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Case for The Voyage of a Migrant Ship by Gusztav Kovacs' dvd

Date: 1950
Overall: 190 x 135 x 7 mm
Medium: Plastic, paper, ink
Credit Line: ANMM Collection GIft from Agnes Karlik
Object Name: Case
Object No: 00050327

User Terms

    The black and white film 'The Voyage of a Migrant Ship' documents the migration of Gusztav Kovacs and his daughter Agnes from Bremerhaven, Germany to Fremantle, Australia on the Swedish liner ANNA SALEN in 1950.
    SignificanceBetween 1947 and 1953, more than 170,000 European displaced people were settled in Australia through the Displaced Persons' Resettlement Scheme. This agreement between the Commonwealth Government and the International Refugee Organisation marked a major shift in Australian immigration policy, which had previously prioritised British migration. 'The Voyage of a Migrant Ship' by Hungarian filmmaker Gusztav Kovacs provides rare visual documentation of the voyage of displaced persons on one of the IRO's contracted carriers ANNA SALEN. The film is highly evocative and vividly captures life in the German refugee camps, daily activities onboard ANNA SALEN, ports of call from Bremerhaven to Fremantle and early days at Northam Accommodation Centre in Western Australia.
    HistoryHungarian filmmaker Gusztav Kovacs (1895-1969) operated a successful film processing laboratory in Budapest from the 1920s to the 1940s. In 1945, when the Russian-backed Communist regime in Hungary nationalised the country's factories, Gusztav was forced to hand his business over to the authorities. He decided to flee to Salzburg, Austria with one of his three daughters, Agnes. They spent time in Aurich and Sengwarden refugee camps in Germany before migrating to Australia in 1950 with the assistance of the International Refugee Organisation (IRO). Gusztav also tried to bring his wife and two other daughters to Australia but the Hungarian Government did not allow them to leave the country.

    On 27 November 1950 Gusztav and Agnes embarked from Bremerhaven on the Swedish liner ANNA SALEN, which had been contracted by the IRO to transport displaced persons to Australia and Canada. ANNA SALEN's first IRO voyage was in May 1949, when it carried 1,503 displaced persons from Naples to Melbourne and Sydney.

    Gusztav documented the four-week 'voyage of a migrant ship' from Germany to Australia on 35 mm motion picture film. The film begins at Nordenham camp in Germany and shows refugees doing their washing, breakfasting in the canteen, taking their luggage to the assembly hall and then boarding trucks to Bremerhaven. The film continues onboard ANNA SALEN, showing the vessel hitting rough weather in the Bay of Biscay, the White Cliffs of Dover, emergency exercises onboard, the Rock of Gibraltar, the basic bunk bed sleeping quarters, the Mediterranean, the African coastline, the Suez Canal, bumboats and vendors in Port Said, Aden, the Crossing the Line ceremony, Christmas dinner and finally disembarkation at Fremantle, Western Australia on 31 December 1950, where the passengers have their papers stamped.

    From Fremantle the 1,522 migrants were transferred to Northam Accommodation Centre northeast of Perth. Gusztav's film captures the train journey and the primitive conditions at Northam. It also documents various locations in Perth including Kings Park, the University of Western Australia and Scarborough Beach.

    'The Voyage of a Migrant Ship' was the last documentary made by Gusztav Kovacs. He was forced to sell the camera used in making the film to clothe and feed his family.

    With no processing facilities available in Perth, Gusztav took his film to Melbourne's Herschell's laboratory, where he insisted on processing the film himself. The manager of Herschell's recognised Gusztav's skills and hired him on the spot. Gusztav worked for Herschell's for more than a decade, doing crucial editing and light banding work for the Australian film industry. He died in Melbourne in 1969.

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