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Guilty: The Last 72 Hours of Sukumaran’s Life

“Well, i haven’t finish processing yet, it was very intense, which was meant to be. It is obviously what it is, it’s a film about death penalty, as much as it is about individual story.” – Audience Member

 

As befits a film whose director and subject are both painters, the most striking images in Guilty are of paint and ink marking surfaces. The first and most frequently recurring marks in the film are the brushstrokes on canvas of Myuran Sukumaran, the condemned ‘Bali 9’ drug smuggler whose final 72 hours are dramatized in Sleeth’s debut documentary, which showed to a sold-out audience at the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival on Friday night. In a Q&A session that preceded the screening, Sukumaran’s lawyer, Julian McMahon AC, described how in prison the callow and selfish criminal transformed into a model prisoner—an accomplished artist and a founder of educational programmes for his fellow inmates. Sleeth’s film shows Sukumaran (played in dramatic recreations by actor Adam McConvell) spending his final 72 hours painting self-portraits, an intense period of reckoning with his life and his identity as his execution nears.

The other defining mark in Sleeth’s visually striking film is the X target drawn over the heart of Sukumaran just before his execution. Despite all his effort to create a new life, the rehabilitated prisoner and artist cannot escape the death sentence handed down ten years earlier. The only victory that Sukumaran can manage is the ‘escape’ of his paintings from death row—works which survive him and the seven other men executed with him and which, by testifying to lives cut short by executioners’ bullets, very powerfully tells a story that matters. 

 

Jim McCormack is a Melbourne-based academic and writer

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