Refugee footy experience in "Falling for Sahara"

Tuesday, July 26 2011 @ 10:29 am ACST

Contributed by: Troy Thompson

Essendon player Andrew Welsh will make his big screen debut at this year’s Melbourne International Film Festival, featuring in the arthouse film Falling for Sahara premiering this Friday.   Directed by Khoa Do, Falling for Sahara follows the lives of three young African refugees living in Melbourne’s inner-west, who share a passion for Australian Rules football.

An initiative of the Bill Hutchison Foundation and supported by the Essendon Football Club, Falling for Sahara aims to highlight the migration challenges faced by youth from multicultural backgrounds.  The romantic drama features a cast of African-Australian actors and newly arrived refugees from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia and reflects the role sport can play in promoting social cohesion in the community.

Welsh, who stars as a local football coach, said he was grateful for the opportunity to be involved in the project and to work alongside respected director Do.  “I really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved in the film and to try something different outside of my normal football routine,” Welsh said.

“I expect my acting ability may come under question by a few of the guys from around the club but if it means that people will watch the film and take in an important message about social cohesion then that is the main thing.  Throughout my career at Essendon, I have enjoyed the opportunity to engage with our multicultural community through the club’s community initiatives and I’m really glad to have had this opportunity to work on a film that promotes awareness about the important role football plays in uniting Australians of all backgrounds.”

Director Khoa Do is a seasoned advocate for newly arrived refugees, having been awarded the Young Australian of the Year in 2005 for his leadership, compassion, and will to inspire and inform Australians on issues that affect the wider community.  "Working on Falling for Sahara gave me the opportunity to work with the wonderful African-Australian refugee community living in Melbourne - to help tell their story,” Do said.

“In today’s society, it is more important than ever to tell the story of newly arrived Australians and I would like to praise the Essendon Football Club and the Bill Hutchison Foundation for taking this extraordinary initiative. They have both been incredibly supportive of the film from day one and as a director you can't ask for more than that.  Making this film also gave me the chance to work with the gifted Andrew Welsh, who's used to slicing apart the opposition’s midfield but has now become a professional in slicing up the silver screen. See the film and you'll see that Andrew might just go straight from Windy Hill to the Hollywood Hills once his playing days are over." 

Falling for Sahara will make its world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival on Friday 29th July at 6.30pm. Click here to purchase tickets online.

Essendon Football Club and the Bill Hutchison Foundation would like to thank the Scanlon Foundation, Melbourne International Film Festival Premiere Fund and Sidney Myer Fund for their support of the project.

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