MOLLY & MOBARAK
In 2001, 90 asylum seekers from the Hazara ethnic region of Afghanistan are released from detention with temporary protection visas and arrive in Young, NSW, Australia, among them 23 year old Mobarak Tahiri. They have been recruited to work at the local abattoir. Mobarak befriends high school teacher Molly and her mother Lyn. The town is still divided about such outsiders in their midst, haunted by the memory of anti-Chinese riots during the 1860s gold rush.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Despite its calm and almost subdued tone, Tom Zubrycki's Molly & Mobarak makes a pretty loud political noise, showing the simple humanity of these asylum seekers. Seen in the context of an Australian country town, getting his driving licence or learning to read English, for example, Mobarak is typical of all the migrants that have populated this country: keen to adapt and work in this society. Those who come off looking the worst are townsfolk who insult these newcomers. Oh, the irony of it for a whiteman's country of a little more than 200 years!
Zubrycki operates the camera and does a great job of keeping the images engaging: no faux stylish shaking. It's also a tribute to Ray Thomas' editing. The narration provides context, and while the film doesn't aspire to be a political factbook on Afghanistan and the details of asylum claims by the Hazarines, it sketches out the basic issues. Even with the Taliban discredited and dispersed, Afghanistan is hardly normal in the sense we think of a society being normal.
Clearly biased in favour of the asylum seekers being welcomed into Australian society (as evidenced by choice of material included etc), Zubrycki's film is nevertheless far from being lopsided or one-eyed. The film in fact focuses on the task of observing the dynamics of the relationships within this small group of locals and Mobarak's growing love for Molly. It finds its own drama as it follows the story, and ends up offering not only a classic love drama, but much food for thought. And we see that while some locals have a predictable xenophobic reaction, others respond with positive gestures of assimilation. By the end of it, though, it's the film's unfussed exploration of individual humans that is the most effective and haunting contribution it makes.
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MOLLY & MOBARAK (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring Mobarak Tahiri and Molly & Lyn Rule
PRODUCER: Tom Zubrycki
DIRECTOR: Tom Zubrycki
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Zubrycki
EDITOR: Ray Thomas
MUSIC: Alister Spence
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane: January 29, 2004