Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Ouvéa massacre – film Rebellion sheds new light


FLASHBACK TO 1988: Excerpt from  David Robie’s 1989 book Blood on their Banner about the cave massacre of 19 Kanak militants by French troops at dawn on 5 May 1988 on Ouvéa in the Loyalty Islands:

Leaders of the [pro-independence] FLNKS immediately challenged the official version of the attack. Léopold Jorédie issued a statement in which he questioned how the “Ouvéa massacre left 19 dead among the nationalists and no one injured” and the absence of bullet marks on the trees and empty cartridges on the ground at the site”. [Yéiwene] Yéiwene insisted that at no time did the kidnappers intend to kill the hostages – “this whole massacre was engineered by [then Overseas Territories Minister Bernard] Pons who knew very well there was never any question of killing the hostages”.  [Nidoish] Naisseline also condemned the action: “Pons and Chirac have behaved like assassins.” - Blood on their Banner, p. 277.

REBELLION [L’ordre et la morale] 2012:
In his most visceral and impassioned outing since 1995’s La Haine, Mathieu Kassovitz dramatises the extraordinary French military response to a New Caledonia hostage-taking in 1988. Starring as Philippe Legorjus, a captain in an elite counter-terrorist division hastily despatched to the Pacific territory, Kassovitz leads a uniformly excellent cast. Upon arrival, he discovers that the French army has been deployed too. Legorjus’ efforts to achieve a resolution through negotiation with the indigenous Kanak independence group clash with the blunter approach of the army and a different agenda from above.
 

His attempts to earn the trust of the hostage takers’ leader [Alphonse  Dianou], depicted in scenes of searing intensity, are constantly imperilled by a political battle playing out in Paris. Prime Minister Jacques Chirac is challenging François Mitterrand  for the presidency, and the distant conflict has become a central issue. Chirac is determined that the rebellion be quelled – by whatever means. And time is running out.
 

Based on the Legorjus memoir, Rebellion  has all the seat-edge of a thriller, buttressed by a real political heft. It delivers a gripping illustration of the bloody, expedient and far-reaching potential impact of colonial powers’ internal political squabbles. – NZ International Film Festival, July 2012

Rebellion is perhaps to the Kanak struggle what Balibo (portraying the killing of the Balibo Five journalists and Roger East) is to East Timor in popularising Pacific pro-independence campaigns on a global stage.  Screening at the NZ International Film Festival at the Civic, Auckland, on Monday, July 23, at 8.45pm.

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