June 4, 2006

Answered by Fire

Answered by Fire (2006, dir. Hobbs)

How fortuitous that Answered by Fire, Jessica Hobbs' miniseries about the East Timor vote for independence, should have aired over the last two Sundays. It's also slightly scary because last Sunday when it premiered it had been only a few days since East Timor made, quite literally, an SOS call to the world as political unrest had caused the return of murderous riots throughout the country.

This miniseries about the United Nations' efforts (slack jawed as the bigwigs may have appeared) to create an orderly vote in the former Indonesian island of Timor. This happened a mere 7 years ago and as a character in the movie says "they voted for their deaths as well as their independence." As the vote was passed, Pro-Indonesian militia rampaged the country and murdered thousands, torched entire villages and so on and so on.

The film features David Wenham and many others as the United Nations officials. And follows them from the voting process to after it as the country descends into madness and they leave and their subsequent return. The performances are mostly excellent. David Wenham is supurb as always (considering he's one of the greatest actors around atm I wouldn't expect any less), as are Jared Robinsen, Linda Cropper, Tara Morice and Sri Sacdprascuth in smaller roles. The Canadian actress Alex Tilman on the other hand just didn't do it for me. Throughout the film I thought she must've been an Australian actress simply putting on a Canadian accent but I later found out she IS Canadian so I don't really know what to make of that.

The film is quite harrowing at times, especially scenes depicting the violence that took place and a very Hotel Rwanda-esque scene involving residents storming the UN building for safety. Technically it's all ace and the writing is good when it doesn't turn into cliche like it did towards the end.

Overall though it was a powerful view of an event that, again like the events depicted in Hotel Rwanda went criminally unrepresented. And now as East Timor goes even further into an uncontrollable mess it feels very timely. B

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