'Beatriz's War': Timor Leste's first feature film
The Jakarta Post
Written, co-directed and partially financed by Timorese, Beatriz's War has been promoted as the first film made in Timor Leste. It features a mostly Timorese cast delivering dialogue in Tetun.
Beatriz's War is set against the 1975 Indonesian invasion and decades-long occupation of East Timor (now Timor Leste), the former Portuguese colony that shares a land border with East Nusa Tenggara province on Timor Island.
The story begins with a couple, Beatriz and Tomas, who flee the invasion. Captured, they settle in Kraras, 300 kilometers from Dili, where Beatriz has a son. Later, during a reprisal raid, Indonesian forces kill almost every man and boy in the village in a dramatic recreation of the 1983 Kraras massacre.
Thomas is arrested and 'disappeared'. He returns 16 years later, after Timor Leste is independent, claiming to have fought for the resistance. However, Beatriz begins to doubt that the man is her long-lost husband ' and eventually makes a chilling discovery.
Many people involved with the film lived through the occupation or fought with guerrilla units. Some witnessed what happened at Kraras or had family who died in the massacre.
Cast and crew alike were in tears when filming the scene, said Nick Calpakdjian, the Jakarta-based editor of Beatriz's War. 'It's painful to all the crew to witness and going through it again. It was a quite difficult scene to shoot.'
'Without Beatriz or hundreds of thousands like her delivering messages up and down on buses or on foot through the jungle, there were no guerrilla fighters,' Nick said. 'We wanted to show the importance of women who could hold a community of people together for a long time,' he added.
Produced by Dili Film Works, a local production house, the film was co-directed directed by Australian Luigi Acquisto and Timorese Bety Reis.
According to Luigi, Beatriz's War has seen by more than 100,000 people, racking up a five-week run at Dili's Platinum Cineplex Cinema in September 2013, while Timor Cinema Lorosae, a community that holds regular outdoor film screenings, brought the film to communities and villages throughout the nation.
'The film has very well been received,' said Nick. 'The East Timorese are very happy to finally have their stories being told by their own people.'
The film's A$2.2 million-budget was funded by the filmmakers, sponsorship, in-kind investment and support from several Timor Leste government offices, including the Offices of the President and Prime Minister and the Tourism and Culture Ministry.
Meanwhile, the Timorese military provided weapons, uniforms, trucks'as well as extras and actors, such as Cmdr. Funu Lakan, who played Jose dos Anjos, one of the most popular leaders of the resistance, in the film.
Support also came from former Timorese president Xanana GusmÃ£o, Nick said. 'We took the film to Xanana's house and held a screening. He openly wept during the film and found it quite emotional. He is a big supporter of the film. He helped to raise the money and endorsed Dili Film Works from the beginning.'
While Beatriz's War is fiction, The Jakarta Post ran a story about a woman named Beatriz, who told the Timorese Reception, Truth-seeking, and Reconciliation Commission (CAVR), of her own experience at Kraras.
'I surrendered, but my husband got away and ran to Bibileo Mountain,' Beatriz said, as quoted by the article. 'Every day I was interrogated by the ABRI [the Indonesian Military] at Buikaren. My child was born in February 1984. When he was five days old, my husband surrendered. He stayed in our house for one month before he was made a TBO [operational assistant] by the ABRI. After he reported for duty he never returned.
'He was probably murdered the same day he was called to report.'
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