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Feature film explores clash of cultures in Sy -

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Feature film explores clash of cultures in Sydney's west

Broadcast: 02/03/2009

Reporter: Michael Turtle

Australian feature film The Combination is a gritty look inside gang violence in western Sydney and
the tensions of a multicultural society. However ongoing controversy surrounding the film,
including a number of violent incidents at cinemas, has led to the film being pulled from some
screens in NSW after just three days.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: It should been a time of celebration for the first Australian film
release for the year - a movie called 'The Combination' with rave reviews and sell out screenings.
But things have gone awry for the film about gangs and ethnic conflict. Greater Union has
suspending screenings at four Sydney locations after two violent incidents at the weekend. The
ABC's youth affairs reporter Michael Turtle reports on the cast of unknowns behind the film.

GEORGE BASHA, WRITER/ACTOR: I really learnt to hate Anglo-Australians, you know, as a young lad
going through school, I hated anything that I seen that was blonde, because I just kept going back
to the days I used to get bullied and picked on.

MICHAEL TURTLE, REPORTER: Young father and first time filmmaker George Basha is no stranger to the
streets of Sydney's western suburbs.

He's drawn on his own youthful experiences of ethnic tension and gang violence for his first
feature film, 'The Combination'.

GEORGE BASHA: In the film I never wanted to glorify guns and drugs. But that's how it is, you know.
People handle guns. You know, we've had drive-bys here in the last two months.

MICHAEL TURTLE: The film focuses on the story of two Lebanese-Australian brothers and the different
paths they take to establish their own identity.

GEORGE BASHA: It was hard for me because I never knew what I was. I never knew if I was actually
Lebanese or Australian. Because I wasn't getting accepted into Australian society when I was a
young fellow. You know, so I was torn between two cultures.

MICHAEL TURTLE: It's a clash of cultures that shot to national prominence three years ago in what
was dubbed the Cronulla riots. While such scenes shocked the broader community, the simmering
mistrust and mob mentality behind the violence was nothing new to the film's young cast.

RAHEL ABDUL RAHMAN: If they say, you know, they're against us, the Australians are against us,
stuff like that, you start to believe it and you start to get into that mentality that the
Australians are against you, and you're going to fight for your right.

MICHAEL TURTLE: Like the rest of the movie's cost, Rahel Abdul Rahman knows first-hand about the
world he's depicting. The actors were chosen from Sydney's west, and most of the movie was shot in
the suburb of Guilford, near their homes.

RAHEL ABDUL RAHMAN: Fights are a regular thing. When you're young, you're in western Sydney, you
see fights all the time, you see knives get pulled out, a lot of things like that.

RASHAD DEHAN: When you're home, you know you're just like a normal bloke of your culture. And then
when you're outside you have to be like someone different, you know.

MICHAEL TURTLE: Vaughn White grew up in Bankstown in Sydney's west and has seen the ethnic divide
from the other side.

VAUGHN WHITE: I went to one of the biggest multicultural schools in Australia so I could actually
understand an actual side of where I could see it, where I witnessed it going on and - yeah, you
know, it does go on.

MICHAEL TURTLE: He auditioned for the role in 'The Combination' while serving a community service
sentence and the experience has helped him get a better understanding of where some of the
intolerance comes from.

VAUGHN WHITE: I think it's definitely influences from, you know, the parents, friends, just fears
of people that are around, you know, and the struggle. Everyone is struggling.

MICHAEL TURTLE: For another member of the cast, 19-year-old Ali Haider, the line between art and
reality is more blurred.

GEORGE BASHA: His presence on screen - this guy, is unbelievable. I mean, guys that, people that
watch the film, when they walk out of the film, they usually just remember him. He's that scary,
you know, and he's that real.

MICHAEL TURTLE: Haider has been sentenced to seven months in jail for an assault during a violent
street brawl in Sydney in November.

GEORGE BASHA: So hopefully he gets out, gets his life back together and heads down that right path
again and does what he needs to do.

MICHAEL TURTLE: 'The Combination' opened in cinemas around the country last week to glowing reviews
and healthy box office takings.

(Archival footage 'At The Movies' 25 February 2009)

DAVID STRATTON: I thought this was magnificent, I really did.

MARGARET POMERANZ: What are you giving this?

DAVID STRATTON: Look, I think this is an excellent film and I'm giving it 4.5.

MARGARET POMERANZ: I'm giving it four.

MICHAEL TURTLE: But after reports of violent incidents at two separate screenings, the Greater
Union cinema chain pulled the film from four Sydney locations.

DAVID FIELD, DIRECTOR: Well, we were devastated obviously, I mean, there's been a cry for a decent
Australian film in the last two or three years and that we can't make on - and we believe we've
made one, and people are going to it.

ALANNAH ZITSERMANN, DISTRIBUTOR, AUST. FILM SYNDICATE: We did try to talk about different measures
we could take, increased security, but essentially they felt the staff and the patrons' safety was
being compromised, and this was, that they needed to suspend the film and think about what to do
next.

MICHAEL TURTLE: Ironically, most of the cinemas are in Sydney's western suburbs, home to the
community which inspired the film's story.

RAHEL ABDUL RAHMAN: We're trying to influence young men, like Australian men - Anglo, Middle
Eastern young men - trying to stop them, trying to show them how it ends up, really, the gang life,
how it ends up.

MICHAEL TURTLE: As for George Basha, he hopes to pass on the message to the next generation growing
up in Sydney's west.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And a brief update. As we went to air Greater Union announced that it will screen
'The Combination' again from Wednesday, with increased security. Michael Turtle with that report.