14 Jul 2022
JN Joniad, Nur Azizah, Ashfaq Hussain
Whilst Freedom Street is a documentary which focuses on the plight of refugees caught between Australia and Indonesia, UK audiences will find plenty of relevance in director Alfred Pek’s examination of brutal government policy, impossible bureaucratic baton-passing and media cruelty towards refugees and asylum seekers in our own country.
Pek, an Australian-Indonesian migrant, hosts the documentary, which examines the complex historical relationship between Australia and Indonesia, as well as the domestic factors in each country that have forged their respective stances on immigration. Amongst this, the stories of three refugees – JN Joniad, Nur Azizah and Ashfaq Hussain – are told, with the devastating and outrageous treatment they are subject to from the two governments laid bare.
Freedom Street is an outstanding documentary which brilliantly explains and deconstructs the complex immigration relationship between Australia and Indonesia, and the impact this has on the vulnerable people who are beholden to it. It takes a difficult and controversial subject, and brilliantly presents the bluster and bureaucracy of Australian politics that have created hostile conditions for refugees, only to cut through this devastatingly with the enthralling and dignified accounts directly from the mouths of the people caught up in the cruelty.
The long interviews with the refugees whose stories the documentary follow are fascinating, with Pek making sure to present these in a visual and dynamic way without sensationalising. At times these can get a little long, and the intensely detailed nature drags in moments. But largely viewers will be encapsulated by the danger and risk taken by these fundamentally innocent people who are just desperate for their freedom. The documentary benefits from a longer filming schedule – taking place over a number of years – as we see how the subjects grow and face increasing challenges from the Australian state – particularly Nuz Azizah, whose life story could be a movie in itself.
The rest of the film utilises stock and news footage to present the historical context of the Asia/Oceania region’s stance on refugees and asylum seekers, with some impressive and at times shocking examples which clearly demonstrate the battle at hand to change hearts and minds. The footage will likely be familiar to Australian viewers, but not so much to those of us in the UK – though certainly similar words have shamefully been ushered by our own politicians when referring to refugees – particularly those like those in the film who arrive by boats. Surrounding this are experts and activists who present a variety of views relating to Australia’s policies on immigration, who are well-researched and credible to the documentary’s benefit.
Whilst a little overlong at times with a tendency to ramble, Freedom Street impressively presents an impassioned critique of Australian immigration policies, and presents true stories from refugees victimised by them that are impossible to ignore.
Watch the official trailer here.
CORRECTION: In the video review, it is stated that the filmmaker sought asylum in Australia. This is incorrect, he was actually an immigrant to Australia.