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person or book cover
Screen cap from promotional trailer
form y separately published work icon Paradise Road single work   film/TV  
Adaptation of White Coolies Betty Jeffrey , 1954 single work autobiography
Issue Details: First known date: 1997... 1997 Paradise Road
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

Paradise Road is based on the true stories of hundreds of English, Australian, and American women imprisoned in Sumatra by the Japanese as the latter swept through South-east Asia in 1942.

The narrative begins with Japanese fighter planes sinking the ship on which the women are attempting to flee Singapore. The captured prisoners face extreme cruelty and hardship, and are forced to seek any means for survival. Two of the women, Adrienne Partier and Margaret Drummond, conceive the idea of forming a choir. Both are both trained musicians, and Margaret has memorised many scores. She writes them down in children's notebooks, and dozens of women, in constant danger of extreme punishment or even execution, conspire to practice surreptitiously. When the choir performs its first number, 'Largo' from Dvorak's New World Symphony, the voices transform the dense tropical air with sweet, haunting strains and the guards, who have come to break up the illegal gathering, sit and listen with awe.

Notes

  • Some confusion over the writing/research credits exists, due to conflicting reports published by the film's producers and co-screenwriter Martin Meader. The film's media information kit records, for example, that Beresford and producer Sue Milliken researched the story over more than two years, interviewing survivors, reading books, and consulting unpublished diaries. One of their key sources was Betty Jeffrey's White Coolies (1954). It was reprinted in 1997 under the title White Coolies: An Account of the True Story which Inspired the Film Paradise Road. Jeffrey also acted as an advisor to Beresford on the film.

    Writing on his website, however, Martin Meader indicates that 'the story was researched and written by [myself] and David Giles. [We] raised AUD$8.2 million in equity finance, part of the $25.6 million feature film's budget which was produced by Fox Searchlight and Village Roadshow.' According to Meader, he first became interested in the story when, in 1990, he read a review of a Perth choral concert commemorating the experience of women in a World War II Japanese prisoner-of-war camp who secretly formed a choir to save their sanity (martinmeader.com).

    A number of library records, including Libraries Australia and the Online Computer Library Centre (OCLC), cite the following quotation (presumably from the media information kit): 'Based on the story by David Giles and Martin Meader.'

  • Further Reference:

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

    • New York (City), New York (State),
      c
      United States of America (USA),
      c
      Americas,
      :
      St. Martin's Press ,
      1997 .
      Alternative title: Paradise Road : The Screenplay of the Film
      Extent: 101p.
      Description: illus.
      Note/s:
      • 'A Buzz book'. (Libraries Australia record).
      ISBN: 0312172001
    • South Yarra, South Yarra - Glen Iris area, Melbourne - Inner South, Melbourne, Victoria,: Village Roadshow , 1997 .
      person or book cover
      Screen cap from promotional trailer
      Extent: 122 min.p.
      Description: Colour, with black-and-white sequences

Works about this Work

'Now You Blokes Own the Place' : Representations of Japanese Culture in Recent Australian Cinema Rebecca Coyle , 2009 single work criticism
— Appears in: Diasporas of Australian Cinema 2009; (p. 103-114)

'A minor character in the Australian film Japanese Story (Sue Brooks 2003) ruminates on the ambivalence of many Australians towards Japanese people:

In the war we thought you blokes were coming after us - we had stuff stashed away up in the hills, evacuation plans, people tying knives to the end of broomsticks - ridiculous really... Now you blokes own the place. There was a time there when nobody would buy anything made in Japan. Wife, she'd go into the shop and turn the thing over and if it said made in Japan she put it back on the shelf - she wouldn't buy it. Still don't, I guess. Only country to have a trading surplus with you lot. Funny life, isn't it? (DVD transcript)

'These observations signal various perceptions of Australia -Japan relations for Anglo-Celtic Australians, and the monologue suggests how these can be articulated in Australian cinema. This chapter offers an overview of historical and contemporary relations between Australia and Japan as a framework for analyzing the diasporic cultures represented in two early millennial Australian films, Japanese Story and Bondi Tsunami (Rachael Lucas 2004). These depict Japanese visitors to Australia, however the approach (as well as the style) is significantly different in the two films, one concentrating on middle-class Euro-Australian cultural contact and the other on youthful transnational surf culture. In contrast to each other, the films raise issues about the practices deployed to represent Australian perspectives on Japanese culture.' (Introduction)

Problems in Paradise : Gender, Race and Historical 'Truth' in Paradise Road Christina Twomey , 2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies , January vol. 10 no. 1 2006; (p. 30-52)

'This article analyses the controversy that greeted the release of Paradise Road, Bruce Beresford's 1997 film about civilian women interned by the Japanese in World War Two. It centres on three issues that dominated critical reception of the film: its handling of the issues of sexual threat and physical violence to woman in captivity: the representation of Japanese camp guards; and debate about the film's claims to accuracy. These issues are intrinsically linked to broader understandings about gender, race and historical truth.

The article examines how race overtook gender in political debate as the fulcrum of the film's cultural comment on war. It suggests that this trend was particularly acute in Australia, where a discussion of race ultimately elided the film's gendered aspects and merged into a consideration of the film's historical truthfulness. This process reveals the strength of perceptions among movie-goers and many reviewers that cinematic history can reveal the truth about the past, and the need for historians to engage more fully in public debate about film and history.' (Christina Twomey).

War in the Tropics Greg Jericho , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Etropic : Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics , vol. 4 no. 2005;
'In the Home Box Office mini-series Band of Brothers (2001), one of the soldiers on a troop ship bound for England remarks: "Right now some lucky bastard's headed for the Pacific, get put on some tropical island, surrounded by six naked native girls, helping him cut up coconuts so he can hand feed them to flamingos". This paradisiacal view of the Pacific and tropical areas has existed for centuries, and despite European settlers' developing familiarity with the area, it is a misconception which has continued to be propagated in war films set in the tropics. These war films depict the tropics as antipodean utopias which become corrupted by the ravages of war. Thus, while many of these films attempt to display war realistically, they still hold to the historical view of the tropics as unspoiled and pure—until, of course, war intrudes onto the scene. These films rarely examine the effect of the war on the local inhabitants, but rather deal with soldiers coping with the disjunction between their preconceived notions of the area and the reality before them. Crucially as well, war is depicted as a greater crime against nature (both human and environmental) when fought in the tropics rather than in Europe. This view is promulgated in the representation of battles fought in these films. In films set in the Pacific theatre during World War Two, and more recent ones set during the Vietnam War, the battle for American and Australian soldiers is as much about coping with their surroundings as with fighting the enemy, who are often rarely seen, or only viewed in long shot. War films set in the tropics depict 'war as hell' because of the environment, which is by turns remote, mystifying, and generally rural, rather than urban, 'civilised' and familiar, as it is in the case of the majority of war films set in Europe.' (Publication abstract)
Strange Affinities: Representation and Affect in Australian POW Drama Peter Williams , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 65 no. 2 2005; (p. 71-85)
Strange Affinities: Representation and Affect in Australian POW Drama Peter Williams , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Southerly , vol. 65 no. 2 2005; (p. 71-85)
Problems in Paradise : Gender, Race and Historical 'Truth' in Paradise Road Christina Twomey , 2006 single work criticism
— Appears in: Journal of Interdisciplinary Gender Studies , January vol. 10 no. 1 2006; (p. 30-52)

'This article analyses the controversy that greeted the release of Paradise Road, Bruce Beresford's 1997 film about civilian women interned by the Japanese in World War Two. It centres on three issues that dominated critical reception of the film: its handling of the issues of sexual threat and physical violence to woman in captivity: the representation of Japanese camp guards; and debate about the film's claims to accuracy. These issues are intrinsically linked to broader understandings about gender, race and historical truth.

The article examines how race overtook gender in political debate as the fulcrum of the film's cultural comment on war. It suggests that this trend was particularly acute in Australia, where a discussion of race ultimately elided the film's gendered aspects and merged into a consideration of the film's historical truthfulness. This process reveals the strength of perceptions among movie-goers and many reviewers that cinematic history can reveal the truth about the past, and the need for historians to engage more fully in public debate about film and history.' (Christina Twomey).

'Now You Blokes Own the Place' : Representations of Japanese Culture in Recent Australian Cinema Rebecca Coyle , 2009 single work criticism
— Appears in: Diasporas of Australian Cinema 2009; (p. 103-114)

'A minor character in the Australian film Japanese Story (Sue Brooks 2003) ruminates on the ambivalence of many Australians towards Japanese people:

In the war we thought you blokes were coming after us - we had stuff stashed away up in the hills, evacuation plans, people tying knives to the end of broomsticks - ridiculous really... Now you blokes own the place. There was a time there when nobody would buy anything made in Japan. Wife, she'd go into the shop and turn the thing over and if it said made in Japan she put it back on the shelf - she wouldn't buy it. Still don't, I guess. Only country to have a trading surplus with you lot. Funny life, isn't it? (DVD transcript)

'These observations signal various perceptions of Australia -Japan relations for Anglo-Celtic Australians, and the monologue suggests how these can be articulated in Australian cinema. This chapter offers an overview of historical and contemporary relations between Australia and Japan as a framework for analyzing the diasporic cultures represented in two early millennial Australian films, Japanese Story and Bondi Tsunami (Rachael Lucas 2004). These depict Japanese visitors to Australia, however the approach (as well as the style) is significantly different in the two films, one concentrating on middle-class Euro-Australian cultural contact and the other on youthful transnational surf culture. In contrast to each other, the films raise issues about the practices deployed to represent Australian perspectives on Japanese culture.' (Introduction)

War in the Tropics Greg Jericho , 2005 single work criticism
— Appears in: Etropic : Electronic Journal of Studies in the Tropics , vol. 4 no. 2005;
'In the Home Box Office mini-series Band of Brothers (2001), one of the soldiers on a troop ship bound for England remarks: "Right now some lucky bastard's headed for the Pacific, get put on some tropical island, surrounded by six naked native girls, helping him cut up coconuts so he can hand feed them to flamingos". This paradisiacal view of the Pacific and tropical areas has existed for centuries, and despite European settlers' developing familiarity with the area, it is a misconception which has continued to be propagated in war films set in the tropics. These war films depict the tropics as antipodean utopias which become corrupted by the ravages of war. Thus, while many of these films attempt to display war realistically, they still hold to the historical view of the tropics as unspoiled and pure—until, of course, war intrudes onto the scene. These films rarely examine the effect of the war on the local inhabitants, but rather deal with soldiers coping with the disjunction between their preconceived notions of the area and the reality before them. Crucially as well, war is depicted as a greater crime against nature (both human and environmental) when fought in the tropics rather than in Europe. This view is promulgated in the representation of battles fought in these films. In films set in the Pacific theatre during World War Two, and more recent ones set during the Vietnam War, the battle for American and Australian soldiers is as much about coping with their surroundings as with fighting the enemy, who are often rarely seen, or only viewed in long shot. War films set in the tropics depict 'war as hell' because of the environment, which is by turns remote, mystifying, and generally rural, rather than urban, 'civilised' and familiar, as it is in the case of the majority of war films set in Europe.' (Publication abstract)
Last amended 7 Sep 2012 13:29:23
Settings:
  • Sumatera,
    c
    Indonesia,
    c
    Southeast Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
  • 1940s
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