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Here Out West (2021) Film Review – an emotional and powerful portrait of the multicultural society

Written by Benson Wu

Written by 8 talented writers Nisrine Amine, Bina Bhattachary, Matias Bolla, Claire Cao, Arka Das, Dee Dogan, Vonne Patiag and Tien Tran, plus 5 directors Fadia Abboud, Lucy Gaffy, Julie Kalceff, Ana Kokkinos and Leah Purcell, Here Out West is an emotional and powerful portrait of the multicultural society in Sydney. The film is a combination of short stories, from 'We, The Spides', 'Brotherhood', 'The Eternal Dance', 'Everything Changes', 'Closing Night', 'The Musician', 'The Long Shift', and 'Brother Tom', but each of them circles around and comes together in one community. The editor and scriptwriters know when to start, shift and end it with plenty of spaces for viewers to think and digest.

We were led to the girl Amirah who only wants to speak in her dialogues to Nancy, Amirah's neighbour (babysitter), which leads to a significant point to the film: it doesn't matter what language you speak because we are here together as one. Without knowing too much of the film before walking into the cinema, we gave some impression that Amirah might be the central story, but it quickly shifts to the people around her and spreads out one by one like relay. As if she knocked on Nancy's door is an act of opening the book of this collage storytelling.

The beautiful car tracking shot and the quirky chasing in 'Brotherhood' makes you wonder why they were chasing and still said hi to their neighbour during the chase, and the powerful 'Brother Tom' chapter which many people has the similar experience on shaming yourself, your culture or families and friends so that you can fit into the society. This idea has been used repeatedly in other films, series and even music videos, but it deserves to be brought up again as a continuous warning that we don't need to change who we are but also we can all learn to be a little less stereotype (not trying to be a PC police here at the same time).

"Most migrant children reject their parent's rich cultural and linguistic heritage because they want to assimilate, speak english and be 'aussie'. This story 'The Eternal Dance' acknowledges something about that journey from rejection to reclaiming one's essence." said director Ana Kokkinos.

"From going to a public school and then uni to a white-collar corporate job, you get whiplash from how quickly you turn into a different person. Those things Tuan said to his boss at the end, standing up for himself, is probably what I should've done in my actual life. It's a little bit pathetic but I felt a sense of relief when I saw it on the screen." said writer Tien Tran.

Indeed, Here Out West is one of the best college stories in a film I have ever seen this year; the story flows so nicely as we observe everything in a circle that you manage to connect all the dots in the end. The script has a sense of realness that flourish more as it goes on, without the typical stereotype on cultural representations or formula on storytelling.

We have seen a lot of multicultural tv dramas on ABC and SBS, but none of them like this that managed to keep the authenticity of each character's own culture and identity. But at the same time, you can tell it's the Australian story, especially the immigrant aspect like myself. I have never seen a film that feel so close to my personal experience or knowing that many of my friends and family around me has been through literally the same as in this film.

It's the year of 2021, it's time we do not let real estate and postcode label who we are and what we are. It's the year of 2021; Sydney is not just the north shore but as the whole NSW and country that's equally valuable and beautiful. "Being a part of this project and having the opportunity to help tell this story has meant a great deal to me. I’m not only proud to have worked on such a special film, I’m proud of where I’m from." said director Julie Kalceff.

Here Out West, it's a refreshing, clever and emotional work of art that deserves huge attention. And I very much look forward to seeing the same team continue to work together again for another project just like this.


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