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Sunday 8 January 2012

Once Upon A Time in Cabramatta - SBS doco series. Starts tonight.

Tonight, the premiere of 'Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta' screens on SBS, and it's a three part doco not to be missed.

Gritty, factual, thoroughly researched and rather confronting to watch at times (especially when screen grabs of public - and pollie - reaction to early Vietnamese migration is on screen) it is essential viewing for all Australians.

In many ways, it demonstrates growth: how far the famed, previously notorious suburb has come and how far those living there - and especially those who don't, though have been quick to judge - have come in their perception of Cabramatta.

I asked executive producer on Once Upon A Time in Cabramatta, Sue Clothier, more about the brilliant series.

Josie's Juice: What prompted you to start this journey to explore Cabramatta?

Sue: I've always been interested in telling compelling stories about real people and when Craig Graham, my co-producer said to me "we should tell the 35 year history of the Vietnamese in Cabramatta," I was immediately interested. The boat people issue is so topical that I thought it would be interesting to look at an earlier arrival of refugees and find out the whole story. I had been to Cabramatta in the early 90s so knew a little bit about the area, but it wasn't until we started to do in depth research that we truly knew we had an incredible opportunity to tell this unique part of Australian history. John Godfrey, Commissioning Editor of SBS encouraged us every step of the way.

What were your own (possible) preconceived ideas about the suburb?

Sue: To be honest, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. Cabramatta has had a dark and traumatic past, but I also knew that time had passed and so I was curious to find out just how much Cabramatta had changed.

What it difficult gathering your interview subjects, and then getting them to be open?

Sue: In many ways, yes it was challenging. It was very important for us that Once Upon a Time in Cabramatta was a story that was told by the people who were there and lived through what happened from 1975 to today. We spent a lot of time researching and trying to find people who were willing to share their stories with us. Some people felt they wanted to leave behind the past and just look ahead, which is fair enough. For the Hoang and Ngyuen families especially, who were willing to tell their personal story, it was a way of being able to explain to the rest of Australia just what it was like to start a new life in Australia and the hardships they faced in that process. As producers, we had a responsibility to ensure that their stories were told respectfully and we are incredibly grateful to each contributor for their trust.

What will viewers be most surprised about after watching this series?

Sue: I think viewers will be take different things from each episode. Most people will remember the news headlines, like gangs, drugs, crime and political assassination, but what we have tried to do is give the context for how and why things happened in Cabramatta. I feel sure our viewers will be touched by some of the personal stories. Younger viewers may not have any idea that these things ever happened in Cabramatta and so for them, it will be "wow" did all that happen. Overall, viewers will be surprised at the strength and resilience of the Cabramatta community at large.

In your own words, how would you describe Cabramatta today?

Sue: Cabramatta today is a real success story. I love going to Cabramatta and experiencing the vibrancy of the street life and culture. It has an even more special meaning to me now that I know what this community has been through. It's not just about great food (and plenty of it!), there's a general vibe of optimism. Cabramatta is a great place that everyone should visit.

Once Upon A Time In Cabramatta starts Sunday January 8, 2012 at 8.30pm on SBS, and continues on Sunday January 15 and Sunday January 22.

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