Asylum seeker love

Saved: 90 minutes. Rated: M. Director: Tony Ayres. Starring: Claudia Karvan, Andy Rodoreda, Osamah Sami

Saved, Tony Ayres, SBS, Claudia KarvanShort filmmaker Dave Hoskin's article in the Autumn edition of Overland, 'Micro-budget Aussie flick makes no money', about the myth of the Australian film industry crisis, culminates in a bold proposal. He wants to reform film distribution models by helping the local industry forgo the commercial pressures of the box office.

'Forget the multiplexes and premiere the films the taxpayer has already paid for on the ABC or SBS', he writes. 'Our cash-strapped national broadcasters can pool their resources with the film industry and broadcast more local content. Our filmmakers are given a greatly enhanced ability to put bums on seats.'

In fact this is already beginning to happen. Saved, which premieres on SBS this Sunday, is a new Australian feature film directed by Tony Ayres (Home Song Stories). It's a co-production of SBS, Screen Australia and Film Victoria, and is a powerful example of what a genuine film/TV alliance can achieve.

Julia (Karvan) and her husband Peter (Rodoreda) share a damaged marriage. They have lost their five-week-old daughter to SIDS. While Peter buries his grief beneath a barrage of work, Julia withdraws into herself.

She finds an object for her unfulfilled mother-instinct when she visits a detention centre. She is moved by the vulnerability of young Iranian asylum seeker Amir (Sami), and becomes his advocate. This gesture grows into an all-consuming crusade that frustrates and bewilders Peter and his overbearing, overachieving family.

After Amir is released, Amir moves in with Peter and Julia. But her mothering instinct has morphed into a different kind of attraction. The mystery of Amir's background (he claims to have been tortured for his opposition to 'the regime' in Iran) adds intrigue and political subtext. But the heart of the story is Julia and Peter's marriage, and whether it is strong enough to survive the sustained grief and emotional turmoil.

In truth, it's hard to imagine watching Saved in a cinema. The aesthetic is 'small'. The suburban location and understated cinematography make it seem at home in the living room. The domestic drama theme, and the cast also seem at home there — Karvan, a sometime film actor, found her niche in TV series Love My Way and The Secret Life of Us.

But Saved is free from any hokey, 'movie-made-for-TV' stigma. Ayres and scriptwriter Belinda Chayko have devised well-rounded characters who drive a story that develops engagingly and believably.

In writing the film, they interviewed numerous advocates for the rights of asylum seekers. Most were women who advocated on behalf of young men. These relationships were emotionally complex. Their script for Saved draws upon this research to lend authenticity to the sexual attraction that creeps into Julia's relationship with Amir.

The performances are, universally, fine. Layered, so that no character is entirely sympathetic or villainous. Both Julia and Peter carry blame for exacerbating the distance that rives their marriage, yet the deep warmth that Karvan and Rodoreda bring makes it clear that this is a marriage worth saving. And newcomer Sami is both youthful and wordly wise as the troubled protagonist Amir.

'If the endgame really is all about getting the highest number of eyeballs to watch Australian stories ... We need to follow the audience wherever they go, and tell them the best stories we possibly can', writes Hoskin. Saved is an assured and involving new Australian story. It's coming soon to a television screen near you.

Saved screens on SBS this Sunday night, 12 April 2009, at 8.30 p.m.

Tim KroenertTim Kroenert is Assistant Editor of Eureka Street. His articles and reviews have been published by The Age, Inside Film, the Brisbane Courier Mail and The Big Issue.

Topic tags: Saved, Tony Ayres, Claudia Karvan, Andy Rodoreda, Osamah Sami, home song stories, asylum seekers



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Existing comments

if you can get sbs where you are, this might be worthwile watching.

donnado | 12 April 2009

An absorbing, finely nuanced film with an engrossing script and some excellent performances. SBS is to be congratulated.
Dan | 13 April 2009

If the endgame really is all about getting the highest number of eyeballs to watch Australian stories ....... you don't get it. its about getting the max no of Australians to watch films made by Australians. They don't have to be Australian stories moderated by psuedo intellectuals suffering mega cultural cringe. They have to be univesally entertaining stories aimed squarley at the pop corn market. Movies are entertainment not didacticism. the reason this film is in the fringe world of SBS is that no one wants to watch it. .
john mcglynn | 30 August 2012


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