Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Oecusse - Cinema Lorosa'e At Sea

When the Portuguese first arrived at the island of Timor in the sixteenth century, they made their historic landing  in Oecusse. Cinema Lorosa'e set foot there for the first time last week, for two nights' screenings in this most remote district of the Timor-Leste. Surrounded on three sides by land borders with the Indonesian territory of West Timor, Oecusse is most easily reached by sea, so the Cinema Lorosa'e team loaded the van onto the ferry that runs twice a week between the Oecusse capital Pante Makassar and Dili.

After an overnight journey of more than 12 hours, Cinema Lorosa'e unloaded the now-famous van from the ferry onto the wharf at Pantai Makassar and went to check out the screening location: here, as is often the case, the community football field.

There's not much entertainment in Oecusse, so the people there were thrilled to learn that they would be able to go to the movies for two nights running. We decided that it was really important to get the word out to as many people as possible so that they could all come to the screenings. Not many people in Timor-Leste's remote areas have access to media, so we often work through the local District Administrators who use their formal and informal communication networks to get the information out. In Oecusse, the Timor-Leste Police and the United Nations Police also pitched in to help, the latter making sure that there was an announcement on the UNPOL community police radio. The Church, also, are very supportive of  the Cinema Lorosa'e programme wherever we travel. The day before the screenings were scheduled, if just so happened that there was a great celebration for a local priest's 25th anniversary of taking his vows, attended by all three of Timor-Leste's bishops. So an announcement was made to the guests at the huge party and the word spread even further.

Having resolved communications issues, it was then down to arranging transport for people from the outlying villages, and most importantly, the local orphanage at Topu Honis, 6km away from the capital.  Enter Australian expat, Mark Heywood, whose wife Veronica is from Oecusse - the couple worked all of their connections for Cinema Lorosa'e and  mobilised any vehicles they could lay their hands on. The orphans were literally trucked in for the event.  

And so it was that the first night's screening saw an audience of 4,200 cheering people crammed into the  soccer field to watch "Balibo". Heywood and his family set themselves up in style with folding chairs, snacks and - as any self-respecting Australian would require - an "eskie" full of cold drinks to last throughout the movie.

After the drama of "Balibo", on the second night we screened the musical movie "Os 2 Filhos de Francisco", which, since it was first supplied by the embassy for the Brazilian Cultural night at the "Sunset Fair",  has turned out to be one of the most requested films of the season. 

It is certainly a fine movie, but initially we wondered why - and how - people in some of the most distant corners of Timor-Leste knew enough about it to request that we screen it. Then we learned that many people had heard the film's songs on the radio it was the music that lay behind the popular demand for the film, which they'd never had to opportunity to watch. That explained why the 2,900-strong second-night crowd enjoyed a community sing-song as their favourite tunes were performed before them on the big screen. Incidentally, fans of Brazilian music can buy the original soundtrack of the movie, which tells the story of Zeze de Camargo and Luciano, two of the major sertanejo-style Brazilian stars, and features songs from  Caetano Veloso, Maria Bethania, Ney Matogrosso, Nando Reis, Wanessa Camrago, Chitaozinho & Xororo, among others.

After the show, many people approached Cinema Lorosa'e's Maria Alves to give their thanks for the event and especially for screening "Balibo"; they said that it gave the people of Oecusse the opportunity to learn more about what really happened during the Indonesian invasion of Timor-Leste in 1975. 

Heywood was also impressed with the technical quality of the screenings, the sound and the sheer size of the inflatable screen, which amazed his children. "My kids loved it! It's a brilliant idea, it's great to be able to sit out and watch a movie... something we never expected to do in Oecusse. But that screen! I can't wait for you to come back."

Heywood's wish for a return visit by Cinema Lorosa'e was one shared by many people in Oecusse. As one local journalist put it: "We sometimes feel that we are neglected. I appeal to you on behalf of the people of Oecusse: do not stop this project. Please come back. Don't be like the others who promise to return and then they never do". 

