Ammar, arrived in Australia from Iraq in 2011
I saw three wars in my life. The first one was when I was 10 years old. The next was when I was 18. In the third war, many troubles happened. Seven people from my family were killed. Then, I lost my brother, a musician. For two months after that, I couldn’t do anything. Everywhere I went, it reminded me of my brother, and it was very painful for me. Finally, my mother told me to go overseas. I was a film director, and she felt it wasn’t safe for artists in Iraq anymore. So I left Baghdad with my wife and children and went to Syria. Many artists left Iraq at that time.
Even though I easily found work as a director there, I couldn’t feel that life was good. It was difficult to sleep, I couldn’t eat, and I didn’t feel safe, because every day I thought that maybe I would be sent back to Iraq. Finally, I went to the UN to apply for asylum. One and a half years after I applied, my visa was approved.
I had directed 34 TV series and 16 movies in my life, but this was in a new country, and so of course everything was different and it was very challenging for me.
When we first arrived in Brisbane, I made some short films for film festivals, and I also started volunteering at a community radio station as a director and broadcaster of a show in Arabic. In a new country, you have to search and discover things in your life. I had never worked for the radio before. But I knew I had to go step by step here, and it was good to be doing something.
Then I met the people from Matchbox Pictures and they talked to me about Safe Harbour, a new TV show about asylum seekers, and asked me if I would act as a Cultural Consultant. It was this moment that I felt was the real start of my life in Australia. At first, I felt nervous. I had directed 34 TV series and 16 movies in my life, but this was in a new country, and so of course everything was different and it was very challenging for me. But everybody on the show was so supportive of me, and now it’s finished, I feel very motivated, and inspired to make something new again.
I would now like to make a movie, a love story about refugees. When you look at the sea, it has many stories – some bad, some good, some happy, some sad.
I still have to discover all that.
This month, New Humans of Australia shines a light on refugee and migrant stories inspired by SBS drama Safe Harbour. Airing over four weeks, Safe Harbour explores issues facing asylum seekers once they settle in Australia. All episodes will be available after broadcast anytime, anywhere, for free via SBS On Demand. Join the conversation with #SafeHarbour.
Watch episode one now: