Atambua is a very hot, dusty town in the Indonesian part of Timor. A boy from a family torn by East Timor's bloody independence is in conflict with his drinking father, misses his mother and falls for a girl with a past. Real people and real heat.
Rootlessness gnaws at the souls of East Timorese refugees in the dusty border town of Atambua. Bus driver Ronaldo escaped when violence broke out over independence after the referendum in 1999. He left his wife and two daughters behind but took his son João with him. Embittered, he swears he will only return when his birthplace is Indonesian again.
João is now a teenager who avoids his father, hangs out with friends and seeks solace in cassette recordings of his mother's voice. Apart from Ronaldo being sacked for drinking, not much happens in their lives, that have ground to a halt, until João takes a fancy to Nikia, a girl he hasn’t seen for a long time and who holds a painful secret.
Against the background of impressions of everyday life and religious customs on this largely Catholic island, we see how this encounter kick-starts the lives of the three again. A low-budget film with local actors by a director who also has commercial hits to his name.
Programmer Note by Gertjan Zuilhof:
Riri Riza is a filmmaker with a great feeling for responsibility. Responsibility for work and family, most likely, but also for broader issues such as the film climate in his country, the level of art and culture, the openness of politics and maybe even more. He has this in common with that other great Indonesian filmmaker, Garin Nugroho, but in general, filmmakers take just as little responsibility for the cultural politics of their country as ordinary mortals such as you and I.
Riri also thinks that a filmmaker should be a good and substantive filmmaker. Which means you have to make good films. That is also a contribution to culture. Now it just so happens that Riri has discovered how to appeal to a mass audience with grand, warm, sentimental and lightheartedly-told films such as Laskar Pelangi (2008), but he also sees it as his task to make smaller and more substantive films. Ten years ago, he made his debut in this way with Eliana, Eliana and that is still his model, also for this Timor film. (East) Timor was the large political powder keg of Indonesia: the Basque country, the Northern Ireland, the Cyprus, the Gaza etc. of Indonesia. After the explosion, he shows the traumas. Because somebody has to. Somebody has to take responsibility.