And that remark still echoed in the minds of  the Cinema Lorosa'e team as they gathered on the deck of the ferry for the return to Dili, to watch the beautiful hills of this enchanting district recede into the distance.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

This weekend's movies: We're feeling sporty, with "Goal" in Dili and a special screening at the horse races in Batugade

We couldn't resist the opportunity to hold a special movie  screening at the Timor-Leste border town of Batugade this SATURDAY (October 29th, programme TBA) because everyone will be there for the inauguration of Timor-Leste's new horse racing track (see  Horses and racegoers from other Indonesian islands and neighbouring West Timor (Indonesia) will be joining the newly-formed Timor-Leste Racing Association for the opening ceremony and 2-day race event. 

So that means that our Government House show on Saturday will be CANCELLED.  But it's business as usual at the Sunset Fair on Friday (October 28th) and at Government House on Sunday (October 29th), where we'll be screening "Goal" - which is going to delight Dili's many football (soccer) fans. (English with Bahasa Indonesia subtitles).

Coming up in Dili in November:  "Wallace & Gromit" (subt  Bahasa Indonesia),  "Hotel Rwanda" (subt Bahasa Indonesia), "Planet of the Apes" (subt Bahasa Indonesia), "Avatar" (subt Bahasa Indonesia), and a return to the football theme with "Africa United" IN TETUM. Watch this space for programme details.

"Goal" tells the story of  Santiago Munez (Kuno Becker), a footballer who is given the chance of a lifetime. But he must leave his family, his life in Los Angeles and everything that he knows to travel halfway around the globe to England and into a completely foreign world – the exciting, fast-paced and glamorous world of international soccer.

As an underprivileged Mexican-American immigrant growing up in the poor section of Los Angeles, Santiago seemed destined to follow his father’s path in life: laboring at menial jobs to earn just enough money to support his family. Naturally gifted, his amazing talent on the soccer field was wasted in recreation league games while he could only dream of playing on the world stage of professional soccer. But when a British scout (Stephen Dillane) discovers his talent and gets him a tryout with one of England’s premier soccer clubs, Newcastle United, Santiago must choose between his father’s fate and his own destiny.

Now alone in a world where soccer is a religion and players are gods, this underdog must prove that he’s got the talent and determination to make it amongst the best in the world.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Movies this weekend in Dili: "Thor" and "How To Train Your Dragon"

The Cinema Lorosa'e team is on its way back from three nights' movie screenings in the remote Timor-Leste exclave of Oecusse, where more than 3,000 people turned up to watch the shows. More on this later. However, because they will still be en route on Friday, there is NO Sunset Fair movie this week. 

But we'll be back on the case on Saturday and Sunday at Government House. On Saturday, we'll be screening "Thor" and on Sunday "How To Train Your Dragon".  Both evenings the show starts at 7pm.

The epic adventure Thor spans the Marvel Universe from present day Earth to the mystical realm of Asgard. At the center of the story is The Mighty Thor, a powerful but arrogant warrior whose reckless actions reignite an ancient war. As a result, Thor is banished to Earth where he is forced to live among humans. When the most dangerous villain of his world sends its darkest forces to invade Earth, Thor learns what it takes to be a true hero. (C) Paramount Pictures.

In "How To Train Your Dragon", the son of a Viking chief must capture a dragon in order to mark his passage into manhood and prove his worthiness to the tribe. The movie, directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois' is an adaptation of Cressida Cowell's popular children's book. Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse provide voices for the DreamWorks Animation production.(from,  Jason Buchanan, Rovi)

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Ainaro, Same, Aileu... and a "Balibo-a-thon" in Dili

Click to enlarge

After our recent trip to Timor-Leste's border territory close to neighbouring Indonesia to show "Balibo" in Balibo, last week we headed west again: this time to the high mountains of the country's interior, to Ainaro, Same and Aileu. This is the part of the country where much of Timor-Leste's famous organic coffee is grown, and where the highest peak, Mt. Ramelau punches through the clouds to soar 2,963 metres above the majestic scenery of the surrounding districts. The climate in this part of Timor-Leste is markedly different from that of the coastal strip: it's cool - even cold, at some times of year - and the wet season comes early. The signs of seasonal change were already evident in Ainaro, which was shrouded by fog on the day of the screening. 

