Make West Papua Safe visited Paniai in January 2015. The visit had been planned for a while. We arrived only a few weeks after the Indonesian police and military opened fire, killing 5 school children and wounding 17. It was the families of the boys and human rights activists and church leaders who asked us to stand with them. Filmed anonymously in West Papua.
Interview with educator, organiser and researcher Jason MacLeod
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
My colleagues and I from Make West Papua Safe visited Paniai in January 2015. The visit had been planned for a while. We arrived only a few weeks after the Indonesian police and military opened fire, killing 5 school children and wounding 17. It was the families of the boys and human rights activists and church leaders who asked us to stand with them.
There was also another experience that stands out in my mind. A few years ago, I was in West Papua with my colleague Rosa, a Papuan leader, and our mutual friend Maire Leadbeater, a long standing activist from Aotearoa. We were meeting with young activists from different political groups. Maire asked them what they thought about the New Zealand and Australian government training the Indonesian police and military. These young people were absolutely outraged. They said 'the Australian and New Zealand government can go to hell!' That's when the idea of doing something to disrupt foreign government support for the training and arming of the Indonesian police and military started to take shape.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
The film is not only about a serious human rights violation. It is also about how Papuans are taking action. Watch it because those folks are amazing. They want you and I to accompany them in their struggle.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
For me, the universal themes that come through are about love and courage: the love these parents have for their kids, and the courage of both the family members and the key protagonist as they search for justice.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
Actually we had a completely different script but the challenges of filming in an occupied country including the need for clandestine filming sent us in another direction. We also weren't able to meet with some people or visit all the places we wanted to because the security risk was too high.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The families and Yones, the key protagonist, are happy. That is most important thing. We also screened a draft as part of a speaking tour in May. That really upset the Indonesian government! So we know we are touching a raw nerve which is good because until today there has been no justice for the families. Instead the military and police are threatening the families. The perpetrators remain free. Worse still Jokowi, the Indonesian president, has done nothing.
Everyone else will see it on the 7th so we haven't really much feedback yet.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The key people we showed it to gave us really helpful feedback. As a result, we changed key parts of the film.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
First of all, we hope people will share the film on social media. Second, we want them to visit our website www.makewestpapuasafe.org. Unfortunately, it is not quite finished. We hope it will go live any day soon.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We are looking for people to fund the Make West Papua Safe campaign. But mostly we want people to share the film on social media and when the website goes live sign up for the campaign. We have a plan to work with more Papuan filmmakers to make more vlogs so we'd love to chat about that.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
We hope it will provoke politicians in Australia, Europe and the US in particular, to demand an independent audit into the human rights risks and effectiveness of all aid to the Indonesian police and military, especially D88 (Special Detachment 88), Brimob (the paramilitary mobile police brigade) and Kopassus (the Indonesian Special Forces), the worst human rights offenders.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film
Why are you so ignorant about West Papua?
Would you like to add anything else?
Yes, I really want to acknowledge Harun and West Papua Update for helping make the film. Most of all, my colleagues and I hope the film honours the families of the dead boys and Papuans struggle for justice.
We need to talk about West Papua. It is a secret story – a hidden story – that some people are trying to bury. Let's talk about West Papua because it is a test of what kind of people we want to be.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
The hope is to work with other Papuan film-makers and have regular vlogs.
Watch video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cTdvYkusAuA