Fri, Dec 22, 2006 - Page 16 News List

The day the wave struck reverberates in celluloid

As the second anniversary of the tsunami that struck parts of Asia killing tens of thousands approaches, HBO has a miniseries dramatizing those events

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

Is Tsunami, the Aftermath an exploitative, insensitive production or a timely reminder of a tragedy that is being quickly forgotten?


It's easy to find fault with the new HBO film, Tsunami, the Aftermath. Some critics have argued that it's too soon to exploit a disaster that killed 230,000 people for the purposes of entertainment. Others say the two-part series broaches certain sensitive topics, such as the cremation of victims without identification or the exploitation of a third-world country by the tourism industry, in a heavy-handed fashion that raises important questions without offering any answers. And, more important, the central characters are all British, which, as one reviewer wrote, would be akin to doing a Hurricane Katrina movie about a vacationing London couple.

All of this is true, but the fact remains that, two years after it happened (the film's world premiere coincides with the second anniversary of the disaster), the media seems to have nearly forgotten about one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. And those who weren't following the news closely at the time were probably not too clear on what happened to begin with.

Watching this series, which was

lavishly produced on location in Thailand in a collaboration between HBO and the BBC, will bring it home. The scenes of devastation — shattered bungalows, corpses floating in the water and hanging from trees — are frighteningly realistic. And the compression of thousands of tragedies into a few compact, fictional, narrative arcs gives the subject life in a way that no newspaper account ever could.

And the acting is, for the most part, first rate. Of special interest are two characters whose parallel quests drive the first episode, an advance copy of which was shown to the Taipei Times.

Film Notes:

Tsunami, the AftermathDirected by: Bharat NalluriStarring: Tim Roth (Nick Fraser), Chiwetel Ejiofor (Ian Carter), Sophie Okonedo (Susie Carter), Toni Collette (Kathy Graham), Hugh Bonneville (Tony Whittaker), Gina McKee (Kim Peabody).Taiwan release: The two-part Tsunami, the Aftermath shows in its entirety on Dec. 26 at 9pm on HBO. It repeats Dec. 30 at noon. Each episode lasts approximately 90 minutes.

Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a tourist who is separated from his wife and daughter when the tsunami destroys their resort. His subsequent journey to a refugee camp and efforts to find his family contains scenes that are reminiscent of the classic John Ford film, The Searchers.

Along the way he meets a reporter played by Tim Roth, whose character seems to have been cut straight from a Graham Greene novel but whose path to redemption makes him the story's unlikely moral center.

The Taipei Times interviewed Bharat Nalluri, who previously directed UK television dramas Spooks (aka MI5) and Hustle, last week in a conference call with other Asian reporters. Here is what he had to say about his new movie.

Q: How is this experience different for you as a filmmaker and what attracted you to do the project?

A: If you look at my recent past effort, it's been much more genre-driven, it's been much more fantastical. MI5 and Hustle are kind of unreal worlds and it's great fun to do as a filmmaker because you can actually imagine your own world and create your own world and there are no rules.

What's interesting about this piece [Tsunami, the Aftermath] is that it was based on facts and reality and that it's very truthful and honest; it was a piece which would allow me to explore how human beings inter-existed in the real world, something I haven't been given a chance to do before and that's what attracted to me at the end. At the end, every director wants to explore the human condition and that's what this film allowed me to do.

Q: What do you hope the audience will take away from this miniseries?

A: As a director and someone who did not actually go through the actual event, all I can hope for is that at the end of this is that questions are asked, issues are raised. … I'm hoping people and governments learn lessons. I'm hoping our responses to a disaster like this are different next time. … The wonder of a drama as supposed to documentary is that drama humanizes statistics and I think the news cycle has moved on so fast since two years ago that people are sadly already forgetting about the tsunami.

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