Starring: Irim Tolentino, Augusta Soares, José da Costa
Director: Luigi Acquisto, Bety Reis
Running Time: 101 mins
Beatriz’s War is an East Timorese film about a young woman who, 16 years after seeing her husband go off to fight the Indonesian occupiers, sees him return to her hometown. However, his actions upon returning begin to trouble her, and suspects that he may not actually be the man she married all those years ago.
You can tell that everything about this film comes from the very raw and personal experiences of East Timorese people, looking at the Indonesian invasion from a very strong and still sad perspective, I expected a lot of powerful drama here. Unfortunately, that’s not quite the case, and it misses out on the chance to be a hard-hitting drama with a frustratingly slow pace that doesn’t ever really enable it to show a true sense of loss and devastation.
But let’s start on the positive side, and one of the most interesting things about this film. Beatriz’s War is the very first film produced by the country of East Timor, and it’s fair to say that it’s a fantastic first outing for an entire country. It’s by no means Hollywood quality, but the directing and cinematography are good throughout, and it has the impression of a very professionally-made film.
What’s more is that it brings to light an interesting story that we don’t really get to see much on the big screen. As East Timor clashes with the much larger Indonesia on the topic, it’s likely that their interpretation of events doesn’t come to international attention as much, so I was really interested to look at the historical context of the film.
When it comes to the story here, I felt that things started to fall down. The historical context of the Indonesian occupation was interesting to see, but it was a little distracted by the central story that didn’t have the same intrigue or power of the historical story.
Based on a case of impersonation in 16th-century France, the film gets a little too caught up in a story that’s not quite as interesting or well-written as the East Timorese people’s fight for freedom. Particularly when it comes to the last act, the film feels completely different to its strongest moments, and although it attempts to use this story of an impostor to deepen the devastation to our main character, Beatriz, I just didn’t feel it as effective as the film’s historical story.
Finally, I have to mention the film’s pacing, which I felt was too slow even for its own hard-hitting good. Whilst a slow, quiet film can always heighten the sense of loss and devastation, especially to such a small community, I felt that things weren’t able to move along as effectively as possible, lessening the feeling of a long and continuing battle against the occupying forces.
Overall, I was interested by parts of Beatriz’s War, particularly its historical context, as well as it being East Timor’s first film ever. However, it’s not the most powerful film, and it misses a good opportunity to bring a strong sense of devastation to the forefront, and that’s why I’m giving it a 6.8.