The weather did not deter the people of Ainaro. Excitement was running high as we set up our equipment. Local youngsters offered to help us to put up the big screen, impatient to see the start of the evening's programme.  A 1,400-strong crowd packed into the Town Square to watch the Jackie Chan movie, "The Karate Kid". At the end, nobody wanted to move: the moviegoers asked for the Timorese short comedy film, "Vagabond", written and directed by Bety Reis, to be shown again. Encore!

Ainaro youngsters literally "learn the ropes" of outdoor cinema
as they help the Cinema Lorosa'e team set up the big screen

Ainaro kids don't mind cycling in the dark to go to the movies

Full house in a rather damp Ainaro town square

The local authorities in Ainaro were so happy with the event, they said that they hoped that Cinema Lorosa'e would return for more screenings. Then it was time to set out for a drive through stunning mountain scenery for the show in Same. 

Creative engineering: a mountain stream is channeled by a bamboo acqueduct

Beautiful Maubisse: a hill station for hikers aiming to climb Mount Ramelau

Rocky mountain roads take their toll on the tyres 
In Same, the screening took place in the basketball court at the Catholic school with a crowd of 900 people. We travel with a selection of films and usually let the community choose what they'd like us to show. In Same, we had suggested "Bend It Like Beckham", as soccer is hugely popular in Timor-Leste. But Jackie Chan is even more popular, following his 2008 visit to the country, and the people of Same requested "Karate Kid". Local authorities also approved of the choice of movie; Timor-Leste has had its share of trouble from so-called "martial arts gangs" - often young people are drawn to the "art" of fighting but are not indoctrinated in the philosophy and strict discipline to go with the moves. Same's community leaders said that they liked the film because that it shows the proper practice of martial arts and acts as a vehicle for Jackie Chan's message of peace; a good example for Timorese youth. 

One of the key objectives of Cinema Lorosa'e is to offer wholesome entertainment to young people who sometimes suffer from boredom in remote rural areas in this developing country. As Timorese youth leader Jose Kai Lekke Sousa-Santos puts it: "It offers the opportunity to behave like youths from all over the world, to go on dates, to go out with friends to a film, to do normal activities that youths their age enjoy the world over. Most importantly it gives them a different option to the dangers of street drinking and violence".

These thoughts are echoed by Kirsty Sword Gusamo, who besides being the wife of the Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, is Chair of the Timor-Leste National Education Commission, Chair of the National UNESCO Commission and Goodwill Ambassador for Education, amongst a host of other roles:
 "Cinema offers a window on the world, a world of culture and values that promises to transport the families of Timor-Leste beyond the everyday experience of life. As an institution dedicated to promoting tolerance and a culture of peace, UNESCO and its Timor-Leste National Commission wholeheartedly supports the initiative of open-air movie screenings, particularly for the least accessible communities of Timor- Leste".

On the road to Aileu
As we took the winding mountain road to our next destination, Aileu, the clouds started to build up. But the threat of rain did not dampen the enthusiasm of the young people here. We were somewhat  apprehensive about the effects of an impending downpour on the projection equipment but we went ahead anyway after the youngsters of Aileu promised to help us scramble to protect it should the heavens open. But that promise came with a condition: we had to screen the Brazilian film "Os 2 Filhos de Francisco", a Portuguese-language musical movie. The country-style songs from the film are especially popular here, although the community had never had a chance to actually see the movie. So we threw caution to the winds and set up the apparatus on the community soccer field, which was soon filled with a 2,600-strong crowd. 

Hoping the rain will hold off in Aileu

Throwing caution to the winds: "Let's set up anyway"

Full house, despite a "heavy dew"
The expected downpour did not materialise although the audience was certainly bathed in a heavy "mountain dew"; the equipment was unscathed. Judging by the comments after the show, the people of Aileu were not put off by the uncomfortable weather: they begged us not to leave, to stay one more night and to keep the Cinema Lorosa'e programme running in the future. When we receive feedback like that, it makes all of the long, hard miles on the road, the packing and unpacking of equipment and the relentless schedule totally worthwhile. 

