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Hope and loss - a sad Iraqi connection

Marilyn Shepherd is a longtime Webdiary contributor who is also a nationally significant advocate for the rights of refugees in Australia.

As a preface, here's the blurb for the film Hope from the Melbourne Film Festival's website:

Four hundred asylum seekers pitched into the sea when their people-smuggling boat from Indonesia sank in 2001. Three hundred and fifty three people drowned. Only seven survivors made it to Australia. Amal Basry was one of those survivors.

Controversy surrounded the sinking of the boat, known as SIEV X (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel Unknown). In public, Amal became an advocate for the survivors. In private, she fought to reunite her fragmented family, cope with the consequences of the disaster and return to Indonesia. But Amal was no victim. She loved movies and had always dreamed of being in a film of her own. Documentary maker Steve Thomas wanted to record her life story. So they made a deal. And having embarked on this journey, Thomas had no choice but to follow on.

I want to advertise this film here because Margo Kingston supported the SIEVX story from day one and allowed Tony, Mary, Marg, Helen, Kay and myself to use the site for the story.

This story is impossibly sad - Amal died of breast cancer in Australia after surviving Saddam Hussein, the water, Indonesia for months and years of anxiety.

She did not survive Australia.


From: Steve Thomas.

Dear Hope Friends and Supporters,

We are pleased to announce that Hope begins its national cinema release on 19th June. This is great news for everyone who has waited patiently for the film to be released to a general audience and among those who can share the credit is Gil Scrine of Gil Scrine Films, our Australian distributor, and the Nova Cinema in Carlton which was the first to offer a season. Once the Nova came on board, cinemas elsewhere began to sit up and take notice. Then the Australian Film Commission came in with some financial support for publicity materials, censorship classification the (rating is M), preparation of hard drives for digital projection etc, so we are grateful to them too.

In preparation for the release we have done some more editing on the film. It is now running at around 100 minutes and if the response of secondary teachers at a well attended preview screening at the Nova last weekend is any indication, it is even better!

This is a commercial release and most of the cinemas involved to date have agreed to 2-week minimum seasons, although the Luna Perth has only committed to 1 week and the Canberra Dendy seems only able to offer a one-off screening. The season at any of the cinemas can be boosted by interested groups holding fundraising screenings - these are one-off screenings at off-peak times whereby the host group is responsible for selling tickets and then shares the returns with the cinema and the distributor.

Details of the cinema release, links to the cinemas involved and contact details for anyone interested in fund-raising screenings are attached as a word document and are also included at the end of this update. These details are also on the Hope website at www.hopedocumentary.com.au - where you will be able to click on the links to relevant cinemas and go straight to their websites for screening times etc.

A 2-sided colour flyer prepared by Gil Scrine Films is also available by email as a pdf document on request.

Needless to say, we are thrilled with this development in the journey of Hope through the world and we know that were she here, Amal would be too. But it's an opportunity that we need all of you to get behind and support. It is particularly important that screenings during the first week of release are well attended. This will encourage the cinemas to keep the film on in good-sized theatres and keep their advertising going. So please forward this email to anyone you can think of and, for example, consider ways in which you might be able to organise small groups to attend. Cinemas continually complain that no-one goes to see Australian films - let's prove them wrong with Hope!

Note: For those of you who expressed interest after our last newsletter in supporting regional screenings through Gil Scrine's Community Screening Initiative, which would be driven by philanthropy, please note that this initiative is on hold while we get through the 'commercial' cinema release phase. Regional screens are already expressing interest in either commercial or community hosted screenings, so we hope to announce further developments in this regard in due course.

Hope Australian Cinema Screenings

Hope will be screening at the following cinemas around Australia for a limited season from the 19th June 2008, to coincide with World Refugee Day, which is on 20th June.

Please check websites for session times and special previews!

Sydney: Dendy Newtown King St, Newtown
Brisbane: Dendy George George St, Brisbane
Melbourne: Nova Carlton Lygon St, Carlton
Hobart : State Theatre 375 Elizabeth St, North Hobart
Adelaide: Nova East End 251 Rundle St
Canberra: Dendy 148 Bunda St, Canberra Centre
Perth: Luna 155 Oxford Street, Leederville

Sydney: Avoca Beach Theatre 69 Avoca Dve, Avoca Beach

There will be additional regional screenings announced soon, please check your local cinema listings for details!

If you are part of a Refugee support group and want to host a fundraiser screening of HOPE in your area - please get in touch with distributor, Gil Scrine Films: 44 Northcote St, East Brisbane Qld 4169, Ph: (617) 33910124 Fax: (617) 33910154

Hope to screen at UNHCR Refugee Film Festival in Tokyo, 26th June.

