strange birds in paradise

An expedition of imagination and discovery to the hidden Indonesian province of West Papua that exposes its sad history and desperate hopes but culminates in a joyful and defiant musical celebration.

programme information


1 x 60'

Production Company

The House of Red Monkey Pty Ltd





Episode Information

While the Indonesian army continues to dominate the indigenous inhabitants of West Papua, three friends gather in Melbourne to record outlawed folk songs. Charlie Hill-Smith, an Australian writer, is their friend. Afloat in an extraordinary musical tradition from the West Papuan highlands, hearing stories of escape, oppression and exile, listening to the defiant songs of murdered musician and independence hero Arnold Ap, Charlie confronts a basic question: how could these two vibrant cultures be at war and how can the rest of the world seemingly not care? This film is his search for an answer. In the end, Charlie is inspired to blend his own journey of discovery with scenes of the studio recording to create an extended musical meditation. It’s an extraordinary story of an imaginative, adaptable culture confronting tyranny with the joyful power of art, music and self-expression.

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