And it certainly was a long haul back to Dili, where we arrived at 2am on Friday (October 14th) ready to set up for our  "Balibo-a-thon" - three straight nights of "Balibo" screenings at the Sunset Fair and Government House.  It seems that Timorese and expat residents alike simply can't get enough of this marvellous film.

"Balibo" draws a crowd at the Sunset Fair 
We're wearing out the disc! "Balibo" is extremely popular here in Timor-Leste

Standing room only?

After a busy "Balibo" weekend, there's no rest, with preparations to be made for three nights of screenings in the remote Timor-Leste "exclave" of Oecusse: a district situated in West Timor, surrounded by Indonesian territory on three sides. We'll be taking Cinema Lorosa'e to Oecusse by ferry - our first time at sea - and giving a rare treat to local people with movie shows on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings (October 18-20th). It's a long voyage, so this week there will be NO Cinema Lorosa'e screening at the Sunset Fair, although we will be showing "Thor" and "How To Train Your Dragon" at Government House on Saturday and Sunday (October 22-23) respectively. 

Then we'll be off to the districts again, this time to Ermera (October 25th), Maubara (October 26th) and Liquica (October 27th) before heading east to Los Palos (November 8th), Foiluru (November 9th) and Baucau (November 10th). We'll wrap the Cinema Lorosa'e season up with a trip to Tutuala on November 14th and a special screening at the orphanage at Laga. Every weekend, there will be the usual screenings at Sunset Fair and Government House. Watch this space for programme details. 

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

"Balibo-a-thon" in Dili

We're having a "Balibo-a-thon" - if you have not yet seen this marvellous film, or would like to see it again, we are pleased to announce that this coming weekend (14-16th October) we plan to screen it three times in Dili. "Balibo" will be shown at the Sunset Fair on Friday, 14th at 7.30 pm and at Government House (Palacio do Governo) at 7pm on Saturday and Sunday (15th & 16th). The Sunset Fair screening will be in English, whilst the Government House shows will be in Tetum. Look on the official "Balibo" website for a trailer and information about the real events that inspired the movie. There's nothing quite like watching this movie on the big screen, under the stars, sharing the experience with the Timorese public, just metres away from where the some of the events actually took place (and where some of the scenes were actually filmed). You are welcome to bring your own deck chairs to the Government House screening - make an occasion of it; bring your friends and a picnic.

"Balibo" Director Robert Connolly has told of his personal experience in making the movie in a new book called "Lights, Camera . . . Travel!" (Lonely Planet, $24.99;, and anthology of on-the-road tales by 33 international actors, directors and screenwriters", edited by Andrew McCarthy and Don George. Follow the link to read an extract:

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Movies in Dili October 7-9th: "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "The Karate Kid"

There's plenty of action and adventure in this weekend's Cinema Lorosa'e movie screenings in Dili! At the Sunset Fair on Friday, October 7th we'll show "Pirates of the Caribbean" whilst on Saturday it'll be "The Karate Kid" at Government House, with another chance to see "Pirates of the Caribbean" there on Sunday evening. The Sunset Fair screening begins at 7.30pm and the Government House shows start at 7.00pm.

The first of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" series, "The Curse of the Black Pearl" has a star-studded cast with Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush at the top of the bill. In the movie, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), the daughter of Governor Swann (Jonathan Pryce) is kidnapped by a group of pirates led by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) and taken aboard their ship, The Black Pearl, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), the young man who loves Elizabeth despite the fact that she is promised to another, sets out to rescue her. But he can't do it alone, so he enlists the help of swashbuckling ship captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Together the two chase after The Black Pearl, but they soon discover that the captain and crew aren't your average pirates. Cursed to remain between the living and the dead, Barbossa and his men look like skeletons when basked in the moonlight. When it is revealed that the only thing that can break the curse is Elizabeth's blood, Jack and Will are faced with a race against time and a battle against the undead to save the Governor's daughter.

In English with Bahasa Indonesia subtitles.

A modern update of the 1984 classic movie, "The Karate Kid" stars the action film star and kung fu expert Jackie Chan, who visited Timor-Leste in 2008 as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). During his visit, Chan encouraged young Timorese people to use martial arts “only as a peaceful force and never to threaten or harm others.”

