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Directed by Alister Grierson
Palace Films

Kokoda, filmed in Mt Tamborine with a cast of relatively unknown actors, attempts to capture the essence of the collective will which turned back the Japanese invasion of Papua New Guinea during World War 2. The film follows a small patrol of inexperienced Australian soldiers cut off from their supply lines; Jack, his brother Max, Darko, Burke, Johnno, Bluey and Dan.

After enduring three days of hell without food, sleep or apparent hope, the group pick themselves up from their makeshift hospital to rejoin the 39th Battalion’s pivotal battle for Isurava, a village on the Kokoda Track. Based on a true story, Kokoda, tells this sacred story in Australia’s history by focussing on the struggle to conquer fear in an impossible situation where individual willpower is clearly not enough (it is no accident that some AFL teams now use a Kokoda pilgrimage to build pre-season team-spirit).

The film also pays tribute to the Papua New Guinean servicemen who carried the wounded through the jungle. In his famous Anzac Day speech in Port Moresby in 1992, Prime Minister Keating referred to how this heroism cemented a bond between Australia and Papua New Guinea: “The support they gave to Australian soldiers, the terrible conditions and dangers they endured with the soldiers, the illness, injury and death many of them suffered, constitutes one of the great humane gestures of the War…It is the best possible reminder that these battles were fought, not for the glory of war, but for humanity.”  (http://www.keating.org.au)

Kokoda is a remarkable achievement, capturing the emotional intensity of such films as Platoon and Saving Private Ryan, without the scale of these significant North American productions. While the film may, at times, feel like a drama school ensemble piece, the closing speeches by veteran actors William McInnes (who plays the Colonel) and Shane Bourne (who plays the doctor) dispel any whisper of amateurism: as did the battle itself. Kokoda is an important Australian film to experience in the cinema if possible.

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