Film urges refugee acceptance

darfurTwo Flinders students have come together with a view to changing the public perception of refugees – through film.

Yasmine Ernst developed the script for her short film Never Forget as part of her Bachelor of Creative Arts Honours project while volunteering in Guatemala in 2008 – coincidentally around the time Sudanese schoolboy Daniel Awak was murdered in Adelaide.

The film tells the story of John, a young Sudanese man who encounters discrimination and violence as he tries to make a better life for himself while dealing with painful memories.

In the role of John, Yasmine cast Stephen Tongun, a fourth-year law/commerce student.

“I’ve had a lot of interaction with the Sudanese community over about 10 years and heard a lot of stories similar to John’s,” Ms Ernst said.

“I also did a research topic into the media misrepresentation of Sudanese gangs. My friends talked to me about the way they felt they were being negatively portrayed in the media and how it affected their lives,” she said.

“I don’t think it’s fair. It’s an amazing journey that many refugees take and instead of seeing how remarkable that is, we often only to tend to see the bad stuff.”

At just six months of age, Mr Tongun fled with his family from Sudan to Kenya where he lived for 12 years before coming to Australia.

“I have been a refugee all my life,” said Mr Tongun.

“I could relate to John. I was very conscious of the issues of racism and discrimination,” he said.

“I want people to be moved by the film, by the importance and relevance of it. It’s not only a problem for African communities but refugees on the whole.”

Yasmine, Stephen and refugee youth advocate Khadija Gbla spoke about refugee experiences at a sold-out forum this month to coincide with the first public screening of Never Forget.

Presented by the Flinders University Migrant and Refugee Research Cluster and the Don Dunstan Foundation, the forum was attended by more than 130 community representatives and members of South Australia Police who work with refugee communities. There are plans for a second public screening of the film in coming months.

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