A message of peace from Jackie Chan on his visit to Timor-Leste as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador (Copyright UNMIT/Martine Perret)

A modern take on the successful 1980's movie series of the same name, "The Karate Kid" tells the story of a 12-year-old from Detroit who moves to China with his mother and incurs the wrath of the class bully at his new school. He makes an unlikely ally in the form of his aging maintenance man, a kung fu master who teaches him the secrets to self-defense. Upon arriving at his new school, Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) develops a powerful crush on pretty classmate Mei Ying. The feeling is mutual, although the cultural divide between Dre and Mei Ying makes a friendship unlikely, and romance impossible. When cruel classmate and kung fu prodigy Cheng learns of Dre's feelings for Mei Ying, he harasses and humiliates the young outsider in front of the entire school. With no one to turn to for help, Dre confides his fears in kindly maintenance man Mr. Han (Jackie Chan), a kung fu master who knows that serenity and maturity -- not punches and power -- are the true keys to mastering the martial arts. As Dre prepares to face down his intimidating tormentor, he begins to realize that the real fight is just beginning. (In English with Bahasa Indonesia subtitles)

For more information about these and other movies, check out the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cinema Lorosa'e takes it to the districts...

Cinema Lorosa'e: on the road with Tour de Timor
Cinema Lorosa'e started up in August with screenings in Dili - in front of Government House and at the weekly Sunset Fair and found itself an audience hungry for big-screen movies - especially in Tetum, one of the local languages of Timor-Leste.  In Portuguese times there had been a cinema in Dili, which was destroyed in the turmoil of Indonesia's withdrawal from the country in 1999 but most people living in the other 12 districts of Timor-Leste have only rarely had the opportunity to watch a movie - and many of them have never had that experience in their lives. So Cinema Lorosa'e has taken up the challenge of staging open-air film screenings for communities in each and every one of Timor-Leste's districts, to share with them the magic of watching a film on a big screen, under the stars, surrounded by an audience, enjoying a night at the movies together.  They came in their thousands. 

A curious audience starts to gather as we set up in Beacu
Timor-Leste's famously tough international cycle race, the Tour de Timor was Cinema Lorosa'e's first chance to hit the road. The race is held under the auspices of the office of the President Jose Ramos-Horta and movie screenings along the race route - covering the eastern extremity of the country in 2011 - have previously been a part of the Tour de Timor programme. This year, using the President's giant, inflatable screen, setting up in community spaces like football fields, Cinema Lorosa'e was able to take over the movie nights, preceding the cylists in the villages of  Laclubar, Beacu, Iliomar, Com and Manatuto.  Opening with the famous movie "Balibo" (set in Timor-Leste, see below) in the local language Tetum, the programme also included "Avatar", "Unstoppable", "The Green Hornet" and "Narnia".  All went down very well. 

Glued to the screen: the people of Beacu enjoy "Avatar"

Then it was back to Dili for the weekend's screenings, a quick turnaround and back into the east of the country for Viqueque, Venilale and Baucau. This is where the "Balibo" effect really kicked in. The movie, starring Anthony La Paglia and Oscar Isaac, was set - and in part filmed - in Timor Leste. In 1975, as Indonesia prepared to invade the country, five Australian-based journalists went missing. "Balibo" tells the story through the viewpoint of veteran foreign correspondent Roger East, who is lured to East Timor by the young and charismatic José Ramos-Horta to tell the story of his country and investigate the fate of the missing men. As East's determination to uncover the truth grows, the threat of invasion intensifies and an unlikely friendship develops between the last foreign correspondent in East Timor and the man who will become President.  "Balibo" was produced by Robert Connolly and is based on the book by Jill Jolliffe.  

Youngsters in Viqueque watch "Balibo" and learn about the recent history experienced by some of their older relatives.

The area surrounding Viqueque was the heartland of the fierce Timorese resistance to the Indonesian occupation, so it was not surprising that the screening of "Balibo" should be a great success here. But it was amazing to see around 3,000 people crammed into the village's soccer field, young and old.  

