A Turner Network Production made specifically for cable television release, this mini-series opens in 1975 Cambodia, at the outset of that nation's hideous reign of terror beneath Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge, its scenario merely a bald excuse for preaching a gospel for resettlement of Southeast Asian refugees into an astutely disinclined Australia. Action begins as a missile attack in Phnom Penh places several freshly orphaned children in voluntary custody of Red Cross nurse Karen Parsons (Cybill Shepherd) who doggedly leads the youngsters through Cambodia's killing fields to a refugee encampment located in Thailand, while enduring intermittent harrowing experiences sandwiched between large segments of tedium for viewers. A stagey albeit sincere effort is made to depict the reality of historic disagreement among Cambodians, Vietnamese, and Thai peoples, and it eventually becomes plain to Karen that her entourage of waifs can receive proper care only in Australia, and the little group must therefore leave its temporary sanctuary at the camp. A means of travel must be found to Down Under, and is located by the script in the disreputable person of a sottish smuggler of antiquities, Steve Hannah (John Waters), currently occupied with sneaking Thai art objects into the northern Australian port of Darwin, who is predictably persuaded, since it is the right thing to do, to expand his illicit cargo by taking aboard an attractive American nurse and her refugee charges, with expected romantic and other adventures to follow, including an attack by South China Sea pirates and a punishing gale. This is basically a tract in the service of fostering an unsustainable doctrine, the screenplay attempting to work its wiles in an exhaustingly patent manner, with its narrative occasionally pausing to permit this obvious essay at mind control to eschew storyline logic and continuity in favour of banal sermonizing. A monotonous score repeats its sugary theme to what will be, for many viewers, a point of near emesis. Filmed in Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand, and in a highly effective fashion, the work's dramatic values produce far less pleasure than its camera-work because, when the dreary affair is finally completed, a viewer will simply not be willing to accept responsibility for the unfortunate lot of refugees. As Karen Parsons states in one late sequence, "I was so self-righteous; I didn't think I could be wrong". This, of course, is a lesson normally learned in the real, non-cinematic, world.
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