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Production   /  Kate Boylan-Ascione

Let Them Hug

Young Brisbane locals and a Somali family set alight a turbulent campaign to free refugees indefinitely detained.


Impact areas





  • DIRECTOR Jemma Potgieter

  • PRODUCER Kate Boylan-Ascione, Jemma Potgieter, Ruby Schmidt, Duy Huynh



When a group of young Brisbane locals discover that 120 refugees are indefinitely detained in a nearby hotel, they start to protest together. Led by vivacious spokesperson Dane and her friends, it grows rapidly to a national movement. Dane meets Sabah, whose husband Saif is detained in the hotel and has been forcibly separated from her and their son. Sabah and Saif become central figures in gathering momentum for the movement. But Sabah is desperately ill, and Dane steps in to help her care for her toddler. Meanwhile the refugees and activists persevere in their protests, and despite interventions from authorities at every level, they start to see some change. This story is not about politics, but people- showing that in coming together we may find hope for a better tomorrow.

Support this project

1.60% funded
  • $100,000.00

  • $1,595.00

  • 16

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Lai heng Foong $50.00
Doug McNeil $50.00
Julen Goni $10.00
Mary Ascione $50.00
Kate Nolan $30.00
Mandy Chinn $50.00
Anonymous $50.00
Declan Stevens-Robert $50.00
Beau Gilbert $30.00
Caz Dagleish $25.00
Rose Boylan-Ascione $30.00
Ebon Witham $50.00
Anonymous $20.00
Beth Edwards $100.00
Claire O'Connor $500.00
Patricia Boylan $500.00

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

According to international human rights law, people fleeing from harm may enter a country by any mode of transport, with or without documents, in search of safety. Their cases should be processed in a timely manner and those found to be genuine refugees should be settled in a safe country.

In 2013, Australia swiftly passed a law contradicting these human rights agreements. Operation Sovereign Borders meant that all asylum-seekers arriving by boat would never be settled in Australia. The thousands that turned up right after the policy was made were detained in the deplorable conditions of offshore “processing centers”. Unable to return to their own countries, and with limited other options, hundreds of people are still in detention 9 years later. Some people are still offshore, while those in Australia are detained in hotels and detention centers, in community detention or on temporary bridging visas. They all deserve a permanent and safe place to settle.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The refugee crisis is growing, but it is not an insurmountable issue. We need to know the facts, understand the human rights that we are all entitled to, and act to protect them.

Let Them Hug's goals are to:
1. Campaign to end Australia’s indefinite detention of asylum-seekers
2. Empower young people to be effective change makers
3. Directly support refugees affected by Australia’s immigration detention system.


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; and increase understanding of the refugee crisis in Australia and empathy for refugees as individuals. Importantly, we want to see more young people actually taking action and standing up for what they believe in.
We also aim for there to be greater financial support for refugees in Australia and for the family at the centre of the film.


How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

This isn’t a film focusing on politics, it is about people. We focus on the relationship between two characters - Dane and Sabah - and their tumultuous but ultimately heartwarming journey. We are contributing to changing a narrative in Australia, by humanizing refugees and debunking the misconceptions we have been taught. We also get to know Dane and her friends, and are inspired by their tenacity.

We will work with our impact partners to take the campaign beyond the screen. By educating and engaging with our audience, our social media posts as well as our community screenings and discussions will focus on the campaign to end indefinite detention as well as aim to empower young change makers to actively work for the world they want to see. We will also use these platforms to run and back fundraisers that support refugees affected by detention.


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

Let Them Hug is a collaborative film. Our creative team will consist of filmmakers, refugees, activists, legal professionals and influencers to create an impactful documentary on a contemporary Australian issue. We are liaising with organisations for and by refugees to partner with our team for the film release and impact campaign. Human rights barrister Claire O’Connor SC has provided her support at this early stage and the filmmakers have had incredible access in the Refugee Solidarity Meanjin movement. 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 Producers Duy Huynh and Ruby Schmidt, and editor Ahmad Halimi to produce a high quality, nuanced documentary, while maintaining an authentic connection to our audience through first time filmmakers Jemma Potgieter 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 and social media pages to access additional materials including information packs, education tools and additional resources on the refugee crisis.
- Become active changemakers in their community through volunteering, activism or even by hosting their own Let Them Hug screenings and discussions.
- Donate to the Let Them Hug fundraisers, raising money to support refugees in the community.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

To track how our film has affected attitudes that are in line with our first two goals, we will look at the following indicators:
- The number of screenings hosted and tickets sold as well as home entertainment sales including SVOD
- Feedback surveys from the hosts to provide a qualitative insight into its impact on viewers’ attitudes
- Website and social media engagement

To indicate the extent to which we have directly supported refugees we will look at:
- The amount of money raised in our fundraisers.
- Feedback from refugees in Brisbane and the family.