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Strange Birds in Paradise: A West Papuan Story (2009)

Music can rise above tyranny.


1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »


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Strange Birds in Paradise is a journey into just some of the more than 250 West Papuan cultures. Intercut with Hill-Smith's travelogue and short animations, the interviews paint a picture not only of a country with a rich musical tradition and breathtaking nature, but also of a country weighed down by Indonesian military oppression. A large number of retired army generals have substantial economic interests in West Papua, and the army uses extreme violence to keep the lid on the West Papuan population's independence movement. In 2006, Hill-Smith decided to return to West Papua, this time equipped with a professional camera and all the knowledge he had gained about the country's history. Written by International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam

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23 November 2009 (Netherlands)  »

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User Reviews

Call someplace Paradise...
1 July 2011 | by See all my reviews

In this entertaining documentary Charlie Hill-Smith takes us on a journey of discovery in West Papua. Hill-Smith is an informative and engaging guide. His familiarity with Indonesia, built up through many visits, and his close ties with a family there, mean he can communicate well in West Papua, where years of Indonesian rule have made their language more widely used than the multitude of original Papuan tongues.

Hill-Smith focuses on the power of music to unify and strengthen West Papuans, both within the country and those in exile, particularly a small community in Melbourne, Australia.

Effectively incorporating sections of animation, this award-winning film casts a discerning eye on the realities of Indonesian occupation and the ongoing efforts for freedom in West Papua.

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