A 16 year old Hazara Muslim refugee confronts a trio of mean girls at school.
Fitting in as a teenager is challenging at the best of times. Imagine what it's like when you're a 16 year old girl, Hazara, Muslim and a refugee. This parallel experience is what intimately connects our protagonist, Aaseya to our lead actress, Mahdia Bakhtiari in The Last Time I Saw You. Mahdia is a 17 year old Hazara refugee (Hazaras are one of the most persecuted ethnic minorities in the world) who fled to Australia with her family from Kabul, Afghanistan in 2013. Sema Mirzae, Mahdia's little cousin who plays her younger self in the film, was born here in 2007 after her family arrived from Kabul in the early 2000s. After an extensive national search for an authentic cast, we found Mahdia and Sema in local Dandenong, an outer suburb of Melbourne where there is a significant refugee community. After reading the script, Mahdia expressed how closely she identified with the story inspired by real life events, and the unique challenges particular to being a young refugee girl within the context of contemporary Australia. Through a blend of poignancy and humour, The Last Time I Saw You directly addresses of the issues of race and prejudice in an effort to highlight the importance of tolerance, empathy and humanity towards our newest Australians.
'The Last Time I Saw You' was inspired by the true story of a young Afghani Asylum Seeker. I was incredibly moved by the trauma, sadness and ultimately the joy of a girl finding her place in a new and contrasting society.
This is a small slice-of-life story of a larger refugee crisis, and the plight of so many - leaving behind their home, friends and family - in the hope of a better future. Needing to cast this film authentically from the small Hazara population, the producers flew girls in from across the country. After months of searching we were about to give up when a final effort unearthed a remarkable non-actress right under our noses in Victoria.
It's our hope that audiences will be both moved and entertained by our lead character Aaseya's story, and her ultimate triumph over schoolyard bullies. Her small victory speaks to her resilience and determination that she will carry forward in her life.