We were all beginning to do better at understanding each other until this year. The world became a lot more divided in 2019. And so the Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) has appointed 2020 as the Year of Welcome. It will launch this new attitude of positivity with a video, filmed by Michele Aboud, screened onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge pylons on New Year’s Eve.
Michele Aboud took The Stable behind the scenes of the video that is helping to make Australia a more accepting nation.
The Stable: What was your initial response to the brief?
Michele Aboud: The creative idea came to me straight away, open arms, embracing with joy. A simple, elegant idea authentically expressed by real people. It took me just five minutes to explain the idea, to be shot on a 300mm lens, describe the location and choose the style of music and work out the soundscape. I love it when you get that inspirational download.
TS: What are the aims of the film?
MA: The budget was tight but I had good people who really believed in this project and that mattered more to me. Optimism reigns throughout this project. As a wealthy nation, we can offer so much to those caught in conflict and danger. We all want peace and Australia offers that. The aim is firstly to send a clear message of welcome to the people who have come to our country seeking safety and secondly to engage the broader community to get involved. We’re pulled in so many directions now with our attitudes towards new Australians. We’re made to feel their tragedies. But our hearts also need to be fed the knowledge that good has happened as well. Communicating this is at the core of the campaign. Love is so powerful, a hug is priceless. We all understand these emotions and we all respond positively to seeing them displayed.
TS: What were your directing aims and directing decisions to meet those aims?
MA: To keep it real, keep it simple. We were working with real people. We couldn’t wear down their performances by going for take after take.
The storyboard asked for a considered approach. I knew what had to be covered off to create the storyline, to deliver plenty of variation for the edit.
My job is to support performance so I was fully focused, knowing that generally the best happens in the first few takes. I also knew how the 300mm lens would perform, how the background would create a beautiful tapestry. This lens needs plenty of distance between point A and point B to take maximum advantage of the bokeh.
Shukufa Tahiri, former refugee, and now human rights advocate is our voice for the 30-second version. Tahiri arrived in Australia to reunite with her father who had sought asylum in Australia when she was 13, after fleeing the Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Amnesty International Australia recognised her as one of the 15 women championing human rights in Australia in 2017 and The Australian Financial Review has also named her as one of 2018’s 100 women of influence in Australia.
TS: Tell me about the Refugee Council of Australia
MA: The RCOA is the main national body on refugee policy. It promotes humane and compassionate policies for people seeking safety in Australia and around the globe and works to ensure that anyone who arrives seeking sanctuary finds the safety and support they deserve in the community, so they can start to rebuild their lives with dignity.
It works with 190 member organisations, thousands of individual members and supporters and Australia’s refugee communities, leading national research, policy development, advocacy and community education in the community on refugee issues. It is also independently funded.
TS: How is the film being used?
MA: The 2020 Year of Welcome campaign and video will be launched by City of Sydney’s official New Years’ Eve Charity partner, the Refugee Council of Australia. Deputy Lord Mayor, Jess Scully, is an ambassador for the RCOA 2020. The film will be shown on the east and west pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge New Year’s Eve and will run online, supporting a program asking the people of Australia to sign up to the Year of Welcome and commit to taking 12 inspiring actions over 12 months to help make Australia a better place.
Director: Michele Aboud
DOP: Anton Perry
Copywriter: Mick Greer
Editor: Christopher Baron @ The Hive
Colourist: Yanni Kronenberg
Sound Editor: James Matell
Soundtrack: Audio Network
1st AC: Christian Barbeitos
Runner: Ravin Senanayake
Photography Post Production Capture Lab
Voiceover: Shukufa Tahiri
Deena and Evan Yako and their daughters
Noor Azizah (representing the Rohinghan community in Australia)
Azita Azimi (from Iran)
Parwin (and Shahida (from the Australian Hazara community)
Simon Shahin from Syria
Roger de Robilard
Kelly Nicholls and family
Burmese Kareni Community
Naw Sun Shine Lwinoo
Naw Khin Khin
Naw Wah Wah