Cecilia Rumore’s first documentary “Abdullah” is perhaps the perfect collision of passions.
A social worker by day and an avid world traveler, Rumore has always been interested in the social justice issues affecting those from developing countries.
In addition, Rumore has always been passionate about film and photography, thus, last year she finally decided to act on this long held avocation by pursuing her diploma in Screen and Media Studies at the Sydney Film School.
Rumore met the subject of her short film “Abdullah,” which screens July 11th at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, while working as a case manager for asylum seekers who were on community detention.
“I was inspired to make a film about Abdullah after hearing so many stories about the incredible journey asylum seekers had made to get to Australia. I was privileged enough to get to know these people on a personal level and hear their stories. I saw how the media portrayed this group of people and how politicians used them to gain power. I felt there were so many strong opinions being put forth about asylum seekers, yet the general public wasn’t hearing from these people directly. I was inspired to make this film to give people rare access to a personal story, so they can be viewed as human beings on an individual basis, rather than seen as a political issue.”
The film is shot in a style similar to that of an Implicit Association Test. Viewers hear the voice of Abdullah, a 25-year-old man from Afghanistan, relaying the story of how he came to Australia, but on-screen appear the faces of men from all different backgrounds, staring silently into the camera.
Who do you think Abdullah is? What do you think he looks like? Are your assumptions correct?
“I wanted the audience to get lost in the faces of people from different backgrounds so they could realise this could be anyone’s story,” Rumore says.
It is a choice that is both artistic and might even make some a little uncomfortable as it forces one to confront their own biases and ideas of who they expect someone to be.
Another quality that makes Rumore’s documentary so unique is that it is shot entirely in black and white. The thought process behind this Rumore explains is that “It allows the audience to notice details that wouldn’t be highlighted if it were filmed in colour. With black and white, you really get to focus on the subject and see them differently.” In some respects, and perhaps unintentionally so, this choice is also an equalizer.
The style unifies a group of people who are perceived to be so different from one another, but who in reality, share similar aspirations and wants to live equally productive and peaceful lives.
When asked about how she hopes audiences react to “Abdullah,” Rumore says, “I hope the film touches people and challenges their perspectives towards asylum seekers. I hope the film forces us to look closer and examine our own preconceived ideas and perceptions of others.”
As a film that could be classified as a social impact documentary I was curious to know how Rumore as a social worker sees film’s ability to effect positive change and if she perceives there to be any limitations to the medium. “Film is an incredible tool that is capable of reaching all people,” she tells me.
“It inspires and educates people. Film can prompt people to get involved in social issues and make a positive change. I don’t perceive film to have any real limitations.”
“Abdullah” screens July 11th at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival during Short Documentaries – Session 3. Tickets are currently available through Moshtix.