Documentary explores Australia’s Afghani past

Muzafar Ali and Nagina Zahra. Photo: Katrina Penning.

AWARD-WINNING Australian filmmaker Jolyon Hoff and Afghani-Australian refugee and photographer Muzafar Ali are coming to Coffs Harbour to connect with audiences at the 2023 Screenwave International Film Festival (April 20 – May 5) for their new film about Australia’s hidden past – Watandar, My Countryman.

Watandar, My Countryman, which features an introduction by Australian screen icon and SWIFF Festival Patron Jack Thompson, follows Muzafar Ali as he tracks the long-forgotten trails of Afghani cameleers through Australia’s outback over 160 years ago.

The cameleers, who also hailed from India and Persia, would carry supplies on routes between desert outposts, and were crucial for survival of colonies in the harsh Australian deserts.

In a bid to understand his own Afghani-Australian identity, Muzafar began to meet with the people in communities connected to these cameleer routes across Australia, and photograph their descendants, a mix of Aboriginal, Afghan, and British backgrounds, learning more about a largely untold piece of Australia’s history.

Muzafar Ali himself fled the Taliban and war in Afghanistan, seeking asylum in Australia, and has since become an inspirational advocate for Australia’s refugee community, as well as a photographer.

It was during his time in offshore detention that he met Australian documentarian Jolyon Hoff, who directed The Staging Post (SWIFF’18) as well as Watandar, My Countryman (SWIFF’23). Jolyon Hoff is also a prolific surf filmmaker and presented the SWIFF Live: Surfing Soundwaves live soundtrack event at last year’s festival.

Watandar, My Countryman screens on Saturday April 29 at Bellingen Memorial Hall and Sunday April 30 at the Jetty Theatre in Coffs Harbour.

Muzafar Ali and Jolyon Hoff are attending both screenings for post-film Q&A sessions as guests of the festival.

For tickets to all SWIFF’23 events visit

Muzafar Ali. Photo: Katrina Penning.

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