26 September 2023

Run Girl

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: Renny Wijeyamohan, Open Door Films.

Run Girl picks up the story of Australian Olympic athlete and refugee Bendere Oboya post-Tokyo.

It follows her search for identity as she switches events from the 400m track to the 800m track in pursuit of becoming the world’s best. After starting athletics as an escape, the Ethiopian-born 21-year-old is determined to show that no matter your beginnings, anything is possible.

“When I compete on the Olympic stage and the world sees me, I want them to see me as the girl who came out of nowhere and made a name for herself, just by being herself…”

At first glance, Bendere does not have the build of a sprinter. At just 165cm and 55kg, the diminutive runner, an Ethiopian refugee who grew up in Western Sydney, shouldn’t be able to run so fast. Yet, she flies. She is the holder of two Youth Commonwealth Games gold medals in the 400m and Australia’s second fastest time ever recorded by an under-20 female athlete.

After a disappointing Olympic Games in Japan, this documentary takes up Bendere’s story as she moves away from her family to Melbourne to begin the gruelling training for the 800m.

This TV biopic will be released as part of the Curious Australia series – a new strand of seven, half-hour documentaries that innovatively explore issues relevant to contemporary Australia.

According to ARIA-nominated director Renny Wijeyamohan, who is a Tamil-Australian writer and ex-lawyer, this is not just a running film.

“It’s a story about identity, wrapped up in the shell of a sports story. Across the world we are seeing an emerging crop of talented migrants. Driven far from where their parents called home, because of conflict related people movement and climate change, these young women and men are redefining what an Australian (and Western) national identity means. Bendere Oboya and Peter Bol in Australia, Athing Mu in America, these young talents have taken their memories of the past and combined them with the stability of their present, to take us forward into a new future.”

  • Run Girl will screen on SBS Viceland and NITV at 8.30pm on 18 August 2022

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