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Award-winning student film explores domestic violence

Creative media student Bushra Khanum has been honoured at the IndieFEST Film Awards for her student film inspired by life experiences as a survivor of domestic violence.

Chained to Traditions tells the story of a young Sydney-born Pakistani woman, Zara, who is trapped in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage.

Bushra, who has just graduated with a Bachelor of Film degree at SAE’s Sydney campus, said the film reflected many of her own struggles.

“I was in an abusive marriage for three years. I was not allowed to see my parents or anyone else, let alone talk to them,” she said.

“I would even get beaten if I cooked noodles that were too spicy, so I can relate to the character of Zara and what she goes through.”

Chained to Traditions takes place over the course of one evening and depicts the physical and emotional suffering of Zara, the fractious relationship with her family and the abuse she suffers at the hands of her husband.

“She lives in a westernised culture, but is surrounded by family who think and act as though they’re still living in Pakistan,” Bushra said.

“During the film we see Zara’s mother helpless to the situation. She wants to help her daughter, but is unable to challenge her husband. Whereas her sister is a fighter, who stands up for Zara and questions her father’s passive attitude to what’s happening.”

Unlike Zara, Bushra said she was fortunate that her parents supported the separation from her husband, however this not the case for many women who are raised to only ever be wives and mothers.

“I feel if we educate girls to be financially independent before they get married, they will have the confidence to leave that relationship if it goes sour,” Bushra said.

The IndieFEST Film Awards are open to all filmmakers globally, attracting powerhouse veteran filmmakers as well as newcomers to the industry. Bushra received an award of merit for her film. Previous award winners includeLove Thy Nature with Liam Neeson; A Path Appears featuring George Clooney; and Touched with Fire starring Katie Holmes.

Prior to filming, Bushra identified as a writer, but it was SAE film faculty and mentor Renee Brack who first noticed Bushra’s raw directorial potential.

“I told Bushra that this is a great opportunity for her to step up, direct and create something significant and meaningful,” Renee said.

“I encourage students to make impactful content that could change the world and add to our understanding of it; this is something Bushra’s accomplished.”

Looking to the future and building on her award-winning debut in the director’s chair, Bushra is developing her own production company. “All I want to do is to keep making films about serious issues – bringing light to the issues people are too afraid to talk about.”

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