes do you hope to achieve by making this film and how will you measure its impact?
Aims & Objectives
The refugee crisis is at its peak worldwide, with no signs of ceasing. In Australia particularly it is hotly contested, as there has been bipartisan political support for strict border policies, legislation and processing, especially for those seeking asylum by boat.
‘Mouth of a Shark’ seeks to increase awareness of the political debates, before going beyond politics to reveal a thorough and nuanced understanding of the story of an individual seeking asylum in Australia, to take an ‘in my shoes’ approach. The film offers an intimate approach into the complexities and challenges of seeking asylum, refugeehood, diaspora, integration and reconciling new and old cultures. It is one thing to read the stories or hear events on the news, but it is far more poignant to hear and see it first-hand – an insight rarely seen by many people in Australia and worldwide.
Our outreach therefore focuses on building understanding of the refugee crisis and Australia’s response to this. Through first-hand narrative developed over two years of filming, we seek to recognise the central voice to this debate to facilitate discussion. Q&A sessions will follow the screenings, allowing audience members to engage with both the filmmakers, as well as changemakers and people who have sought asylum themselves. We aim to engage those in the refugee sector presently, but also new ‘persuadable’ audiences, who might not have first-hand knowledge beyond popular media representations. This film will also educate sectors who can meaningfully impact refugee lives.
A proactive, targeted distribution program will ensure influential policymakers, advisors, campaigners, lawyers, and others in the relevant sectors see the film and engage with the issues presented. Furthermore, these sectors can use the film as a tool to facilitate understanding of their own aims and objectives.We have already formed strong collaborations with a number of organisations working in the area to reposition the narrative of asylum seekers and refugees. Profit made by the film will go towards helping these groups with the invaluable work they do. Education is a valuable tool to create any form of meaningful impact; the film will be offered to various national and international schools and universities. This functions to provide a more thorough understanding of how Australia deals with those seeking asylum and what it means to be a refugee through a first-hand account.
Lastly, we will measure the impact of the film through audience attendance figures at festivals, private and public screenings. We will work with quantitative data to measure website hits, discussion panel and workshop attendance, and media coverage. Moreover, we will use qualitative data sampling to capture levels of audience awareness and satisfaction to further inform our understanding of the film’s impact.
What is your education and outreach strategy?
Our goal is to distribute the film to a broad national and international audience. As our team is heavily involved in the refugee sector, we will tap into these networks to increase the film’s outreach. The range of organisations, individuals, and sectors featuring in the documentary will also allow us to effectively distribute the film to these audiences.
Our marketing and distribution strategy involves:
- Increasing awareness through private and public screenings at theatres and festivals;
- Distributing through online streaming services (VOD);
- Facilitating screenings with schools, universities and other organisations in both metro and regional areas with Q&A sessions to increase participation; and
- Screening and discussion nights to create a space for people in the community, organisations, lawyers, advocates and NGOs to interact and collaborate.
Our strategy for the film’s social impact involves:
- Donating the film’s profit to NGOs and organisations working in the refugee sector to ensure that proper access to social, medical, and legal support is provided to asylum seekers;
- Facilitating screenings for law firms and other commercial stakeholders in order to educate viewers and garner support for the issue; and
- Providing access to the film to organisations for use in programs aimed at creating an understanding of the issues surrounding people seeking asylum.