"The Long Road To Heaven" On Sky's History Channel October 12

The Long Road to Heaven depicts the events of the 2002 Bali bombing via four stories.

The story of the 2002 Bali bombings, captured in the film Long Road to Heaven, could easily have fallen into the clutches of Hollywood. Instead, producer Larry Higgs insisted it be a balanced portrayal of events.

Long Road to Heaven will air on Sky's History channel on Friday October 12, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist bombings that killed 202 people from 22 countries, including 38 Indonesians, in the resort town of Kuta.

It's a sensitive event in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia mourns more victims than any other country, with 88 killed in the blasts, but the Balinese will be associated with the attacks forever.

Although shot entirely on location in Indonesia, Long Road To Heaven was banned in Bali because of its subject matter.

Rather than attempt to appease any market, American producer Higgs says the film, his debut feature, set out to recreate real events from varying perspectives.

"We'd made a documentary about the notion of jihad around the world, what it meant to people in different cultures, and we opened with a minor recreation of the Bali bombing," he says. "While we were doing that we thought, there's so much more of a story here.

"It started out as a documentary but over time it became clear that the best way to tell the story was as a feature film."

Long Road To Heaven weaves together four stories - the meeting and planning of the bombings by members of the terrorist groups Jemaah Islamiah and al-Qaeda, the bomb attacks by Amrozi and Imron, the immediate aftermath of the explosions and the recovery that took place in the seven months leading to the first trials.

The narrative jumps between periods until they culminate at the end.

Had the film been made in Hollywood, its key character would almost certainly have been American Hannah Catrelle, who went to Bali because it was the favourite place of her partner who died in the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

"There would have been a dramatic love story, even sex scenes and a more streamlined plot, but coming from where we did as documentary makers we wanted to depict the story fairly. Not just how it affected tourists but the locals as well, even if it made it a bit harder to watch for the viewer," Higgs said.

The role of Catrelle remains significant, however, as a volunteer who comes close to Hajj Ismail, a Muslim who drums into her the reality of Islam. He says the vast majority of Muslims don't support the terrorist acts of extremists operating under their faith.

Higgs hired Indonesian director Enison Sinaro who he believed would understand both the Western and Islamic perspectives.

Sinaro brought to life a script written by Chinese-Singaporeans Wong Wai Leng and Andy Logam-Tan.

While the film is in no way sympathetic to the Islamic extremists who carried out the attack, it does offer a human face, particularly that of Ali Imron, who showed signs of hesitation throughout the planning of the bombing.

The most recognisable performer among the largely unknown cast is Raelee Hill, the flame-haired actress from TV's Water Rats and Farscape.

She plays Australian journalist Liz Thompson in the lead-up to the trial of Amrozi, the smiling murderer whose constant grin and disregard for the bombing victims' families while in court gave us one of the tragedy's most enduring images.

Thompson meets a Balinese taxi driver who lost his brother in the bombing and who introduces her to the spiritualism and stoicism of his people.

The film's core comes back to the title, which doesn't just suggest the utopia the bombers believe awaits them in the afterlife but the manner in which different religions share the same pain and band together in tragedy.

When & where: 8.30pm, Friday October 12, The History Channel, Sky Television.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: