One family. Two Wars. Three countries. What does it take to belong?
Walk in the shoes of a Sudanese refugee as her resilience is tested to the limit striving for a settled life in rural Wagga Wagga, NSW. Constance on the Edge tells the story of feisty and charismatic Constance leading by example as she guides her family away from their painful pasts. “In Africa I was fighting for survival; in the refugee camp I was fighting for human rights; and here in Australia, I’m fighting for belonging.”
Will she make it? Is Wagga Wagga ready for Constance?
Filmed over 10 years, this documentary is an unflinching portrayal of one family’s resettlement story in Australia.
Finalist – Documentary Australia Foundation Award for Australian Documentary – Sydney Film Festival 2016
Official Selection – Film 2016 – Cinéfest Oz Film Festival
“A heart warming film and a reminder that welcoming is the most powerful tool we have.” – Mohammad Al-Khafaji, CEO, Welcome to Australia
“Constance on the Edge is a fascinating film. It shines a light on the challenges faced by many refugees seeking to make a new life in Australia – and their remarkable resilience in rising to these challenges.” – Professor Peter Shergold, NSW Coordinator-General for Refugee Resettlement
Classification: M – Mature themes
Dates & Times:
Tuesday 7th March 2017 at 10.30am
The Q&A and panel discussion will include;
Brave, funny, feisty: Constance has a fierce determination her children will not become victims, and a strong desire for a fair and just society. As a child Constance was nicknamed ‘elephant cub’ because she was large, and she loved to box. Now she calls herself a ‘mother elephant’. We get to see Constance as this protective, sometimes angry mother elephant, with much at stake. Never afraid to fight for what she believes in – this fighting spirit is Constance’s greatest strength, yet can be her own worst enemy.
“In Africa I was fighting for survival; in the refugee camp I was fighting for human rights; and here in Australia, I’m fighting for belonging.”
Belinda Mason, Director
Belinda first met Constance and her family in 2006, a year after they’d arrived in Australia, whilst directing the documentary I’ll Call Australia Home. Constance’s extended family featured in the documentary, telling the story of two refugee families from Burma and Sudan. Full of optimism, they were among the first Sudanese to be resettled in Wagga Wagga in regional NSW.
Constance on the Edge picks up the story, casting a new light on the refugee experience in Australia.
Belinda has over twenty years’ experience in documentary directing. Her films have broadcast on major Australian networks, sold around the world and screened at international film festivals. She’s has won a number of awards for her films, including: the 1998 Human Rights Award for Media for her acclaimed documentary Little Brother, Little Sister; the prestigious Gold Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film and Television Competition for City of Dreams; and Growing Up and Going Home was winner of the 2007 Sydney Film Festival Rouben Mamoulian Award.
Adzo Elizabeth Koudakpo
Elizabeth was born and raised in Krisan Refugee Camp Ghana. In 2008, Elizabeth came to Australia with her parents and five siblings, whom now reside in Western Sydney. Elizabeth is currently studying a Bachelor of Social Science and Criminology and looks forward to using her knowledge and experience on peacekeeping missions, furthering her studies in international relations and has the ultimate goal of working for UNHCR. Elizabeth currently works at Fairfield City Council and is a Coach and Facilitator with Creating Chances, a not-for-profit to inspire, develop and empower youth. Elizabeth is a vibrant, energetic, life enthusiast despite her never-ending journey as a refugee child. And last but not least – Elizabeth really loves to dance!
Today there’s a global refugee crisis. But this is not a film about asylum seekers. Constance on the Edge is a longitudinal study of one refugee family’s struggle to forge a new life in Australia, far from home. It also tells the story about the response of a country town to Constance and her family.
I first met Constance and her family in 2006, a year after they’d arrived in Australia. I was directing the documentary I’ll Call Australia Home, telling the story of two refugee families, one Burmese and one Sudanese, who had been accepted into Australia on humanitarian visas. Constance and her brother’s family featured in the documentary. Full of optimism, they were among the first Sudanese to be resettled in Wagga
Wagga in regional NSW.
It was clear to me that Constance was a leader. She brought to her new community considerable entrepreneurial skills, a global outlook and a cultural joie de vivre. She represented the resilience that defines us as Australians. So I was shocked when I spoke to her in 2012 and she told me her life in Australia wasn’t working out.
Constance and her family were facing serious new challenges – discrimination, disappointments, run-ins with the law and the resurgence of post-traumatic stress symptoms.
The central question posed in Constance on the Edge is: can the way we treat refugees promote or impede their ability to contribute successfully over the long term. The resounding answer is yes.
Through Constance, I also encountered a group of local women who are supporting her and other refugees living in Wagga – the policewoman, the ‘refugee doctor’, the trauma counsellor, and the multicultural resource centre manager. Together these women provide a network of support.
I wanted to put refugee issues at the forefront of people’s minds: to raise awareness and recognition of the long term effects of war on refugees; to create an appreciation of the social and economic contribution to Australia by refugees and dispel myths about them being criminals rorting the system; to persuade organisations and government to break down the structural barriers stopping refugees from gaining
meaningful employment; and to promote anti-discrimination practices by first responders and communities.
Refugees are strengthening our communities across the country. I envision Constance on the Edge as contributing to the national conversation around refugees by highlighting the complex issues and experiences they face in Australia. What we gain as a nation by creating more welcoming communities for refugees is at the heart of this story.
– Belinda Mason, Director
Once you start down the path of observational filmmaking you are never sure quite sure where it will lead. Belinda Mason devoted a lot of energy maintaining trust through frequent dialogue with Constance and her family and together we built rapport with many people who have invested their time and energy for this important project.
Now the film is finished, we intend to promote the film at capital city screenings in conjunction with partner organisations and provide platforms for the issues raised in the film to be discussed in hundreds of hosted community screenings all over Australia.
Many individuals and organisations showed faith in us to create a film that would not only be valuable to the national conversation but also as a training resource. Our challenge now is to create targeted educational resources based on the film that can facilitate greater understanding, particularly for personnel working to provide health, education, social and legal services.
Early development support came from Screen Australia followed by a submission to the inaugural Good Pitch² Australia. Early champions for the film, Mitzi Goldman and Susan MacKinnon from Documentary Australia Foundation together with Good Pitch² Australia personnel sought out potential philanthropic donors and not for profit partner organisations for the film.
Meanwhile, throughout 2014 Belinda and Marguerite undertook research trips to Wagga to begin filming so were grateful when Screen NSW provided development funds to create a trailer for broadcasters and to help secure project finance. Mitzi Goldman CEO of Documentary Australia Foundation came on board as Executive Producer to complete the team.
In October, Belinda and Marguerite presented a seven-minute pitch in front of an audience of 300 at the Sydney Opera House at Good Pitch² Australia. Over the next half hour many foundations and individuals pledged finance and partnerships, with some saying it was because they understood the difficulties of being an Australian with a refugee background. Suddenly our struggle to stay in production had ended and we knew we could make our film.
As one of the chosen Good Pitch films we benefited from mentoring for the creation of a successful impact campaign to help generate new initiatives, foster innovative collaborations and advance social change.
With an extensive settlement services network to draw on, Impact Producer Allison Henry is guiding our impact strategy during 2016. We hope audiences will encourage their family and friends to see the film at their local community screening and emerge from the experience richer in their understanding of the refugee experience, to the benefit of all.
– Marguerite Grey, Producer
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