Out West with Arka Das: ABC puts Western Sydney on a national platform

out west

• “I wanted to deep dive into the food culture and communities of Western Sydney in a positive way”

Actor and filmmaker Arka Das is shining a light on the culture, food, and emerging creative talent that Western Sydney has to offer.

Two productions are set to air on ABC TV and ABC iview, showcasing the side of Western Sydney the media often neglects.

Critically acclaimed feature film Here Out West will premiere on Sunday, August 14, with short-form docuseries 8 Nights Out West set to release one episode per night in the lead-up from Sunday, August 7.

Mediaweek spoke to Das ahead of the film’s ABC premiere and docuseries release about bringing Western Sydney’s culture, food, and community to a national platform.

Here Out West

Following a successful cinematic release at the Sydney Film Festival in 2021, Here Out West follows eight interconnected stories set in the multicultural melting pot of Western Sydney.

“Its heart is in Western Sydney, but it’s a film about family, generational changes and progression, trauma, community, and so many other things,” Das said.

The film begins with a desperate grandmother kidnapping a baby from the local hospital, setting off a string of events that brings together a group of strangers over one dramatic day.

Here Out West chapter Brotherhood cast: Arka Das, Rahel Romahn, and Thuso Lekwape

The film includes a distinct set of characters – with each intertwining chapter portraying a different set of challenges, triumphs and revelations.

I want people around Australia or even internationally to watch Here Out West and see themselves reflected in it or see the people they grew up with reflected in it.”

The production process for the film began in mid-2018, with eight emerging writers from different backgrounds coming together to create a film that reflects cultural life in Western Sydney’s suburbs.

We all just got in a room and started telling stories about growing up in Western Sydney, some of the characters we’d encountered and what it meant for us to be from Western Sydney.

“Then, we kind of developed a thread for a story over a three-day workshop.”

8 Nights Out West

Inspired by the eight distinct chapters and writers from the feature film, the short-form documentary series 8 Nights Out West will premiere in the eight nights leading up to the film.

Starting August 7, Das invites friends and collaborators from Here Out West to share a meal while uncovering the food and traditions shaping the myriad of cultures that make up Western Sydney.

The episodes blend light-hearted banter with deeper reflections about culture, family, tradition, and food.

I grew up in many different pockets of Western Sydney, so I always ate local, cheap and great food. I always thought: ‘one day I want to shoot this,'” Das said.

8 Nights Out West

Each episode will focus on a different culture and its culinary traditions, including a delicious array of Vietnamese, Indian, Burmese, Chilean, Lebanese, Filipino, Kurdish and Bangladeshi dishes.

“Western Sydney has had a really tough time over the last couple of years.

“I wanted to deep dive into the food culture and the communities of Western Sydney in a positive way and represent these communities authentically – I think that’s the key.”

Bringing vision to life

Das said the emergence of social media has allowed people to more authentically capture the essence of Western Sydney. But despite the area getting more traction online, he wanted to create something more “polished.”

“I know there are lots of people doing stuff on TikTok and Instagram, but I just didn’t ever see a polished, proper show, so I was like, ‘let’s make one.'”

Das approached the production team from Here Out West, who then suggested pitching it to the ABC. The team suggested linking it to the film to form an interconnected series of productions.

“Being from the West, we wanted to show these communities and the food from a local lens, rather than looking at it from the outside.

With the eight writers from Here Out West from eight different pathways in Sydney, the accompanying series takes a deeper look into each of their backgrounds.

I wanted to get to the heart of what it meant to be an artist from Western Sydney and I think we do that with the writers and actors in the episodes by talking about their upbringing.”

Shining a light on misrepresented communities

Das said 8 Nights Out West aims to shine a light on the communities that have been “ravaged by the pandemic and negative stereotypes.”

“It was really sad and disheartening to go to places like Fairfield, which is usually so buzzing and popular and a big heart of Western Sydney, to see it so quiet.

“It was dead for so much of our first day of shooting – all the shutters were down, shops were closed, people weren’t on the street, and we were like, ‘what the hell is happening?’

“It was nice to go back and do something positive for them; to put some of these restaurants on show and film some of the communities as they were so welcoming to us.”

As an avid consumer of food shows growing up, Das wanted to ensure he had creative control to create a series that accurately reflected his experience.

“Previously, I’d seen food shows that I couldn’t connect to because it was for an older demographic or from the lens of someone from the outside.

“I wanted to do the show, and I wanted young people to watch it and be like, ‘that’s cool. I want to eat there; I want to go and explore Western Sydney more,”

“I think both productions shine a light on a massive part of Australia that we don’t see on screen as often.”

8 Nights Out West premieres from Sunday, August 7, followed by Here Out West on Sunday, 14 August at 8.30pm on ABC TV and ABC iview.

To Top