As word got out that "Balibo" was doing the rounds, the people of Venilale decided that they, too, wanted the opportunity to see the film. So the giant screen was put up in front of Venilale's beautiful Escola do Reino (People's School), and 1,700 people came to see it.  Some school children commented that events like Cinema Lorosa'e should happen more often as the East Timorese new generation in the remote areas need to know about the country's history.

Another part of the country's colonial legacy is the choice of Portuguese as one of Timor-Leste's official languages. In Baucau, the second-largest city after Dili, we screened a Brazilian film in Portuguese, “Os Dois Filhos de Francisco”, which drew an enthusiastic crowd of 1,000 people to the town's church. A power cut prevented the Cinema Lorosa'e team from inflating the giant screen but that did not stop them from going ahead with the show: they simply projected the movie on one of the church walls. 

"Balibo": a history lesson at Venilale school
After Cinema Lorosa'e successes in of the eastern districts of Timor-Leste, it was time to move into the west, especially the areas bordering the Indonesian territory of West Timor - Maliana and the village of Balibo itself. Cinema Lorosa'e founder Michael Smith decided to experience this moment of movie history for himself, and came up from Melbourne for the trip. 

Cinema Lorosa'e Founder Michael Smith makes a new friend in Maliana
Time out for the Cinema Lorosa'e team before the screening in Maliana
The Maliana local Government representative made a special request for "Balibo" to be screened instead of the planned movie - "Bend It Like Beckham" - and it was a huge success, with 2,000 people turning up for the film at the soccer field next to the town gymnasium. 

When the movie was over, many locals approached Cinema Lorosae's Maria Alves to thank her for providing the opportunity for them to see how things really happened in Balibo, which is just a short drive away from Maliana. Michael Smith of Cinema Lorosa'e said: "It was such a great feeling to hear the kids screaming with joy when the shorts started and to see the football pitch full with the people of Maliana".

Leaving the happy movie-goers in Maliana, it was finally time to screen "Balibo" in Balibo. 600 people from this tiny village turned out to watch the film, filling the soccer field behind the "Balibo 5" House, beneath the infamous fort, which are both featured in the film. 

The Balibo House - now a community learning centre

The Balibo fort - a good military vantage point for the Portuguese who built it four centuries ago,
and a good camera position for the Balibo 5 as they filmed invading Indonesian troops in 1975
Now steeped in the consciousness of all Australians, the Balibo House was the last refuge of the five Australian based journalists, Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Tony Stewart, Malcolm Rennie and Brian Peters who were murdered by invading Indonesian troops in 1975. The house is now a Community Learning Centre administered by the Balibo House Trust which was established by the Victorian Government in October 2002 to purchase and refurbish the Balibo House so it could be handed back to be used by the people of the district.
Even the preparations for the screening drew an audience in Balibo

It was the first time that the people of Balibo had had the opportunity to see the movie. After the screening, Cinema Lorosae's Maria Alves spoke to local people, who said that they were very moved by the film and that they were sad about what had happened in Balibo, but had not seen how bad things were in Dili at the time.

For Michael Smith, screening "Balibo" in Balibo was the realisation of a dream inspired by the movie itself:  "My strong interest in Timor-Leste began when I first saw "Balibo", which we showed at the Sun (Theatre) in Melbourne. So, upon arriving in the village, I was eager to see the fort, walk the streets and visit the Balibo 5 House. It seemed fitting to be setting up the screen on the soccer field behind the House and at the foot of the fort. As the last of the day's sun lingered, sitting in the field, looking at the screen, with the Fort looming above, while a hundred or so young kids ran around squealing in excitement, many rolling their old motorbike tyres along, I must admit, after all of the work pulling this together, I finally thought 'Wow, we really did it!'"

Cinema Lorosa'e - Coming soon to a district near you!
Thank you to all of the Cinema Lorosa'e sponsors:
Toll, Timor Telecom, Rentlo, UNMIT, Magic Sound Company, Turismo Timor-Leste 

After screenings of "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Karate Kid" in Dili at Sunset Fair and Government House over the weekend (October 7th-9th) Cinema Lorosa'e will be taking movies to the masses in Ainaro, Same and Aileu on October 11th 12th and 13th. There will be a chance to see "Balibo" in Dili on October 14th at the Sunset Fair.