Thursday, Jan. 19, 2023 at 10 p.m. on KPBS 2 (not available on demand)
—An East Java village seeks reparations from the corporation that buried the town in mud—
When she was six years old, Dian heard a deep rumble and turned to see a tsunami of mud barreling towards her village. She remembers her mother scooping her up to save her from the boiling mud. Her neighbors ran for their lives. Sixteen villages, including Dian’s, were wiped away. Directed by Cynthia Wade and Sasha Friedlander, “Grit” has its national broadcast debut on POV.
More than a decade after the catastrophe, the mud continues to ravage the land. Mud and toxic gases erupt daily destroying everything in their wake. The New York Times estimates the mudflow will continue for another 8 to 18 years.
Nearly 60,000 people have lost their homes. The once-thriving region has been transformed into a desolate wasteland. Dozens of factories, schools and mosques are now submerged some 60 feet under a moonscape of cracked mud.
While trying to rebuild their lives, the survivors band together to fight for justice against Lapindo, a multinational company whose natural gas drilling is suspected of unleashing the flow of hot sludge.
Waiting for compensation from Lapindo, the survivors live in makeshift rented homes in the shadow of levees that hold back the compounding mud. Despite the growing threat of the levees giving way, the villagers have turned the disaster site into a popular tourist destination.
Dian’s mother has reinvented herself as an unofficial mudflow tour guide in order to make ends meet. She spends her days guiding curious Indonesians across the wasteland so the tourists can snap photos of the boiling muck and thick steam that spurt violently into the sky.
The vast lunar landscape is littered with bizarre activities: fashion photographers take stylish photos of models posing in ball gowns; vendors sell selfie sticks; protesters smear mud over their bodies in acts of resistance.
Dian is determined to rise out of her muddy life. She and her mother, along with many neighbors, demand justice and join the fight to ensure Lapindo is held accountable. The film bears witness to Dian’s transformation into a politically active teenager as she questions the role of corporate power and money in democracy.
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This film will stream online on POV.org in concurrence with its broadcast. Full episodes of POV are available to view on demand for a limited time after broadcast.
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Director: Cynthia Wade, Sasha Friedlander. Producers: Sasha Friedlander, Cynthia Wade, Tracie Holder, Matthew Syrett. Editor: Sasha Friedlander. Original Music: Max Avery Lichtenstein. Executive Producers for POV: Justine Nagan and Chris White.
“This film compels us to look at the lies and corruption that swept an entire community of people under the rug,” said Chris White, executive producer for POV. “In looking at individual lives among the vast numbers of people affected by Lapindo and the government’s response, the film prompts us to explore beyond the material damages of the disaster to the intangible destruction of a community.”