Joelle Sanounou receives Australia for UNHCR Beddie Scholarship

Journey: Joelle Sanounou received the inaugural Australia for UNHCR Beddie Scholarship to study at the Australian Film Television and Radio School.
Journey: Joelle Sanounou received the inaugural Australia for UNHCR Beddie Scholarship to study at the Australian Film Television and Radio School.

Do you ever fear not living up to your potential? How about if there is nothing much you can do about it?

This was Fairfield resident Joelle Sanounou three years ago. A Syrian girl living in Lebanon trying to keep up with the circumstances caused by war.

It was also the opening to her video application for the inaugural Australia for UNHCR Beddie Scholarship. A scholarship the 21-year-old received and will start later this month courtesy of Francesca Beddie, Public Education Foundation, Australia for UNHCR and the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS).

The scholarship, valued at more than $72,000, covers full tuition for a Bachelor of Arts program at the AFTRS, living expenses and internship opportunities at Australia for UNCHR.

"This scholarship means a lot to me, especially being someone who grew up in a society where women are not encouraged in the film making industry. It will pave the way for a great future in film and television," she said.

"The scholarship is going to get me places I never thought I could reach with hard work; it's an amazing opportunity."

It's an opportunity she never thought she would have. After her parents lost their small business and her brother fled to Europe, it was up to her and her sister to support the family after finishing high school. Her first focus was on what her family need, rather than what she wanted.

She never told anyone - let alone her family - she wanted to be a filmmaker despite movies playing a "big part" in her life.

From enhancing her English to learning about history and opening her eyes to multiple worlds she had never seen, Joelle discovered the power of film and it empowered her as a female in the Middle East.

"Watching films made my character stronger," said Joelle, who completed a Certificate IV Screen and Media after arriving in Australia in December 2016.

"The more I learnt about filmmaking, the more I saw myself in it. I felt the need to create something that I could immerse myself in and share with the world.

"Films like Slumdog Millionaire tell amazing stories. I want to tell refugee stories and my story, but also other people's stories.

"I never told anyone I wanted to be a filmmaker because I thought they were going to think I'm crazy or I have no place there. My dream is to create something unique and special and to show the people my world."

AFTRS Director of Curriculum and Registrar, Nell Greenwood, said: "Joelle is a formidable talent with a compelling creative voice and we are really looking forward to supporting her through the school and on her journey to becoming a great filmmaker."