Atambua 39° Celsius

Riri Riza

Atambua is a very hot, dusty town in the Indonesian part of Timor. A boy from a family torn by East Timor's bloody independence is in conflict with his drinking father, misses his mother and falls for a girl with a past. Real people and real heat.

Rootlessness gnaws at the souls of East Timorese refugees in the dusty border town of Atambua. Bus driver Ronaldo escaped when violence broke out over independence after the referendum in 1999. He left his wife and two daughters behind but took his son João with him. Embittered, he swears he will only return when his birthplace is Indonesian again.
João is now a teenager who avoids his father, hangs out with friends and seeks solace in cassette recordings of his mother's voice. Apart from Ronaldo being sacked for drinking, not much happens in their lives, that have ground to a halt, until João takes a fancy to Nikia, a girl he hasn’t seen for a long time and who holds a painful secret.
Against the background of impressions of everyday life and religious customs on this largely Catholic island, we see how this encounter kick-starts the lives of the three again. A low-budget film with local actors by a director who also has commercial hits to his name.

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