To celebrate National Youth Week, SBS launched a competition inviting 14- to 20-year-olds to submit a video pitch about their identity, the prize, a chance to have their short film on air. The response was overwhelming with many inspiring entries from across the nation. Five finalists were invited to attend a residential storytelling workshop in Melbourne, and with the help of SBS and the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) produced a short film about their story.
Winner and Vlogger Anthony Farah, 20, AKA Captain Fizman is having an identity crisis. He turns to the internet to find out what young Lebanese men like him “should” be doing with their lives.
Anthony is a young and charismatic Lebanese Australian from Sydney’s western suburbs. He’s also a young man who has experienced first-hand the damage racial stereotypes can cause. Simply embracing his culture can have serious ramifications for Anthony, who has had assumptions made about his job, his aggressiveness and his religious beliefs simply due to his appearance and culture. At a time when fears of extremism in society are at an all-time high, these assumptions can be dangerous.
Anthony chose to combat these stereotypes through one of the most powerful tools there is; comedy. He couldn’t have been more excited to head to Melbourne and begin work on his short film. The experience, however, was far from Anthony’s first in the media.
By dipping his toes into the world of media through his YouTube channel, “Captain Fizman” Anthony was able to hone his skills as a storyteller by putting his life online for the world to see. Slowly but surely, he built up a following of dedicated fans who are interested in every facet of his life, particularly in his unique identity and culture.
Being able to create his own online content gives Anthony mixed emotions. On one hand, he acknowledges the brilliance of being a part of the first generation who are able to shoot, upload and market their own online content directly, without having to go through a publisher. It allows Anthony to be himself, without the need for input or approval from anyone else.
Juxtaposed to this, Anthony unfortunately sees some of his videos receive nasty, racially charged comments from the dark corners of the internet. It’s been a process that has opened Anthony’s eyes to how vital good storytelling from a culturally diverse group is when it comes to breaking down stereotypes.
Anthony hit the big time when he published a reaction video to the first episode of the controversial Here Come The Habibs. This was one of the first times the young Lebanese Australian saw characters that reflected his identity and culture on the small screen. It was a simple experience that made a big impact. In particular, he called out the comedic relationship between the on-screen mother and son and was shocked at the countless parallels he could draw between their relationship and his with his own mother.
Anthony loves using humour to keep his audience cracking up. For him, being able to laugh at the absurdity of a situation is a hugely effective way to drive a message. He loves the concept of examining the excessive stereotypes that are used in the media to portray Lebanese men and crank those stereotypes up to 11. By doing so he emphasises the ridiculous nature of those stereotypes, asking viewers the question, “Is this really what we’re expected to believe Lebanese men are like?”
At the same time, he is reminding the viewer that it’s important to be able to laugh at yourself. It’s an ability that Anthony has in spades and it definitely shows in his short film.
After his experience with SBS, Anthony plans to embrace his culture in his online persona and in his storytelling. He realises that he has the ability to destroy the absurd stereotypes surrounding Lebanese men, just by being himself.
Next, he wants to make a web series exploring “What if a Lebanese person was the Prime Minister?” After hearing that I had to ask, how does he think the world would change if we saw that kind of cultural diversity in positions of power? He replied quickly and confidently with a simple response: “It would just be better.”
Words by: Sam Danby
Mentor Director: Andrew Belk
Mentor Cinematographer: Nick Ralph
Mentor Producer: Andrew Arbuthnot