Tragedy of war
Documentary Suatu Ketika...Kawad MautSandakan and miniseries Suatu Ketika...Akinabalu recount World War II atrocities.
WHEN people think of atrocities that took place during World War II, concentration camps usually come to mind. However, the Japanese military was equally brutal, carrying out excessive carnage during the war in South-East Asia.
Among the tragic events were the Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches which claimed the lives of 2,428 prisoners of war (POWs) between 1943 and 1945.
Sandakan in North Borneo (now Sabah) became the prison compound for Australian and British POWs after the fall of Singapore in 1942.
They were sent to Sandakan to help build a military airstrip for the Japanese. The POWs were not only forced to work at gunpoint, but were also severely beaten and not given proper food and medical treatment. Many perished and those who survived were eventually too weak to continue working.
In January 1945, when the Allies were moving closer to victory, the Japanese decided to move the large group of prisoners from Sandakan further west to Ranau. Two groups of debilitated and starving men marched 260km through the jungles.
Those who were too sick to leave Sandakan were left to die at the camp while hundreds perished during the two death marches. By the end of the war, only six Australians survived the ordeal.
The story of the tragic war and deaths is the focus of Suatu Ketika ... Akinabalu on Astro Citra. There is also a love story set against the backdrop of war.
The new miniseries pays tribute to the POWs involved in the Sandakan Death Marches.
Director Kabir Bhatia said many Malaysians seem to be in the dark about this very disturbing chapter of World War II.
“The Death Marches depict the madness of war and its cruelty, and the strength humans have in the face of adversity,” said Kabir, 41.
“There were only six survivors but they were not willing to talk in-depth about what took place. I guess the scars are deep and most accounts have been sketchy,” he said, adding that the data collected were based on historical facts as well as archive research.
“More importantly, Suatu Ketika ... Akinabalu also portrays how Sabahans helped the POWs who were treated like animals by the Japanese. They paid heavily for their bravery.”
The biggest challenge, according to Kabir, was making sure that the set and surroundings looked real. For that, Kabir roped in actors from Britain to play the key roles.
“Finding actors to play the Sabahans and the Japanese was also challenging,” he said, adding that the characters in the miniseries are fictional.
Astro Citra channel manager Shoba Devi said: “It’s important to remind the young generation of Malaysians to appreciate our history and remember the atrocities suffered by thousands of soldiers during World War II.
“Although Suatu Ketika ... Akinabalu has been fictionalised for dramatic effect, the essence of the story is still very real and compelling.”
The actors playing the lead roles are Dira Abu Zahar, Gavin Stenhouse, Aaron Aziz and Munif Isa.
Accompanying this drama is the documentary on Astro Prima, Suatu Ketika ... Kawad Maut Sandakan, that is based on the Sandakan Death Marches.
It features narration by survivors and local residents who recalled the tragedy. It is directed by Basir Siswo. n Documentary
premieres on Astro Prima (Channel 105) on Sunday (4.30pm) and
airs on Astro Citra (Channel 131) on Sunday (9pm).
Disturbing chapter: SuatuKetika...Akinabalu, which tells of the Sandakan-Ranau Death Marches, will air on Astro Citra on Sunday.