East Timor's first feature film an emotional but rewarding experience

WATCHING a woman come out of mourning for the first time in 31 years was one of the most moving moments in husband and wife filmmaking team Luigi Acquisto and Stella Zammataro’s careers. 

The pair were filming East Timor’s first feature film, recreating an Indonesian massacre using people who had lost loved ones in the actual atrocity. 

“In the film, we recreated a ceremony that is used to mark the end of the mourning period,” director Acquisto said. 

“While we were filming, an older lady removed her black garments to signal the end of mourning. That normally happens a year after someone’s death. But that was the first time she had removed her black since the massacre in 1983.

“It was just incredible, and gave us the sense that lives are moving forward.”

Acquisto and Zammataro were in Port Fairy on Friday night for a special one off screening of the film Beatriz’s War, the story of one woman’s passion for independence and justice, both for her nation and her soul. 

Friday night’s screening was the first of a regional tour through Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland before the film has a limited release in capital cities. 

The film tells the story of Beatriz, who’s husband Tomas is arrested after the Timorese resistance attacked Indonesian troops in the village of Kraras. 

In retribution for the attack, the Indonesians massacre the entire male population of Kraras. Tomas disappears during the massacre but his body is never found. Beatriz then takes command of the village and holds on to the hope that her husband is alive. 

The pair told The Standard on Friday that making the film was a moving, emotional and yet rewarding experience. 

“We filmed in the village where that massacre happened, many in that village were there in 1983 when it happened,” Acquisto said. 

“Many of the women who lost husbands, brothers, sons and some of the men who survived all collaborated in choreographing that scene and taking part and informing us exactly how it happened. 

“It was very emotional. There was no separation. When they re-enact the grief they are talking to the dead, the grief is real, they’re not acting.”

Acquisto said one of the most difficult things about making the film was funding. 

“There are no official sources of finance in East Timor for filmmaking, or really for the arts,” Acquisto said. 

“We had to start filming without any government money if you like. We put it together guerilla-style, raising money through different sources — crowd sourcing, fan club, sponsors and the support of our Australian crew.” 

Acquisto said the film was told primarily in the Tetun language and used a crew that was 90 per cent Timorese. 

“We showed the film to Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao in a rough cut stage and he loved it,” he said. 

“He came on board and started supporting the film.

Acquisto said he hoped the East Timorese government would continue to support the film industry. 

“We hope it will make the arts blossom.  There’s a very rich culture in terms of music and performance, but not in terms of the arts as we know them.” 

For more information visit www.aguerradabeatriz.com

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