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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Punitive Damage
Directed by Annie Goldson
First Run/Icarus 10/99 DVD/VHS Documentary
Not Rated

"Justice is not an ideal state or theory but a matter of personal sensibility, a set of emotions that engage us with the world and make us care," Robert C. Solomon has written. This riveting documentary produced and directed by Annie Goldson puts a human face on the fight for justice and the kind of passion that speaks out against human rights violations in faraway places.

In 1991, 20-year-old Kamal Bamadhaj left his home in New Zealand to stand in solidarity with the indigenous peoples of East Timor, an island occupied by the Indonesian military. During a peaceful demonstration, he was shot to death by a general in the occupying forces. Two hundred seventy unarmed East Timorese were killed on that day as well.

Kamal's courageous mother, Helen Todd, with the help of a New York law firm, the Center for Constitutional Rights, initiated a ground-breaking legal action against the Indonesian general responsible for the murder of her son. This documentary features excerpts from Kamal's diary and letters, eyewitness accounts of Timorese exiles, footage of the massacre by British cameraman Max Stahl, and commentary by foreign journalists on the East Timor independence movement. This soul-stirring documentary gives wings to Kamal's belief that "a just cause is never a lost cause." The court case has paved the way for other justice seeking individuals to bring human rights violators to trial.


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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