We are pleased that Hope has been invited to screen as part of this year's annual International Refugee Film Festival organised by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and to take place at various venues across Tokyo. See here for more details. As Steve Thomas will be returning from a short trip to the UK at that time he will take the opportunity to be in attendance, at the UN's invitation, to introduce the screening (it will be interesting to see Amal's story sub-titled in Japanese!)

Thanks again to everyone for your continuing support and interest in Hope. This is truly a community effort.


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A very strange thing in the film

After Amal got permanent residence from out of the blue in November 2005 she was allowed to travel to Iran to see her family and decided to stop in Indonesia first to trace her footsteps and try and find some answers to what happened to them in Indonesia and why.

She was refused entry. An Australian resident on an Australian document was refused entry in Indonesia yet the embassy in Australia issued her a valid visa.

Could the fact that the architect of the appalling relex was our ambassador to Indonesia at the time have something to do with it? She was not only denied entry but put on a plane, with cancer, and sent to Singapore and then onto Amman, Jordan.

Why was she denied only in Indonesia?

Dylan, so what?

The people they call illegal immigrants in the whole of Europe are nothing to do with refugees. As for this law, it is a grotesque breach of human rights no matter how you cut it.

I have just wept all the way through HOPE - I would advise you to wander off and see it, Dylan, and remember you are talking about human beings - not a stupid phrase used to describe what we think we shouldn't have.

Chill, Marilyn

Marilyn: "The people they call illegal immigrants in the whole of Europe are nothing to do with refugees."

I was aware of this - if you re-read the post I made you'll see I wrote, "It does not affect asylum seekers or genuine refugees." Sorry I couldn't make this clearer for you.

I have just wept all the way through HOPE - I would advise you to wander off and see it...

Your original post says it is playing in Australia and Japan. Both a bit far too travel to see a film.

...and remember you are talking about human beings...

...you imagine I wasn't aware of this already?

Immigration Reform in the EU

Anyone interested in immigration and detention regimes in Australia might also be interested in the new 'return directive' that has just been approved by the European Parliament.

The new directive seeks to set common rules across the Union for dealing with the problem of irregular migrants (including 'economic refugees', illegal migrants and trafficked persons) as well as people who overstay their visa.

The EU Observer summarises the new directive thus:

It will be up to EU member states' governments to decide whether to deport the immigrants or regularise them. But in most cases they will be given two options – to return home voluntarily or face deportation.

Those who refuse to go voluntarily could be forcefully removed and banned from coming back to EU territory for five years.

In addition, the same individuals could be detained for up to 18 months in some circumstances – a time-limit which exceeds that of most EU states.

France24 suggests it will affect approximately 12 million illegal residents across the EU. It does not affect asylum seekers or genuine refugees.

Attacking the new directive are the usual IGO and NGO groups, including the UN who "attacked the new laws as not providing sufficient protection for the 'vulnerable'." Amnesty International was also critical, arguing:

...an excessive period of detention of up to 1.5 years as well as an EU-wide re-entry ban for those forcibly returned, risks lowering existing standards...and sets an extremely bad example to other regions in the world.

Latin American countries have also been critical of the new directive.

On the whole, however, the new directive seems rather popular amongst the Europeans. It was agreed to by all of the Interior Ministers of the Member States and passed by the European Parliament with a clear majority (even if the approx. 100 MEP's who abstained are included). There was coverage of the criticism by some NGOs on the TV news here this morning but it seems a rather popular move overall.

The retribution in heaven

Michael de Angelos: "The Labor Party must be planning retribution and there is so much to choose from – simply getting at the truth is going to destroy a few careers over the next few years."

Didn't the government just put him forward for the highest possible Australian award? The continual punishment (international speaking tours and awards) must be just heartbreaking for him. Next week, in a fit of rage, Mr Rudd, may give him the title Duke, and a fifty acre manor.

I'm not sure about that

Paul: "Didn't the government just put him forward for the highest possible Australian award?"

I suspect that was a gracious in victory stunt, and Rudd is just smart enough to know when not to be divisive. By the same token I think Labor's instinct is to let bygones be bygones and think about their own glass clad premises.

After gaining office they let David Hicks remain in gaol illegaly. You'd think the AWB scandal would get a workover; after all, that was a criminal matter. SIEVX, one would think is another matter that should be investigated, but in the process how many senior PS and ADF heads would roll?

Nothing from the government yet but time will tell.

And calls for public submissions into detention

Finally the ALP are moving to have a full enquiry into detention with alternatives at the top of the list.

How many more years can we destroy human beings like Amal and call it border protection?

