AMAR wins Best Short Fiction Film
The festival supports emerging filmmakers from diverse backgrounds and also invites submissions from filmmakers of any background to produce films that explore multiculturalism and promote social cohesion.
Proudly presented by the Victorian Multicultural Commission in partnership with Swinburne University of Technology, the films feature characters who are encountering new ways of life, struggling with feeling isolated in a new country or within their cultures’ traditions, or beginning to embrace and celebrate their difference.
“Diversity is central to who we are as Victorians, and the Multicultural Film Festival is an important showcase of multiculturalism on-screen and an important offering for cultural exchange for all Victorians.
Amar is a beautiful story of the expectations of culture, ability and gender that can burden us, and the acceptance and understanding that can bring joy and connection.
I commend you on this well-deserved recognition and wish you well in your future film endeavours.”
Hon. Ros Spence MP - Minister for Multicultural Affairs
“ Just watched Amar. OMG well done! Great work. Loved it. What a beautiful ride. Please pass on my congrats to the filmmaker, crew & cast.” – Santo Cilauro (Writer, The Dish, The Castle, Utopia)
“ I absolutely loved it!! Made me a bit teary in one or two parts, but I was smiling BIG by the end. Sharing now.” – Louise Hope (AFTRS, Head of People & Potential)
“This is just amazing, my heart sang, honestly! She is a genius, in hindsight I wish I did that without the groom. I will definitely be sharing with everyone I know.” – Trish Murray (NDIS Support Coordinator)
“Absolutely great! I’ll definitely forward this on to everyone for a watch.” - Phoebe Neilson (Arts Access Victoria)
“A beautiful, heart-warming short film. It’s 11min worth watching - highly recommend!” – Madeleine Stewart (Comedian, Writer & Performer)
“Oh it’s bloody fantastic!” – Leah White (Designer & Creator)
Proudly produced by A2K Media and Sense & Centsability in association with SBS and Film Victoria.
Amar premiered on Sunday 15 September as part of the SBS Short Film Festival, which featured 14 short films from diverse and underrepresented filmmakers.
AMAR (MOON) is a short film that follows a 28-year-old Muslim woman with Down syndrome who secretly plans the wedding of her dreams, without a groom. Living with her widowed mother, grandmother and sister, Amar’s family struggles with unwanted community prejudice, discrimination and marginalisation. Amar (Moon) is the story of a young woman determined to be celebrated, seen, respected and embraced by her community.
by Fatima Mawas
A wedding in the Arab and/or Muslim community is an opportunity to show off. Parents get to show off their children, the couple get to show off their love for each other and guests get to show off their best side, coming dressed in their finest. They are big occasions and often symbolic of the bride transforming from a girl into a woman in the eyes of her family, friends and community.
Amar (Moon) examines this traditional aspect of weddings through an intersectional lens. Intersectionality (also known as intersectional feminism), is a branch of feminism which identifies how different aspects of social and political discrimination overlap with gender.
Bell Hooks said ‘Movies not only provide a narrative for specific discourses of race, sex and class, they provide a shared experience, a common starting point from which diverse audiences can dialogue about these charged issues’.
As is the case with many minority communities, I have observed a significant amount of stigmatisation and shame associated to disability within the Arab and/or Muslim community. I believe this is a consequence of factors such as class, a lack of access to culturally appropriate support services, and language barriers. Amar asks Arab and Muslim audience members to reflect on the ways in which people with disabilities are made to feel isolated and excluded from within.
Down syndrome is not the most important influence on how a person develops and lives their life. Instead, what happens after birth is much more important as family, environmental, cultural and social factors shape their life, just as it does all of us. In fact, it’s not people’s disabilities that create barriers in the way they live their lives, but the ways in which individuals and societies perceive the person.
Amar (Moon) is a film about a young woman’s attempt to be seen and celebrated by her community and family. It’s my attempt at challenging my community to become a stronger and better place.
by Ade Djajamihardja & Leanne Tonkes
AMAR is an entertaining and heartfelt story addressing important themes of disability and inclusion, cultural and religious diversity and gender equality.
The film’s narrative speaks the message of a young Muslim Lebanese Australian with Down syndrome campaigning to realize her social, cultural and religious driven aspiration of having a wedding ceremony to enjoy her “bride’s big day”, but without actually needing to involve a spouse.
The greater message endorsed, however, resonates a far more universal craving that we all share:
the desire to be included, respected, accepted and celebrated by our loved community that we are a part of - and connected to.
Our team believes strongly that these themes resonate clearly in the film. It is certainly evident on screen that we are addressing these important themes. We also addressed diversity of underrepresented groups behind the camera. The crew of 31 people proudly included 23 women and others from underrepresented groups including those with disability and people of colour.
The lead character of AMAR (played brilliantly by Kate Barakis), and many of the film’s supporting cast (Shea MacDonough, Michael Buxton, and Abdullah Bakhsh) all have Down syndrome, a condition that affects 13,000 Australians. Down syndrome is not an illness or disease. It is a genetic condition that occurs as a result of an extra chromosome. Our bodies are made up of millions of cells, and in each cell there are 23 pairs of chromosomes – or 46 chromosomes in every cell. Down syndrome is caused by the occurrence of an extra chromosome, chromosome 21. People with Down syndrome therefore have 47 chromosomes in their cells instead of 46. This results in a range of physical characteristics, health and development indications and some level of intellectual disability.
Screen Australia’s 2016 investigative study Seeing ourselves: Reflections on diversity in Australian TV drama, revealed that the most underrepresented onscreen presence was from people with disability. Despite 19 percent of Australians having identified as living with disability, the Screen Australia study discovered that only 4 percent of main characters in Australian TV drama were identifiably characters with disability, however there was no research done to show how many of that 4 percent were actually played by actors living with disability. Producer Ade Djajamihardja is proud to nurture disabled artists and improve on screen representation through his disability led production company A2K Media.
“We believe that the rare and treasured combination that's represented both in front of and behind the camera for AMAR (MOON) offers credibility and an authenticity that makes this short film truly shine.” – Ade Djajamihardja
The director of AMAR is Australian Lebanese Muslim filmmaker Fatima Mawas and the producer Ade Djajamihardja is also part of the Australian Muslim community. Both Fatima and Ade were selected to be part of the inaugural Screen Australia’s Developing the Developers program recognising them as distinctive and diverse storytellers. Together they represent Australia’s rich and varied multicultural and multi-faith community, and after all, what is the media’s primary role and duty, if not to reflect the community it is attempting to communicate with?!
The producers behind Amar are grateful for the opportunity to create an important, significant and meaningful project with the generous support of SBS & Film Victoria’s Diversity initiative.
Ade says “Amar finally conclusively proves the truth, that it’s our broad rich and varied tapestry of “quality diversity” that is actually our community’s greatest asset, and that it also proudly nurtures and advocates the very idea that we ALL have value."
The team behind AMAR hope the film encourages conversations about diversity and inclusion in all communities.