“Refugees are not just boat people. They are wonderful people.”
The Staging Post is an amazing film that tells the story behind the headlines. Jolyon Hoff’s documentary follows two Afghan Hazara refugees in Indonesia as they defy the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and create a community.
Jolyon Hoff wanted to know more about how these refugees dealt with the strange limbo of having no home. He met Muzafar Ali, a photographer, and Khadim Dai, 17-year-old filmmaker, and they decided to make a film together. Unlike so many documentaries on refugees, The Staging Post is uplifting and honest. I did not know what to expect when watching this film. I had only a vague understanding of what was happening in Indonesia and did not comprehend how tough it must have been.
In 2014, when filming began, the UNHCR actively discouraged any organised groups. This restriction applied to all refugees, not just political groups but toward any organised activities. Many refugee parents were concerned about the education of their children and scared to create a school, for fear of being reprimand. Furthermore, refugees in Indonesia who have arrived as asylum seekers are not allowed to work and have to register with the UNHCR to receive their official refugee status. It then takes eighteen months to get to the first interview and can take up to ten years to get resettled in a third country. This disheartening reality only adds to the instability of the situation.
“We decided we must find a way to give the children a chance to study” suggested the young film-maker Dai, which is exactly what they did. Through a combined effort, they created the first learning centre for refugee children. Working together to create this safe space united the refugees and helped create a sense of community.
Initially, some refugees were not pleased that a group were defying the UNHCR. But as time progressed, they decided to band together to create a better situation for their children. The adults pooled their money to buy supplies for children. Muzafar Ali describes how this focus helped everyone to feel as if they were doing more than just waiting. They decorated the building themselves, using whatever they could to repair the space. One man even uses a pipe as a hammer, because they simply do not have enough money.
I was lucky enough to see the world premiere this documentary. It strikes the perfect balance between being informative and entertaining. We are shown how these men want to make the most of this strange situation, and how women were the pioneers of adaptation. As Muzafar says “courageous people never give up.” Rather than wallowing in these tough conditions, these brave people band together to create a community for themselves. Through education and perseverance, they fight the system and share their culture with the world.
The Staging Post is playing opening night on Sunday 18th June at Cinema Nova in Carlton. Muzafar Ali and Jolyon Hoff will be at the screening for a Q and A.