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Kauthar Abdulalim directed 'The Ninth Tower' premieres at the Melbourne International Film Festival 2021

The short film focuses on Victoria’s hard lockdown of nine public housing towers


In July 2020, the Victorian government locked down nine public housing towers in Melbourne, with more than 3,000 residents surrounded by the police and confined to their flats for days to restrict the spread of COVID-19.


The government not only failed to provide enough time to stock up or prepare, but it also refused to apologise despite learning the lockdown breached human rights. The majority of those impacted came from migrant and refugee backgrounds. 


Kauthar Abdulalim, a Melbourne based director from Kenya with Indian and Pakistani heritage, uncovers the repercussions of the lockdown in her latest film, The Ninth Tower, premieres at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). It focuses on teenager Hassan, a carer for his ill mother, who is pushed to the brink when the state government suddenly imposes the lockdown.


Dilpreet speaks with Kauthar who has also written the film.



Dilpreet: The Ninth Tower is featuring at MIFF 2021, Kauthar - congratulations! How did the thought of making a film on the hard lockdown of the towers come to you? Tell us a bit about the process.


Kauthar: When the incident was unfolding, I recall certain visuals from within the towers I could not unsee. It was unsettling knowing that your community was being subjugated to a form of treatment that would not be okay with any other community in Australia. And that’s when I felt that I needed to highlight and capture the community’s experience, showcasing the blatant discrimination & mistreatment by the Victorian government.


Dilpreet: How is this film important for Black and Brown people in Australia, given the majority impacted were people of colour?


Kauthar: The film doesn’t represent all Black and Brown people in Australia, nor does it capture all of the different experiences of the tenants during the hard lockdowns. However, the film attempts to showcase what systemic racism and injustice in the everyday lives of ethnic minorities in Australia look like, and that, I hope, is of some significance to minority communities of Australia.

 

Dilpreet: Did your own identity as an East-African and South Asian woman play a role in making the film?


Kauthar: To an extent, my identity played a role in making the film; it provided me with the unique gaze required to approach this incident with mercy, compassion, and good intent for those negatively impacted. My identity sets a foundation for myself as a creative and part of the community; it ensures that I always keep the community’s best interest at heart, especially when we’re constantly stigmatised and abused.


Dilpreet: We are still in lockdown, Kauthar; do you see this film being a resource for Australians in the future?


Kauthar: I think it’s important to have captured a part of history, which I hope and pray remains just that. I hope that we find no relevance when we rewatch this film in the future because I hope that systemic injustice and oppression become a thing of the past. I hope that when we watch the movie in future, we only look back at it to see how far we’ve come as a society.


Dilpreet: What is that one feeling you want to leave the viewers with?


Kauthar: I want the audiences to question their own privilege and ask why this specific community was treated a certain way? What makes them different to you, and what would you do if you were in their position? For the audiences who relate to the film, I hope that they finally feel seen and heard. I hope the film plays a small part in their healing journey.


Stream The Ninth Tower on MIFF Play now. Rent it for free here


About the author

Dilpreet is the founder of South Asian Today. More about her can be found here.

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