Today marks the eighth anniversary of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed over 220,000 in 14 countries.
The disaster is the focal point of The Impossible, a movie starring Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor. They play a British couple who, with their three young sons, are vacationing on the beach in Thailand when the tsunami hits. The film is based on the true story of Maria and Henry Belon, from Spain, and reviews from many who have seen The Impossible say that it portrays the tragedy in a realistic way. Though they were separated and injured, the Belons survived, due in large part to the compassion and kindness of the locals who helped them.
My first thought when I saw the movie trailer was, why must we tell non-western stories through the eyes of westerners? Surely there were stories about Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Indians, Thais, and others in Southeast Asia worth telling.
I was glad to hear Maria Belon address this during an appearance on The View. According to her, the movie is about the people of Southeast Asia. She said that her family’s story is not more important than theirs, but it serves as a way to show what was happening to the tens of thousands of people around them:
It needed to be told just as an excuse to tell everybody else’s stories. That’s the only reason why we wanted our story to be told is because nothing happened to us. . . . I will tell that thousands of times. Nothing happened to us, but from so many people were so painful, so difficult, that that was the only reason why we wanted to tell this story, just an excuse to tell everybody else’s stories. . . . Only for them. Only for them.
When she was asked about “survivor’s guilt,” she gave this interesting response:
I hate this concept, I hate this word. . . . Really, I will struggle to change this concept. It’s not guilt what you feel. Somebody else tells you you’re feeling guilty, and some people will say . . . OK, thank you, I’m feeling that. No, it’s not that what you’re feeling. You’re feeling pain. Pain. It’s a very strong pain that will remain for you forever, forever. I mean you can’t do anything about that.
So with PTSD and all the pain, how did Maria “move on”? She answered,
Moving on. I mean, moving on. I mean . . . no choice. . . . You have pain, OK, go on, Maria, with your pain. Tell the story. Help Naomi. Help the director. I mean, how do you cope when your knee’s in pain? You go on with pain, that’s all.
(The View, ABC, December 21, 2012)
[photo: “Woman searches through debris . . . Banda Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia,” by Chuck Simmins, used under a Creative Commons license]