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Western Sydney filmmaker Vonne Patiag explores issues around queer/ethnic intersection and racism in his work. (Vonne Patiag / TOMGIRL )

“I’ve noticed that in Sydney especially, geographical prejudice is very prevalent. That idea of: ‘Oh, you’re from Western Sydney. Eww,’ says Western Sydney director, Vonne Patiag. 

Annalyn Violata, Alana Calvert
Published on
Sunday, June 17, 2018 - 15:11
File size
37.28 MB
20 min 22 sec

Independent filmmaker Vonne Patiag has visited some of the biggest cities in the world yet in none of them did he see the "geographical prejudice" that exists in Sydney towards the city's outlying suburbs - specifically, he said, towards Western Sydney. 

“I’ve noticed that in Sydney especially, geographical prejudice is very prevalent. That idea of: ‘Oh, you’re from Western Sydney. Eww,’ the young director told SBS Filipino. 

“I’ve been to cities like LA and New York and Tokyo – which are arguably geographically as big as Sydney – and you can live on the fringes, you can live in the suburbs and no-one has that prejudice. It’s something really strange that Sydney has perpetuated." 

As someone who not only grew up in Western Sydney but still lives there, Mr Patiag has set many of his short films there to try and combat the misrepresentation his community is subjected to by Australian media and society.  

“People think, ‘Oh, Western Sydney: lower-class, ethnic-culture groups’, but I actually think it is such a melting pot," Mr Patiag said.

In the lead up to the 40th anniversary of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival earlier this year, Mr Patiag's short film Tomgirl was selected to feature in Queer for Short: Home Growna compilation developed by SBS On Demand and Create NSW which broadcasted a series of LGBTQI shorts by emerging filmmakers. 

Set in Mr Patiag's home-suburb of Blacktown, Tomgirl tells the story of a young Australian-born Filipino boy who is constantly bullied for being different. After telling his uncle he wants to dress as a girl because “girls don’t get hit," the young boy learns that his uncle is a 'bakla' - a sexually-fluid gender that's recognised in Filipino society. Together, the pair dress up and hit the streets of Blacktown to celebrate their shared Filipino culture. 

The director who also wrote the film, admitted he'd been terrified over the Filipino community's reaction to it, only to receive a response that "shocked" him. 

"It was very hard to make," he said. 

“I had this very big fear that I was speaking for a community on behalf of the community [as a whole]… I was very afraid I wouldn’t present them in the most authentic way… So I really expected backlash.

"But no, it’s been great… All the feedback has been very positive. Honestly, I’m shocked."

On Thursday, June 21, Mr Patiag's latest work Shading will screen at the Diverse Screens Parramatta Launch. The short documentary explores the practice of white-washing in Australian film and theatre industries that are unfamiliar with the nuances of darker shades of ethnic skin.