Freedom Stories: Essential Christmas viewing

December 17, 2016


With Christmas looming, how could we make a difference in the world as our Christmas gift?

A little website called has the answer—host a special film night, using their inspirational documentary Freedom Stories, about people who came here in 2001, when ‘boat people’ wasn’t the negative reference it is now in the political lexicon.

Despite critical acclaim as a finalist in the Sydney Film Festival, a finalist in the Harlem International Film Festival, and selected for showing in California’s Universe Multicultural Film Festival, it couldn’t get a berth in either ABC or SBS programming schedules. It was left to community television in Melbourne, Geelong and Adelaide to pick it up.

But if you missed those early December screenings, the producers are encouraging people to hold their own private screenings, either to raise awareness of refugee issues or to raise money for the cause.

In today’s sensitive political climate about refugees, the beauty of Freedom Stories is that it puts a human face on what are often just statistics. Unless you have a heart of stone, it’s impossible not to be moved by the stories of people who came here 15 years ago and the positive difference being allowed to settle in Australia has made to them.

One of the surprises in this documentary is the appearance of pop music guru Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum, who we meet speaking to Afghanistan refugee Arif Fayazi. Molly needed a challenging tiling job done around his pool, and he was delighted to find tiler Arif, for whom nothing seemed impossible. 

Arif spent 10 months in the Woomera Detention Centre, and then six years on a temporary protection visa, before his wife and young son were able to join him here. While he works long hours to support his family, he is now a proud dad to a new little Australian.

We also meet Sheri, whose ambition is to be a truck driver, because ‘taxis are too small!’ Jamila Ahmadi was seven when she left Afghanistan and, today, is doing a double degree in international and development studies, but the memory that won’t leave her is of being one of 200 people inside a little blue boat.

Primary school teacher Alana Elias fled Iraq in 2000 and she shares a poignant recollection that it took her a long while to accept that there would be no bombings overhead.

These are just brief snippets so, this Christmas, take the time to find out more about this fine documentary Freedom Stories. They are in essence 21st century reminders of what Mary and Joseph experienced more than 2,000 years ago.

For details of Freedom Stories and how to host a screening, visit


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Vol. 139, No. 14 // 11 April 2020

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