When I grew up watching Australian television, years before Netflix and Stan took over, white representations of life, written by white screenwriters and portrayed by white actors dominated the screen. Remember when Neighbours, a show that has run for decades, introduced its first non-white actor? It was not that long ago! The narrow stories we see on television and film seem deliberately curated to represent whiteness. Representation matters, and television has barely scratched the surface of giving us real stories.
I am interested in the propaganda like portrayal of brown and black people, including Arabs and Muslims in Australian media: we are barely represented as more than a racist caricature or an imminent threat to the Australian way of life.
The story I have brought to Sling Shot is about an Arab Australian girl who is finishing the HSC, trying to get a perfect ATAR and is just realising she is gay- a story that breaks through the idea that being queer and being Muslim is impossible. When a race of people is seen as an “other”, we aren’t afforded real humanity. We cannot exist as more than a one-dimensional person: we can’t be seen as diverse within our communities. The fact is that queer Muslims have always and will always exist. No culture is homogenous. This is why we need these stories now more than ever, to change the Australian imagination of what it means to be different.
The workshops with Tommy Murphy (Holding the Man) were so educational, supportive and helpful to my story telling. I have learned so much about how to bring to life my story and my characters in a way that is convincing and authentic. I can’t wait to see my project come to life as a web-series and make a positive difference for Arab Australians.
Words by Cindy el Sayed
Image: “Slingshot – Emerging screenwriters from Sydney Queer Muslims and She Qu (LGBTQI+ women of colour), with workshop facilitator Tommy Murphy” by Barry Gamba 2019.