I began working on this project in 2011 after a screening of my documentary, A Nun's New Habit, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Afterwards, I was approached by a NGO asking if I would like to visit the Afghan refugees on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. During this visit I was deeply touched by the community, their plight and desperation for re-settlement to another country.
Following extensive research and several visits, I decided to proceed with my quest to make a film following their stories. I received development money from Film Victoria in late 2011 for the project and initially went to live alongside these people for a couple of months to begin the development of the documentary. During this time, I began filming and initially had an Iranian/Australian Director of Photography join me for 2 weeks. This was the very beginning of my journey to document the stories of these Afghan refugees.
I then decided to continue to film with these people myself, sometimes along with my partner, Steve Warne. Over time, I was drawn to one family in particular, and eventually over the years, I realised that the magnetic appeal of this family was so strong that they became my main story line. To this end, I made many self-funded trips to continue documenting the family in Kuala Lumpur and also continued to film with others who had departed Malaysia by boat and were in Indonesia.
At times this was very taxing both financially and emotionally. I was often filming on my own, sometimes staying with the family and sleeping on their floor which gave me incredible access to their world. Physically it was also demanding having to lug my camera gear between apartment blocks and community schools in what was often dingy and dodgy streets. The family were always afraid for me because they had been robbed and mugged so many times. In the end they became my protector always on the look out for me. I began to feel very much part of the family and when Zahra broke down and attempted suicide I was devastated to leave her not knowing whether she would survive.
I had no idea what the final outcome would be for my favoured family, but eventually, they arrived in Melbourne under the UN program in 2014. I continued to film with the family here in OZ, and to date, they are thriving in the Melbourne community. In particular, Zahra, the main protagonist, has turned her life around. She is doing incredibly well in fulfilling her quest for an education and her dream of attending university has been realised. For her, Australia and the opportunities it provides is her dream come true!
There are a lot of myths about the journey of refugees and why they come to Australia. Many questions in the minds of Australians are unanswered. "Why do they not stay living in the first country to which they flee? Why don’t they just wait in the camps for re-settlement? Why do they need to get on boats and risk their lives? Don’t they care about endangering their children’s lives? etc. This film challenges these views and helps answer these questions, while providing a personal insight into the lives of a family that mainly consists of females. It is not often we are given such personal insight into the lives of Muslim woman and girls. This is a chance to hear their voice and understand the many perils they faced along the way. It also highlights their deep love and commitment for one another; and further to their arrival in Melbourne, the positive changes which have resulted from their resettlement here. Although the family were previously illiterate, Zahra and her family continue to thrive - in particular, the three girls with their attendance and success at school and university.
Public demand for documentaries concerning refugees is currently at an all time high. Witness the huge success of Go Back To Where You Came From, Freedom Stories and Chasing Asylum. Journey Beyond Fear differs in it’s intimate exploration of the personal experience of one refugee family who did not jump the so called queue and highlights the harsh reality of their experience of waiting for re-settlement in Malaysia (a major regional 'transit' country). Importantly, it also documents the experience of a mother and her daughters who are part of a relatively progressive Muslim family.
Initially an actor and acting teacher, Robyn has studied at Lee Strasberg & UCLA, LosAngeles/National Film & Television School-London /AFTRS-Melbourne.
For many years she has worked closely with stories of refugees and human rights.
In 2001 she was a Film Victoria producer’s attachment/researcher on Tales From A Suitcase: The Afghan Experience, for SBS and researcher for the proposed documentary, Living in Limbo, following the plight of children in detention.
She has independently completed her own films:
Crimes of the Heart, a short raising awareness against child sexual abuse screened at international film festivals and received 805,000 hits on youtube.
A Nun’s New Habit - a personal story of a Nun advocating for refugees in detention. This broadcast in the USA and won several awards at festivals internationally.
Moo-ving Cows & Fillipino Brides - co-produced with Multi-Cultural Arts Victoria, community video project (Destination Shepparton),
Poetry of Omagh, co-produced with Multi-Cultural Arts Victoria, celebrating the Afghan/Hazara community - premiered at the Human Rights Arts Film Festival 2015 and other international film festivals.
Journey Beyond Fear, filmed over 7 years is her first feature documentary.
In 2015 Robyn received an award from the Australian Hazara Women’s Friendship Network - “In appreciation for ongoing support of our community”.