Not over yet

I still believe the Liberal Party is suffering from hubris and is in a state of shock over the loss of the election and Howard from his own seat.

Their actions in Parliament are risible and Nelson is just an embarrassment. Along with News Ltd's pathetic beat-ups of the great 2008 Iguana Scandal (not!) and their seemingly endless attempts to treat Rudd as almost not the legitimate leader of the country, Denis Shanahan has to date three times declared Rudd’s reputation is shot. I don't know who these journos think their audience are or whether they are in denial as well.

The Labor Party must be planning retribution and there is so much to choose from – simply getting at the truth is going to destroy a few careers over the next few years.

I'm positive many of Howard's most appalling actions, like this one, are not going to be forgotten. The tide is turning. People should seek out the Youtube video of a Bill O'Reilly producer attempting to ambush the PBS broadcaster Bill Moyers (the US right call PBS a "socialist" channel that gives succour to the "enemy"). It backfires spectacularly with Moyers just repeating over and over Rupert Murdoch's claim that the Iraq War would lead to oil costing only $20 a barrel.

Every God awful thing has happened over the past 11 years is going to be revealed and the truth of the SIEV-X will be one of them.

Take it from me as relayed from my wife ( the clairvoyant). Howard is in for hell during his retirement as all his lies unravel. I think we are on record on Webdiary at least two years ago as saying Howard would go down in flames and leave his party in tatters.

Not over yet

Michael de Angelos, so the Great 2008 Iguana Scandal is a beat- up, is that why Kevin Rudd rang Belinda Neal today and told her  that if there was a repetition of her recent behaviour involving the Iguanas Waterfront at Gosford on Friday, her political future would be over?  He also told her that she should seek counselling to assist in her own management of her relationship with other people. Does that sound like a beat-up to you?.

Richard:  Alan, back-up of your assertions please?

Oh! Those assertions.


Richard, what assertions?

Thanks Margo

With the senate being told that 135 of my lost people will have to be compensated.... and the stories continue.

SIEV-X and Webdiary

Webdiary's first piece on SIEV-X, Cover-up or stuff-up? was published on 28 May 2002. Webdiary followed the story in its early days when there was virtually no media interest, the govenrment's spin machine having successfully painted citizen investigator Tony Kevin as unreliable and the suggestion of governmnent culpability in action or inaction fantastical or even treasonous. Webdiary thus became a discussion point for the story, as I followed it up here and in the hard copy SMH and Sun Herald. I got into a lot of trouble over this story, as did anyone who took an interest. To track the development of this story through the media, see Webdiary's 2002 Pandora archive at http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/21852/20021022-0000/www.smh.com.au/news/opinion/webdiary/index.html

from May 28 to October 3's SIEV-X: One year on. And see SIEV-X: Another Howard lie, another official cover-up (22 May 2003) for Marg Hutton's account of how she became the record keeper of the SIEV-X saga.

Oh and where's the note from your mother Hmmm?

Welcome back Margo

the emperors clothes

Interesting isnt it.

Tucked away at an indi  blogsite is an intro to a realife story involving real life people and what happens to real people in the real world.  Could be  Darfur,  Burma, dozens of places right now, if its the time factor bothers you.  Stories seldom told and poorly understood.


Was just at  SMH web site and their idea of a story is ( complete with mugshot of parrots beak of offending party):

"SJP'S frock faux pas fury" .

"Sarah  Jessica Parker blurts after "unique" dress for film premiere turns out to be second hand".

This is only one of dozens of rubbish efforts, like the one just above, where  Noami Campbell waffles on that    Yves  st. Laurent : "...  made me!" and a whole heap of other sludge through the SMH. online edition.

No (sigh) not on a crusade, just the same, tell me you can't see a problem somewhere in all of this.

 Good point Margo.

 Good point Margo.

 At the time, replete of a great serve of the government's tripe and full of my own fear and ignorance,  I actually offered a complicitous murmur concerning the "silly beggars" whilst reading the first report in the paper.Not a nice thing to have to admit, even now.

Turned out a true comment muttered in jest, concerning victims of a likely genuine war crime, as consequent explorations have indicated, and in this writers case, a true commentary on how dangerous ignorance at the personal level driven by a corrupted media can be.

Hopefully enough water under the bridge to be very careful of anything any politician or newspaper says about any subject,  from now on.

Brisbane premiere of Hope

Hi Marilyn. Ah, SIEV-X, one of the defining stories of the Howard era, and a milestone in Webdiary's history. I'll go to the Brisbane opening, 19 June. With bells on!

Congratulations, Marilyn. You dedicated your time and passion and love to victims of our boat people policy for many years, and you've seen movement your way in this great, big, diverse nation. Well done, girl.

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