26 September 2023

Watandar: My Countryman

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: Jolyon Hoff, Light Sound Art Film.

The sentiment is straightforward when it relates to a global quest for bonding because we are a little bit more connected than we think. In this context, what we need to do is engage with difficult conversations about issues of identity, race and immigration among Australian communities.

Watandar: My Countryman, a new documentary feature film, will facilitate such discussions. The film is the story of Muzafar Ali, an internationally renowned Afghani photographer who arrived in Australia as a refugee. When Muzafar discovers that Afghans have been an integral part of Australia for over 160 years, he begins to photograph their descendants in a search to define his own new Afghan-Australian identity.

Then the Taliban take over Afghanistan and his old country comes calling.

Muzafar’s search for Watandar (Afghan for countryman) is a universal search for belonging.

Muzafar is a Hazara artist from Afghanistan who grew up in Pakistan as a refugee. When he was 17, he returned to Afghanistan to work with the United Nations disarmament program in 2004. This work took him across the country, providing an insight into rarely documented areas. He was the first Afghan photographer exhibited by the United Nations in Afghanistan.

Writer/director/producer Jolyon Hoff (The Staging Post) says: “The Afghan cameleer descendants featured in Watandar: My Countryman are Indigenous, colonial and immigrants at the same time. When Muzafar decided to photograph them, we started filming. His experience as a former Afghan-Hazara refugee, along with his wisdom and charisma, presented a rare opportunity to re-examine Australia’s colonial history.”

“The film touches on some of Australia and the world’s biggest geopolitical stories including the relationship between colonial, ancient and immigrant Australians, our treatment of refugees, the division between the world’s dominant religions, the success and or lack of success of the international forces in Afghanistan, and the power of individuals to create change.”

  • Watandar: My Countryman is in cinemas on 30 May

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