Saturday, April 28, 2012

THE IRON ORCHID: Aung San Suu Kyii film, "The Lady"

I have just seen this wonderful and touching film, the story of the leader of Burma's Pro-Democracy Movement for over some three and a half decades. The film was panned by the critics, but it is the critics who should be panned and banned from daring to so downgrade this wonderful human story and a film about such an important leader and her people.This film depicts not only the family's struggle that this heroine had and still has to endure, but also the people's struggle for freedom and human rights in that poor but beautiful Buddhist country in the middle of Asia.

I feel that the film was instigated by her British-born  children for their late father, Professor Michael Aris to give the world his and their side of the story and their father's devotion to this unbelievably brave lady whom they adore and who her husband seems to have dubbed "the iron orchid". As much as I was not happy with the film of that other leader, "The Iron Lady" and the way poor Margaret Thatcher's current Altzheimer situation was highlighted in that film, I and Ernie absolutley loved the way Suu, her struggle and her family were depicted in this film.

My personal interest in Aung San Suu Kyii's plight goes back a long way. In the mid 1990s when I was ICJW Vice President for Australia and Suu was first placed under house arrest, I contacted her husband in England with the idea of getting an international women's movement to take up her cause via the UN and the Commission on the Status of Women. I got his address from the British Consul (a funny story in itself, see later) and when he replied he asked me not to proceed as he felt that too much attention would jeopardise her position even further. So obviously I did not go on with this project, but in the film it shows how much he apparently worked internationally to try to influence the Burmese junta to release her.

The Burmese Generals' cruelty and inhumanity towards her and particularly towards her supporters would be unbelievable, but for the fact that I am far too familiar with plenty of other similar despotic regimes and their inhuman and inhumane behaviour towards their fellow countrymen,- still going on today there and in plenty of other places as well! The actors, particularly 'Suu' bear an unbelievable resemblance to the real people. Many of the scenes were authentic from the era and even some more contemporary as from today,- the credits at the end testify to the courage of some of the journalists responsible for these.

The NCJW Victorian premises happened to be adjacent to a UNICEF office manned by volunteers. One of the volunteers was the wife of the British Consul who walked in one day curious to see what NCJW was all about. She came from Leeds and mentioned she had many Jewish acquaintaces there. Then one day we got a phone call  to ask how she can get in touch with our leadership as she had a request from a British wife of a Parliamentarian visitng Melbourne with her husband, to meet "the Jewish fraternity" in Melbourne. They happened to belong to a Parliamentary group, "Friends of Israel" and she wanted to make some contacts with like minded people here.

It happened to be at the time not only Good Friday, but like this year, also the eve of Passover when I got the call from our office asking me what to do about it. When I rang back to the Consul's wife to try and explain that while we are part of the "Jewish sorority, rather than fraternity', nevertheless most of the Jewish community cannot officially partake of foods that were not specifically Kosher during the week of the Passover 8-day religious holiday! Oh, she said,- no problem. Just tell me what to make,- I want you to come for lunch and my caterer will make whatever you want him to prepare.

Since that was still not OK, I suggested to her our Kosher caterer who then would bring his own crockery and cutlery and then everything would be fine for those in our community who are strictly observant. So it came to pass that about 8 NCJW senior members, together with the Consul's wife and her VIP English guest ( a member of a distinguished business family) sat down to a full Kosher catered Passover lunch in the beautiful dining room of the British Consul's home in Toorak.

After that we became firm friends while they were stationed in Melbourne. They attended many of the formal functions at NCJWV. Then one day we received an invitation to sponsor them while they were embarking on a farewell driving holiday around Victoria, by guessing the number of miles/kms. they would cover, with the first prize a whole case of Irish whisky! Guess what,- she turned up on my doorstep one morning with half a case, i.e 6 bottles of the best whisky,- I tied for first prize! She continued writing to some of us for a while from their next posting in China, saying how much they missed us all in Melbourne!

Watching the film about this warm human story,-a tragic yet uplifting saga of a family destined for sacrifice and greatness, I could not help but be very moved. I pray for Aung San Suu Kyii and her people who seem to be a very nice and gentle, warm people made up of various tribal cultures, that they may eventually succeed to achieve that which we all wish for ourselves,- to live in peace and freedom.

No comments:

Post a Comment