Volatile reporting in ‘The Year of Living Dangerously’

May 1, 2015

Indonesia in 1965 was definitely not a good place to be for a news correspondent, as the country became more and more volatile with widespread poverty and unrest leading to the failed coup by the PKI – Indonesian Communist Party – against the Sukarno government.

This is the backdrop for “The Year of Living Dangerously” – the North West Theatre Company Film Club’s April selection in their year-long program of significant films. It screens at the Roxy Theatre this Sunday at 4pm.

The film was pivotal in the career of two Australians – Director Peter Weir, and actor – and later Director – Mel Gibson.

Filmed in 1982, the movie was adapted for the screen from a novel by Christopher Koch, and the task of creating the screenplay for the film was shared by Koch,who did the early draft, and playwright David Williamson, who Weir called in to fine-tune the script.

“The Year of Living Dangerously” tells the story of Guy Hamilton (Gibson), his struggle with reporting the volatile political situation occurring at the time in Indonesia, and his developing relationship with British Embassy officer Jill Bryant, played by Sigourney Weaver.

The Press corps based in Jakarta are an interesting lot, headed up by a delightful cameo from Noel Ferrier.

However, despite the strong international cast, the film is “stolen” by Linda Hunt as Billy Kwan – a highly intelligent and well connected Chinese-Australian dwarf who takes Hamilton under his wing and helps him make the connections necessary to break the “big” story.

Hunt won the 1983 Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Billy Kwan – the first time in Oscars history that the an award had been given to an actor playing a member of the opposite sex!

The other interesting aspect of the making of “The Year of Living Dangerously” was the fact that permission to film in Jakarta was denied by the Indonesian government – hardly surprisingly – so the film was shot in the Philippines.

The film was also banned in Indonesia until 1999. “The Year of Living Dangerously” is rated M for mature audiences, and runs for 117 minutes.

Membership for the Film Club continues to be welcomed and encouraged. There are currently 31 full-time members, which is already approaching last years total. With the first two months gone, membership now costs $48 for the remainder of the year, and for this you get nine more films – “The Year of Living Dangerously” (Sunday), “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (May), “Blade Runner” (June), It Happened One Night” (July), “Chariots of Fire” (August), “Monsieur Lazhar” (September), “Topkapi” (October), “The Artist (November), and the President’s Pick (December Christmas Party).

The club screens on the last Sunday of each month. Membership can be arranged at the Bingara Information Centre, or just prior to each film.

See you at the movies!