WHEN Arad Niksefat was forced to flee his own country, he could not have imagined he would face a much harsher and demoralising life as an asylum seeker in Australia.
Describing Mr Niksefat’s life as “a step short of unbelievable”, two Perth filmmakers are sharing his incredible life journey in their documentary Persia’s Pantry screening at Revelation Film Festival.
“When I first heard about Arad’s story, I was overwhelmed,” Wembley producer Daniel Njegich said.
“I heard about his story from a school colleague and always knew this was potentially something special.”
At the age of 35, Mr Niksefat was forced to flee his native country, Iran, where he was a decorated and well-respected pathologist working alongside a government agency.
Leaving Indonesia at night, he travelled by boat with 58 other asylum seekers to Christmas Island.
“After 16 months in detention centres, Arad was released in 2014 to live in Melbourne but things did not go easy for him,” Njegich said.
“Under a strict 7pm curfew and a bridging visa, Arad was left to fend for himself.
“No-one told him how to interact with society. He wasn’t allowed to work, did not know how to make money.
“He had no idea about local and Australian laws, and every two weeks he was to meet with a case manager.”
Mr Niksefat said they were “treated like animals”.
But in 2016, he moved to Perth and started his own catering company – Persia’s Pantry.
However, because of his current Safe Haven Enterprise visa, Mr Niksefat needs to live and work in predominately regional areas of Perth.
Though he bases himself in Boya, he travels his business throughout Perth where he has developed loyal customers that love what he has to offer.
His recipes are derived from what his mother passed onto him, however he has put his own spin on them to make “healthy food”.
“I am standing on my own two feet,” he said.
Director Daniel Pitcher, of Casuarina, said his aim of the documentary was to show the “raw nature” of Mr Niksefat’s journey and “the personal reluctance he has had with sharing it openly to a larger community”.
“Arad has been approached previously by larger production companies who have shown interest in sharing his story and interviewing him, however he has always turned them down,” Pitcher said.
“For Arad to allow us the chance to interview him and create a documentary around his story expresses to me how intimate and personal this is for him and this is what I want to keep.
“Getting him to open up and reveal the moments which do haunt him is something I want to explore, but only if he is ready to.”
Njegich said it was his role as the producer to “fight for stories like Persia’s Pantry and ensure they find their way to a wider audience”.
“When you discover a story with such bold energy and an inspired voice, the excitement and fragility is undeniably intense,” he said.
“I am confident Persia’s Pantry will be a wonderful experience for audiences of all stripes, inspiring hope.”
Pitcher added they hoped audience members would “leave feeling honoured and blessed to have heard Arad’s story, rather than sad and disheartened with his treatment”.
The 10-minute documentary will screen as part of Revelation Film Festival’s Get Your Shorts On! 2019 at Luna Leederville from 6.30pm on July 11.
Tickets from lunapalace.com.au.