Shamed Muslim boxer, Bianca ‘Bam Bam’ Elmir, aims to be the first Australian to win a World Amateur Boxing Championship.
Current Status: In production
Director: Jemma van Loenen
Producer: Jemma van Loenen
Looking for (ie buyer, distributor, sales agent, producer, media interest): Distributor, buyer, media interest
Funders: Self-funding; crowd funding
Interview with Director Jemma van Loenen
Why is Bianca a compelling character?
Bianca is compelling as a character because she defies definition. She takes the stereotypes and turns them on their head. She's emotionally intelligent and insightful, and willingly presents an honest portrayal of herself. She loves the attention, but she uses it to further an agenda that is not just about her, but about speaking for minorities, other people that have felt outside the mainstream, other people that look in from the outside. She doesn't care what people think of her.
What's important is remaining true to who she is, and what she wants. She's dynamic, vivacious, outgoing and she has an incredible knack to get people on board with her journey. I think people engage with her because of her energy and passion, and her compulsion to keep on getting back up again no matter what.
What’s the story behind BAM BAM?
‘Bam Bam’ aims to be the first Australian ever to win a World Amateur Boxing Title at the 2016 championships. A woman, a Muslim and a Lebanese migrant, she pushes the boundaries in every fashion. The road to the 2016 World Championships has been traipsed with obstacles. After suffering a 12 month drug ban in 2012, and consequently missing the London Olympics, ‘Bam Bam’ has had to negotiate a tenuous comeback trail.
Now 33 years old, this is her last chance. Amidst animosity from her sports governing body, Boxing Australia, targeted ASADA testing, and several critical losses along the way, ‘Bam Bam’ has determined with every setback, to get back up and fight for her dream to be a champion. A difficult relationship with her mother, and largely estranged from her father, ‘Bam Bam’ has built her dream alone. She shamelessly calls attention to herself, she is politically outspoken and she suffers no tears from her critics. ‘Bam Bam’ is a comeback story, but it's also a story of confronting yourself and your fears and overcoming.
What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced?
Some of the challenges for me - Believing in myself! In some ways the film has taken off on its own accord and has its own life. I haven't always been ready for that, and that can be scary. I've made a lot of mistakes, and some of the journey is about being OK with that. I don't always know what I'm doing. I had to teach myself how to use a camera and record sound, and edit. Although now I have a camera and sound person - which is brilliant and has freed me up immensely to focus on the content and nuances of the moment. It's hard living in a different state to Bianca, it means I’m not always there to capture things. Some things I have had to miss, and make judgements about what is important.
Self-funding is hard, but the nature of the beast. I think there will always be times when you're tired of the film and the process. I think it's really important to be able to reignite the flame of why you started this project in the first place. Some of that for me is about watching over footage and reminding myself just how much potential there is in this project, and just how amazing and inspiring Bianca is, and her honesty and openness in letting me into her life. And sometimes there's angst between Bianca and I. We are both very head strong and determined, and she can be unpredictable and uncontrollable. I've struggled with that at times. And I know Bianca's struggled with doing the doco as well at times.
But essentially I don't think we could do it, if we didn't respect and like each other, and actually there are so many synchronous things between us in our life view. She is an incredible and inspiring woman with a powerful story. I think it’s so important to get her story out there, and I'm really privileged to be the one to tell it. I realise as a filmmaker, you are in a significant position of power. I want to respect that power and to honour the person that Bianca is, in telling her story.
Who is your audience?
The target group is young women 15-30s age group. It is in many ways a coming of age story, and I think many young women are trying to establish who they are at that life stage. To consider that the potential in what you can achieve or accomplish in your life is as limited as you make it is in some ways very scary and in others completely freeing and inspiring.
I want to inspire people to reach out for their dreams. I think for a lot of women, that's been something that society hasn't always supported. There's a lot of stigma and expectations attached to who women are, and who they should be. I'm keen to break those. But it is also for men – these are universal experiences – self-definition and balancing this with social expectations. Men experience these things too, and boxing and sport per se is a universal connector. I think it speaks to men and women on a universal level.
What other films are you working on?
I have a short fictional film - 'Falling' that we have just completed and are in the process of launching on the festival circuit. It's a metaphorical magic-realism piece, about letting go of the past. I am also working on a futuristic feature script 'Underground' – in the realm of Hunger Games meets V for Vendetta, about street kids living in the subways, and a government crackdown to eradicate them.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback I have received on ‘Bam Bam’ has all been really positive. People find the idea of a female Muslim boxer very topical and intriguing. ‘Bam Bam’ is an extremely engaging character – she is inspiring and vivacious, but also emotionally honest about her struggles, and people connect with that. I did receive some feedback that felt that my initial teaser was quite ‘masculine’ and it didn’t encompass the feminine side of ‘Bam Bam’.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The feedback about the initial teaser being ‘masculine’ surprised me. It caused me to consider more how I include those more feminine subtle elements in the narrative. Not that I don’t have footage that covers that, but I hadn’t chosen specifically to include it in the teaser. It caused me to consider more how I construct the teaser to create a stronger emotional narrative.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on this platform?
To increase our audience exposure and to generate interest, with the aim to secure funding for post-production and distribution.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
Buyers, distributors, funding sources through investment and sponsorship, and media interest to increase our audience base.
What type of impact would you like this film to have?
I would like this film to open a dialogue in the wider local and international community about the role of women both in the secular mainstream community and also within Islam and spiritual faiths. I want to challenge negative mainstream media perceptions of Islam and the Middle East, and generate a more holistic and encompassing perspective that accommodates the textures of both who women are and who Muslims are. I want to create dialogue about the positive impact that migrants and Muslims can bring to our Western society and break down barriers between these elements.
Additionally, the film highlights the issue of representation of women’s sport in the public eye, which is significantly underrepresented and underfunded. But ultimately the film opens a way for people to embrace their dreams, regardless of the obstacles. If it can open that way for one person, then it is a success.
Lastly, what’s a key question that will help spark a debate about this issue and film?
What happens if you embrace fear? Whether that be fear of a different culture or religion, or whether that be fear of your own failings or success – what is possible if you, our community, our world, face that fear and move beyond it?
Interview: March 2016
To read the second BAM BAM profile go here
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