The documentary film Constance on the Edge will screen at the Montreal Community Theatre this Sunday at 2pm.
The film follows Sudanese refugee Constance Okot and her family, as they settle in Wagga Wagga and build a life there over a period of ten years.
Ms Okot recently came to Tumut as a guest speaker of the Life Long Learners program. Director of the film Belinda Mason said she has already seen the film having a positive impact on viewers.
“We’ve had ten sold-out screenings in Wagga, and we’ve been doing surveys after each screening,” she said. “The majority of people have said that they now have a much greater understanding of the struggles of refugees in their settlement experience, and an understanding of why they’ve come here, because [the film] contextualises their experience – in the war, and of living in a refugee camp for ten years.
“About 80 per cent said they would really like to be involved in welcoming refugees somehow, which is amazing.”
She said the purpose of the film is to convey positive messages about diversity and belonging, as well as to counteract some of the negative beliefs about refugees she has seen in Australia, that are often based on misconceptions.
“[The purpose] was really to put a human face to the refugee story. Often in the media refugees are stripped of their identity, so that’s why we chose one family to focus on. Each of the family members had different experiences which really enriches the film.”
Constance on the Edge premiered at the Sydney Film Festival, and is currently screening in the Riverina before it flies off to debut in refugee hotspot Turkey.
The film goes for 80 minutes, and was sponsored by a range of community donations.
Ms Mason said she hopes the film shows that refugees bring vibrance and strength to rural communities.
“The refugees I’ve met, I think they embody that battler idea, that resilience, they have survived. I think people don’t think about them like that, they think that they’re stealing our jobs – but mainly they’re doing the jobs that others don’t do because they don’t want to.
“They often bring a global perspective to communities. They’re strengthening communities in lots of ways, they’re very entrepreneurial.”
“[To make refugees feel welcome] you don’t have to do grand gestures, it’s about really simple things – just saying hello.”
Belinda Mason is an award-winning director who has also worked on the SBS series ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’