Culture / TV

“I wanted to highlight what the modern day Australian looks like”: Munasib on creating ‘Westerners’

ABC Fresh Blood 'Westerners'. Image of DJ Munasib Hamid.

What do Aunty Donna, Nina Oyama and Skit Box all have in common? Each of these comedy acts came up through ABC's Fresh Blood program. Together with Screen Australia, in 2023 ABC selected 10 teams of creatives to produce three comedy shorts with the aid of $50,000 in funding. From here, three teams will go on to develop their projects into a longer pilot, with the goal to be commissioned by the national broadcaster. It's a necessary initiative when it comes to fostering the next generation of talent. And one of those voices in with a chance is DJ and director of Westerners, Munasib Hamid.

Hamid is the brain behind Westerners, a project she created alongside Miski Omar, Kevin Jin, and Shehryar Hussain as part of Fresh Blood. The series is set in Western Sydney and embraces the idiosyncratic culture that emerges when you clash people of various diasporas with Western society. It's tongue-in-cheek, funny, and completely relatable, with episodes that touch on code-switching, marriage, performative allyship, and the experience of being a third culture kid.

Below, RUSSH caught up with Munasib to discuss Westerners, Bangladeshi storytelling, Atlanta and collaborating with your relatives.


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What's the first thing people should know about you?

I'm Bangladeshi, and Bangladeshis are known for being great storytellers.


Tell me about the story behind Westerners? What inspired the concept for the series. 

Honestly, just the comedy of my life and the two worlds I was living in; between my family and my life in a Western country. I slowly realised that a lot of my friends were existing similarly with slight differences, and all of us had hilarious stories to share. I also really wanted to highlight what the modern day Australian looks like. The comedy in Westerners is mostly drawn from hilarious situations our characters find themselves in, much like how my friends and I walk the tightrope between our various identities in Australia.


What were you watching, reading or listening to while working on Westerners?

I was mostly consuming art from the East (ironic given the name of the show, but you have to be across the full spectrum to be able to comment on things and draw comparisons). After my trip back to Bangladesh earlier in the year I couldn't stop listening to all types of Bengali music. Smooches are a dope band I discovered from there who I had on repeat. I was also watching a lot of independant Bengali/Indian film and TV – I love their storytelling style and just the range of experiences they cover. I also feel like its a very all-encompassing experience; the sounds, the colours, the sets are scintillating! 


You've referred to Westerners as "Australia's answer to Atlanta". What similarities do you think both shows share?

They both use surrealism to heighten and elevate social commentary. When you think about it they both comment on Western society. Given the fact that I come from the music industry, I also wanted to make sure the whole show was an experience sonically, as well as visually, and I think this is something Atlanta does very well.


It looks like a highly collaborative project. Can you tell me more about the casting, costumes, and music?

Putting the right people in the right place, who understand the story and the vibe, then letting them create leads to something truly magical. This proved to be the case with the scoring; I really wanted to integrate my friends, who are talented artists I deeply respect, to come in and add their flavour and flair.

Fun story about the Western Sydney driller song, Devil's Advocate, that Crystal is rapping along to: I got my friends Manu Crooks and Skenzo, who are actually from those ends, to come in and create a track for the scene. We went into the studio (shout out to Bodega for letting us use it for free!) and I laid out the premise of the show and scene, then the boys hopped in the booth and it was done that night. There was something raw and incredible about that collaboration which is what I hoped to foster across the whole project, and I think it comes across in the final product.

Same thing with casting. Dulla's character is my brother-in-law that I've known for years; the family unit was inspired by his actual family who I've spent time with over the last few years. So who better to play his family than his actual family... a lot of the aunties, uncles and cousins you see in the third episode are actually Dulla's relatives.


What's next for Westerners? How can people follow more of your work?

Hopefully if this performs well, we can go to pilot and turn this into a full series! Please share with your friends if this speaks to you! You can keep up to date with westies on instagram and my personal work @munasib____


Where can I watch Westerners?

You can watch Westerners, along with the rest of the Fresh Blood shorts, on ABC iview and YouTube.

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Image: @munasib____