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New Indonesian Movie Examines Bali Bombing

The first feature film to dramatize the 2002 terrorist bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali has been released in Indonesia - and a number of Australians are unhappy about it. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins watched the film, and sent this report from Jakarta.

The Long Road to Heaven, produced by acclaimed Indonesian filmmaker Nia Dinata, explores the October 2002 Bali bombings from the point of view of both victims and the bombers.

Two-hundred two people, the majority of them foreign tourists, were killed in the attack by the Southeast Asian terrorist group, Jemaah Islamiyah. It was one of the highest death tolls in a terrorist incident since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Among the dead in Bali were 88 Australian tourists. News of the movie's release has prompted a number of articles in Australian newspaper saying it is wrong to show such a movie, that the wounds are still too raw, that the title seems to justify the killings.

Nia Dinata, the producer, is no stranger to controversy. Her last film dealt with the sensitive subject of polygamy in Indonesia. She says this new movie explores how terrorism affects people.

"It's really essential to us to portray not only the terrorism, but how it affects people," she said. "And…I think it's really effective if we put different characters from different backgrounds, religions, and nationalities to really be in the movie and have something to say about the tragedy."

Nia does just that. The film tells the story through the eyes of a young American woman, who had gone to Bali to recover from the death of her boyfriend in the U.S. attacks; a Balinese Muslim who helps the victims; an Australian journalist, the Balinese people, and the bombers themselves.

Much time is spent examining the mindset and motives of the terrorists, and exploring the relationship among them as they argue over tactics and leadership.

Nia says she hopes the film will show Indonesians how important tolerance is.

"The most important thing is about tolerance, because we live in an era where paranoia is becoming - it's becoming very important in our culture … Sometimes, paranoia brings people to prejudice and ignorance," she added. "But if we have positive attitude - and I hope this movie will bring a positive attitude - so the tolerance and awareness of this issue can be balanced."

Indonesia has suffered a series of terrorist bombings attributed to Jemaah Islamiyah, or JI, over the last several years, including a second bombing on Bali in October 2005 that killed another 23 people.

Since the first bombing, the government has arrested and prosecuted more than 300 militants. Three of the original Bali bombers have been sentenced to death.

But JI remains a shadowy, elusive group that has changed and splintered since the government began cracking down, and security experts say the group remains a danger to Indonesia and its neighbors.