As producer, writer, director and one of the main camera operators behind feature documentary Journey Beyond Fear, filmmaker Robyn Hughan is passionate about the power of film to bring about change.
What inspired you to start work on the film?
I began working on this project in 2011 after a screening of my documentary, A Nun’s New Habit, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Afterwards, I was approached asking if I would like to visit the Afghan refugees on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. During this visit I was deeply touched by the community, their plight and desperation for resettlement to another country.
Following extensive research and several visits, I decided to proceed with my quest to make a film following their stories, sometimes along with my partner, Steve Warne (producer/camera). Over time, I was drawn to one family in particular.
What were some of the challenges you faced?
At times it was very difficult. It was physically demanding, I was often filming on my own and having to lug around the equipment through often dark and dodgy streets or up flights of stairs. But it was also emotionally taxing. Money was a constant concern, as was safety. I had to be very careful about keeping a low profile as I was filming unofficially, nor did I want to affect the family’s chances of a successful application.
Did you develop a close relationship with the family?
Yes, they were incredibly generous in the way they welcomed me into their home, and shared the ups and downs with me so openly. They took me under their wing, and treated me as a real part of their family. I often stayed with them, and they opened their home to me. I often ate with them and was a part of their day-to-day lives.
It was a privilege getting to know them and seeing the way in which they supported each other through some pretty tough times. They shared their dreams and aspirations with me, as well as their struggles.
How difficult was it for you to witness some of their dark times?
Seeing the toll that waiting for their application to go through had taken on them—and the uncertainty that was a constant backdrop to their lives—was really hard. When Zahra became so despondent and attempted suicide I was devastated to leave her, not knowing whether she would survive.
But were there also some uplifting moments?
Yes, seeing the sheer joy when they were told they were going to be able to start a new life was a wonderful moment, as has been staying part of the family’s lives and seeing how they have embraced Australia as their home and start to fulfil some of their dreams. Hopefully the film will inspire viewers.
To find out more about Journey Beyond Fear visit www.journeybeyondfear.com. Read our review on page 12.