This film follows the arrival of Tasmania’s first detention centre through the eyes of local Christian woman and knitting club member Mary and Muslim Afghan Hazara asylum seeker Mohammad, who is detained inside the centre, as they connect through the gift of a knitted beanie.
The film opens with the federal government’s surprise announcement to build Tasmania’s first detention centre for 400 male asylum seekers at Pontville, on the outskirts of Hobart. The local community erupts with hostility as the Department of Immigration hold a public meeting two weeks later.
When a suggestion is made to knit beanies for the asylum seekers at the local knitting club – the response is a mixed one. Knitter and elderly Christian woman Mary is strongly opposed to the Muslim asylum seekers but she is curious to see the ‘luxurious life’ of the detainees so visits the centre a couple of months later as the beanies are delivered. Mary and four other knitters immediately commit to regular visits afterwards.
Their friendships deepen with the Afghan Hazara men inside, as they help knitting and craft activities flourish within the detention centre. Mary and the women shed many prior beliefs about asylum seekers and witness the centre’s first hunger strike. Asylum seeker Mohammad provides revealing insights of life inside the detention centre.
When the detention centre closes, some of the Afghan Hazara men decide to settle in Hobart. The knitters stay in contact with the refugees and we see a close relationship develop between Mohammad and Mary. Despite this, Mary remains uncomfortable with Mohammad’s Islamic beliefs.
The close of the film sees knitter Joy invite Mohammad and Mary to her fishing shack in the Central Highlands of Tasmania. Will a connection of common humanity prevail for Mary and Mohammad, over their religious and cultural differences?
"Packs a steely punch" – The Canberra Times
"Moving and powerful" – theguardian.com
"Miss this… and you are mad. Certifiably so. It’s a stunner. The most beautiful story. So evocative, so powerful. So utterly, fully, human.The story of Mary Meeting Mohammad." - The Tasmanian Times
"In introducing the film at one of the screenings, Australian International Documentary Joost den Hartog praised Mary Meets Mohammad for its beautiful filmmaking technique, with perfect structuring from start to end, 'like a James Bond movie'. He’s not wrong – it's a powerful story gently told that sucks you in, in a 'what happens next?' kind of way." – Screen Hub
"Mary Meets Mohammed is a timely and relevant story told with great sensitivity and subtlety. The judges were unanimous in their support for this documentary, as it showcases the tenacity and skill of the filmmaker in her capture of a charming narrative that unfolds to reveal a confronting and nuanced relationship – one that is both unexpected and profound in its depiction of personal transformation. Mary Meets Mohammed allows viewers to engage in a humane way with a volatile political issue." – Walkley Award judges (30/9/13)
"Any casual expectation that it’s an angry rant is dispelled pretty quickly by its quiet, observational style and its homemade, hand-crafted feel. This is a movie that makes a plea for understanding and it uses a story of a kind of spiritual conversion to do it" – SBS.com.au