Melbourne Classics: The Jammed

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Based on true events, Dee McLachlan’s The Jammed examines Australia’s controversial refugee policy against the backdrop of a gritty, noirish Melbourne.

The film follows a Chinese mother’s frantic quest to find her missing daughter, enlisting the help of Ashley (Veronica Sywak), a politically disengaged insurance salesperson. Together, they discover the underbelly of Melbourne’s sex trafficking industry hidden behind inner-city shop-fronts.

Their quest leads them to three young women: Crystal (Emma Lung), Vanya (Saskia Burmeister) and Rubi (Sun Park). Ensnared in the brutal world of sexual slavery, the women share a sister-like bond, with Ashley eventually putting her middle-class life on hold to help her newfound ‘sisters’ escape from their captors.

Ashley’s disillusionment with Australian immigration policy mirrors the shifting sands in public opinion that was occurring throughout society. In 2002, Australia’s collective conscience was shaken by the Woomera Breakouts. The issue of mandatory detention received much media attention in the coming years as detainees and their supporters criticised the Howard Government policy. By 2007, support for refugees was a majority, with over 55% of Australians opposed to forced deportations.

The Jammed is a rare piece of Australian cinema as it confronts these issues head-on, which may explain why so many distributors snubbed the film. Initially rejected by every government funding body and distributor, McLachlan persisted with her vision despite the limitations of a low budget. Had John Simpson (a producer and distributor) not mortgaged his house to finance its release after a favourable At The Movies review, the film would have gone straight to DVD.

For anybody who is interested in immigration policies, gender issues or simply appreciates a moving cinematic experience, The Jammed is a must-see. For her stark directorial style, McLachlan must be applauded.

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