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Production   /  Ruby Schmidt

Let Them Hug

A young Brisbane woman launches a turbulent campaign to free her refugee friends stuck inside indefinite hotel detention


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  • DIRECTOR Jemma P

  • PRODUCER Ruby Schmidt, Kate Boylan-Ascione



Let Them Hug is seen through the eyes of Dane, an energetic, young campaigner from Brisbane and Sabah, a strong, resilient, Somali mother, as they navigate Australia’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to dealing with refugees. When Dane receives a follow request from a refugee in hotel detention, she is suddenly propelled into action and sets alight a frenetic campaign of street activism, combusting the locals of Kangaroo Point into a movement that’s soon stamped on TV screens across Australia and around the world. This work brings her into collision with Sabah, whose husband, Saif, holds the sign we’re all most familiar with: ‘let me hug my son.’ Let Them Hug bursts open our cognitive dissonance as Australians who’ve totally tuned out to the very human experiences of asylum seekers on our soil, and punches its way through history to find the intersection between cultural belief, community experience and where it is that we may find hope for a better tomorrow.

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

Inconsistent government policies place many refugees into decision purgatory. Some have been in detention for over seven years waiting for a determination.

After fleeing life threatening situations, many asylum-seekers develop chronic physical and mental health issues as a result of being locked up. It is legal to seek asylum - those who have been detained are genuine refugees who pose no security risk to society - but they are barred from living in community while a decision is made.

While we have seen a rise in local action for refugees stuck in our detention centres this past year, it has also revealed how little Australians know, or choose to not know, about asylum-seeking in our country.

But, we have witnessed with our own eyes that it only takes one human story to make the scaffolding fall away and see these people for exactly who they are; humans seeking safety.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

Let Them Hug will:

Advocate for better treatment for refugees, focusing on the campaign to end indefinite detention for asylum-seekers in Australia

Empower young people to be effective change makers

Support asylum seekers in Australia to access legal help and medical care

Humanise asylum-seekers to Australian audiences and to set the record straight on Australia’s inconsistent policies

Debunk the myth that refugees are illegal, queue-jumpers or dangerous


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

We are aiming for a national policy change regarding the treatment of refugees. This entails ending the practice of indefinitely detaining refugees and replacing it with a system aligned with international human rights law; as well as providing permanent and safe solutions for those previously detained. In the short term we want to:

Change public awareness around the circumstances in which asylum-seekers are detained

Increased understanding of the refugee crisis in Australia and empathy for refugees as individuals

Encourage audiences to visit our dedicated website and social media pages where they can donate to fundraisers, download education packs, and sign up to our action portal

Facilitate a fundraiser for Sabah, Saif and Saami to put it towards their housing, education and health

Increase the number of young people volunteering to support refugees living in the community


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

This isn’t a film focusing on politics, it is about people. This film is distinguishable from other documentaries on this subject matter because it is a story told from within the Australian community - our focus in this film is the relationship between two characters - Dane and Sabah - and the world around them.

We look at the emotional and physical impact our strict border protection policies have on refugees through Dane’s experiences learning about it herself.

Our goals are tied to the audience we are trying to reach - that is primarily 18-24 year old Australian women who are yet to form a firm position. A lot of young Australians have never had direct exposure to the plight of refugees. Social media has personalised a confronting global issue - we are now able to contact and communicate with asylum seekers and amplify their frustrations and unique circumstances.

Maintaining an online presence with clear calls to action and clear links to pages in all marketing material is key.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

Let Them Hug is a collaborative film. Our creative team will consist of documentary filmmakers, refugees, activists, legal professionals and influencers to create an impactful documentary on a contemporary Australian issue.

Grassroots campaigners Refugee Solidarity Meanjin; Human rights barrister Claire O’Connor SC have provided their support at this early stage and we are liaising with Refugees on Air, Refugees Voices to support and partner with the production for the release and impact campaign. We are continuing to build this network as the project progresses.

Our creative team will consist of experienced and emerging young talent. At this stage of the production we are working with senior documentary filmmakers including Executive Producer Veronica Fury and Writer/Co-Director Britt Arthur to produce a high quality, nuanced documentary, while maintaining an authentic connection to our audience through first time filmmakers Jemma P and Kate Boylan-Ascione.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

After watching the film, audiences will have a greater understanding of, and deeper connection to, refugees in Australia. We hope viewers will:

Support the campaign to free refugees from indefinite detention

Visit the Let Them Hug website to access additional materials including information packs, education tools and additional resources on the global refugee crisis

Join the community of online changemakers so they can maintain interest and be provided with the tools to continue to support change

Become active in their community by signing petitions to end indefinite detention, or even host their own Let Them Hug screenings and discussions

Donate to the Let Them Hug fundraisers, raising money to support refugees in the community and for legal action to end the indefinite detention of refugees

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

To track our main goal for better treatment for refugees, with a view to ending indefinite detention in Australia, we will look at the following indicators:

The number of screenings hosted and tickets sold as well as home entertainment sales including SVOD and DVD

Feedback surveys from the hosts to provide a qualitative insight into its impact on viewers’ attitudes

Website visits and Action Kit downloads plus the number of signatures on our online petition links, and the amount of money raised for taking legal action

Aggregated social media data to see engagement and interaction with influencer posts and the amount of money raised through endorsed fundraiser in the community to see the extent to which viewers have directly supported

The number of sign-ups to our action portal and the engagement we see in the associated social media pages will indicate to us if we have empowered young people to become proactive changemakers