Billal (1996)

Genres - Culture & Society  |   Sub-Genres - Biography, Race & Ethnicity  |   Run Time - 86 min.  |   Countries - Australia  |  
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This moving Australian documentary from director Tom Zubrycki works on many different levels as it follows an immigrant family's attempts to function following the tragic aftermath of a racially motivated crime against their adolescent son. The Etter family came to Australia from Lebanon several years back. Abdul, the family patriarch had once had a business but lost it after looters destroyed it. He remains unemployed and beaten down by unhappy circumstance. His wife Amal is the opposite. Energetic and hard workings she single-handedly keeps the household tightly run. This isn't easy as she has a trio of teenage boys and a young daughter. Tragedy strikes the Etters one Easter weekend when they have a violent argument with their white neighbors. The altercation becomes so intense that the police must intervene. The next day, second son Billal is struck by a white youth driving a large car. Seriously injured, the 16-year-old boy is taken to the hospital. The rest of this powerful film focuses not on the racial motivations or implications of the crime, but on the ways in which the Etters cope with the horror and struggle to help Billal, whgo suffers several rounds of graphically filmed brain surgery and as a result undergoes disturbing physical and mental changes. Abdul, unable to bear his son's terrible transformation becomes increasingly withdrawn while overcompensates as she tries to keep the family together. In an unusual turn, the documentary's producer Alissar Gazal becomes a real friend to Amal, trying to help her cope. Also included is a pair of interviews with the driver who claims he was stoned during the incident and for his crime receives only a minimal sentence.



survivor, immigrant