THE FILM

Synopsis

Lian Gogali, an unlikely disabled heroine, fights to unite marginalized Muslim and Christian women from her conflict ridden region of Poso, Indonesia in order to transform them from victims into survivors and agents of peace. Her radical idea is to educate them. But her success seems improbable as the odds stack against her. Then fate takes a turn. The Peace Agency is an emotionally powerful and thought-provoking film, depicting the difficulties women face –
and the triumphs they can achieve – in Indonesia. It captures the blunt realities of living on the margins of a country still struggling to embrace the concept of women’s rights. It documents how the vision and dreams of one courageous and determined individual can make a difference in the lives of many. Though the country remains a dangerous place for those who challenge the status quo and the country’s dominant forces, courageous individuals continue to step and change. Lian Gogali is one of them.

From the Director

When I came to Lian’s house in Poso in 2010 to pay a visit after finishing my first documentary about the Poso conflict, I had no plans on making a new documentary there. Since I had seen her last, she had become a single mother and was trying to recover from her accident, all while fighting Tuberculosis. When she told me she was holding classes for women on her front porch I considered the idea of making a short documentary about it in order to help her promote the idea. I had no idea what journey both of us were about to embark on. The result is The Peace Agency.

For the last four years I have been traveling to Poso back and forth to capture what she worked so hard for, which gave me intimate access to her life and story. At first, I thought it was her personal story that would be the main topic of the film. I was frightened she would die of her injuries and illnesses, and it captured my attention for the first two years. When she was able to get the life and leg saving surgeries she needed, I was elated to see her take her school and movement to new heights I could have never imagined. With two legs, what more could she do? Turns out, a lot!

Along the way, as we both grew along with the expansion of the school and interfaith movement, I began to realize that this was simply too big of a story about the school and the fantastic women involved in it to not make that the center of this film. But it was never clear at the time that this film was going to have a happy ending. Would they get the funding they needed? Could Lian take groups of impoverished and traumatized women from across a huge area of remote Indonesia, and turn them not only into peacemakers, but agents of change for a better Indonesia? Or would Poso collapse back into violence?

When we got notice that she would be flying to New York with the chance of winning the Coexist Prize, I knew the redeeming moment for both of us had come. I could never have imagined how well it all would turn out. Since then, it has been nothing but good news. I struggled to decide where to end this film because so many new events kept on happening. In truth, there is no end to this social movement, and I can only hope to capture a few years of it and show what I can of it with the budget I had.

I am so grateful for Lian giving me the access to her life and story and for all of the people of Poso who have been so kind and welcoming to me over the years. It has truly been a transformational and humbling experience for everyone involved.

Filmmaker Bios

Sue Useem | Director | Producer | Project Manager

Sue Useem is the writer, director, editor, and producer of the award-winning feature-length film Which Way to the War? She was also a producer and broadcaster at the Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, D.C. for five years. Which Way to the War? tells the story of Poso, Sulawesi, a community rocked by religious conflict and terrorist attacks. It shows all sides of this bloody, harrowing conflict, and the community’s subsequent steps toward reconciliation. At the film’s premiere in Los Angeles at the Action on Film Festival, Sue Useem received the award of “Best Female Filmmaker.” The documentary continued in the film festival circuit for fifteen months, receiving a number of additional awards and drawing widespread attention. Which Way to the War? has been purchased by organizations and universities worldwide. Information about the film can be found at www.whichwaytothewar.com