Indonesia in Olinda: recreating a brutal scene

"Can everyone just stop breathing?" says Matthew Sleeth in frustration, watching plumes of steam coming from people's mouths and fearing they will mar the shot he's trying to create.

It's April in Olinda, high in the Dandenong mountains outside Melbourne. It's night time, and it's cold. The film crew and their visitor (me) are rugged up and shivering, breathing steam in the floodlights as the dew lies thick on the ground and threatens to form frost.

Playing out in front of us is a scene from another place and another - warmer - time.

Sinister crosses lurk at the other side of the oval; Indonesian military-style vehicles are parked to one side and extras dressed as armed soldiers stand around smoking.

Then a group of actors, one bearing a remarkable resemblance to Myuran Sukumaran and another to Andrew Chan, walk in a slow procession, shackles clanking, through the mist. They're wearing white T-shirts, crosses roughly drawn over their hearts, and trudging towards the field of killing.

Then they are tied to the crosses to keep them still for the firing squad that awaits them. I'm reminded powerfully again of the brutality of putting people to death in a judicial process.

The Reverend Christie Buckingham was there on the Indonesian prison island of Nusakambangan the night the pair were executed in April 2015. She was there again in Olinda two years later.

Her shivering was not entirely prompted by the cold. This was just how it had looked, she said. She was finding it therapeutic to play her part in events that, at the time, were so completely beyond her control.

Sleeth, the director, is a Melbourne-based artist and friend of Sukumaran's. He ordered take after take to get the shot he wanted. Absorbed in the task, he was too busy to reflect.

He wanted to get it right. This was his friend's death he was depicting. Only perfection would do.

This story Indonesia in Olinda: recreating a brutal scene first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.