A classic example of the brutality and inhumanity of a dictatorial system, Punitive Damage takes one woman’s story to make a statement about a political system that has negatively affected too many lives.
On 13 November 1991, Helen Todd received a phone call every parent dreads. Her 20-year-old son, Kamal, had been injured, shot on a small island the world knew little about – East Timor. The nightmare of the next few days intensified, until finally she was informed of his death, then blocked from travel to the island by the Indonesian authorities.
In her grief, Helen Todd became determined to avenge her son’s death. She eventually found a way to fight the Indonesian Government and those responsible in a landmark international court case. As Kamal’s story unfolds, Punitive Damage is not only a mother’s tale of sorrow, but also a testimony to the brutal reality of Indonesia’s military occupation of East Timor.
271 people were killed in the attack on the cemetery, yet Todd was the only one who could take on the case without further endangering the lives of her family– because she was a New Zealander.
Moving and gripping, the filmmakers take great pains to make Kamal a real person who the audience cares deeply about. This is a film that is not just relevant to New Zealanders, but to any member of the human race.