Film Review: Journey Beyond Fear (2018)

Journey Beyond Fear is an extraordinary debut feature documentary from filmmaker Robyn Hughan, a passion project filmed over seven years as 14-year-old Zahra and her family wait in limbo in Malaysia on the UN asylum seeker resettlement waitlist.

Zahra and her two sisters were born Afghan refugees in Iran. Unable to attend school and uncertain of a safe or secure future, after twelve years of persecution and living in constant fear of being deported, the family flee to Malaysia. Here they live in a ghetto; often sharing their apartment with other families in order to pay the high rent costs, Zahra and her family live on the fringes. Aged only fourteen, Zahra must stop attending school to find a job. Her parents don’t speak English or Malaysian, so Zahra works fourteen hour days seven days a week to help her family. She is exploited by her employer who threatens to report her when she asks for the three months of wages she is owed, and due to the stress, her hair begins to fall out.

Zahra and her family are suffering with the unknown. When a people smuggler who promises them a “good boat” and an easy trip to Australia visits them, they bravely say no. Their friends, feeling the desperation, pay the ultimate price for their mistake, and Zahra, having been denied re-entry to school after quitting her job, falls deeper into depression. All of the families in their building in their situation seem to be having their resettlement cases granted, and as the years drag on and they keep being told “we’ll contact you”, Zahra attempts to jump off the roof on their building.

Thankfully, through thick and thin and in the direst of circumstances, the family do the best they can to keep each other in good cheer, to keep the hope alive, and to survive until their dream of resettling in Australia is finally, after seven years, realised.

More than anything this is a film about the depths of human fragility and the resilience of the human spirit. Even at their most desperate, Zahra and her family find something to be happy and thankful for. The story of the refugee is often dictated to us by those who would have you believe these people are criminals, defrauding the system, jumping the queue, and coming to this country to be a burden to the taxpayer. What this film shows us is that people have an enormous capacity for love, determination and sacrifice, and that above all else, refugees are people. People who want to work to better themselves, to help others and to simply walk freely with the knowledge they won’t be persecuted because of who they are.

Journey Beyond Fear is an important film. Only 1% of refugees registered with the UN are ever settled. Life on the waitlist is horrendous and dehumanising and their stories deserve to be heard.

Journey Beyond Fear screens exclusively at Cinema Nova from 25th October.

5 blergs
5 blergs


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