The creation of a local film industry is not often the primary concern of an emerging nation or government. This week aims to examine the contentious issues of conflicting histories, privileged narratives, and competing industrial concerns as groups fight for recognition.
What role can fictional film play in the impulse towards the creation of a nation? The country of Timor-Leste (East Timor) is one of the world’s newest countries, only officially recognized by the United Nations in 2002. Beatriz’s War (2013), the first film made in Timor-Leste entirely in the local language (Tetum) and intended for local audiences adapts the French Martin Guerre narrative, in which the focus is on a female fighter whose husband vanishes for sixteen years. In interviews, the Australian co-director Luigi Aquisto and Timorese co-producer Lurdes Pires stressed the importance of citizens of this war-torn country using the shared experience of watching the film to be both cathartic for those Timorese who lived through the trauma and torture of Indonesian occupation as well as instructive for younger Timorese who do not have firsthand experience of the occupation.
Though Beatriz’s War was made for Timorese audiences, most Timorese are infrequent cinemagoers. There is only one cinema complex in the country and is most frequented by foreign aid workers. Outside of the capital, Dili, consistent electricity is a rarity. In order to ensure that the film received a wide distribution within the country, the government sponsored a roving screening, in which the local filmmakers would travel with a generator, a blow-up screen, and a Blu-ray disc to villages. Following the screenings, the filmmakers ran workshops to discuss unresolved issues with the audience. Through this unique process of distribution, the filmmakers developed an understanding of how the film worked in service of collective memory. Pires commented, “I found out during and after the making of A Guerra da Beatriz that by telling their stories, it was healing; people felt that they could now get on with living, that they had told their story.” 
 Lurdes Pires, email message to author, November 23, 2014. Edited for grammar and style.