BILLAL (1996) [Feature]

Australia (MIFF 1996 , Australian Panorama)
Director: Tom Zubrycki

Easter, 1994 at an outer western Sydney housing estate. A fight breaks out between wo neighbouring families, one Lebanese, the other Anglo-Australian. Next day, 16-year-old Biillal Eter is crossing the road outside his home when a car driven by one of the neighbours. Linc Jeswick runs him down. Tom Zubrycki's (Bran Nue Dae) MIFF 1991, Homelands MIFF 1993) Billal follows the dramatic repercussions of a serious act of racially motivated violence. This traumatic documentary unfolds over 15 months as the teenaged Billal, having suffered extensive brain injuries. fights to recover.

While Billal lies comatose in a hospital, fighting or his life, his parents plead with government authorities to move them from their state housing accommodation, away from the area where the cruel act occurred. Emotionally draining and inmensely powerful, Zubrycki's documentary is a sad indictment of entrenched hostilities within our supposedly multi-cultural communities.

It is weeks before Billal wakes up, months before the Eter family realise the extent of his injuries Meanwhile. Billal's brothers ponder what to do about Line Beswick, their father, Abdul, tries to keep them under control. Tom Zubrycki met the Eters before Billal's accident researching a completely different story. He then spent over year following Billal's halting recovery, and the family's struggle to cope with tragedy that keeps hanging from month to month.

Billal's aggression at home, once he's learned to walk again, makes him difficult to live with. Several operations don't seem to work Meanwhile, Linc Beswick maintains the incident was an accident, as he awaits trial on six charges Billal is a film from the sharp end of the multicultural debate-and Zubrycki misses none of Its complexity. Sympathetic, political, and above all. humane, this is possibly his best film.

Paul Byrnes, Sydney Film Festival

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