Sri Lanka – united we stand

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United we stand; featuring Adam Goodes and Brett Kirk

United We Stand follows the journey of six AFL footballers into the heart of post war and post wave Sri Lanka where they find themselves humbled by lessons of grace, grit and reconciliation among the local people. Filmed in a raw style against the sea of colour of the sub-continent, the documentary offers a candid look at how these players’ come to understand the power of sport to connect people and overcome tragedy. For some, the journey ignites a passion to spend their moment in the sun as heroes doing something that might last a lifetime…

United We Stand is the story of 6 AFL players who find themselves humbled by the realisation that the lessons they learn on the footy field are for many, a metaphor for a life full of challenge, adversity and the courage to overcome the odds together.

Set in Sri Lanka amid the swirling colour and bustle of the sub-continent, the players open their eyes and their hearts to stories of tragedy and adversity through 27 years of civil war and the destruction of the 2004 tsunami.

The journey sees them invited to the gathering place of a Vedda tribal elder in the central highlands, cross-legged and questioning in both mosque and temple in the ethnic melting pot of the south, inspired by the spirit and talent of the tsunami orphans in Seenigama, and invested in action in the corridors of power in Colombo.

Throughout their voyage they are reminded time and again how the simplicity and values of sport can offer a way to connect with the other, to find common purpose, to relate and belong, and to offer hope for tomorrow.

Each journeyman gets on the bus with his own history and his own version of what sport is and does. Four of the six are indigenous Australians with complex and rich understandings of the place of sport in culture and identity and reconciliation. As they travel across Sri Lanka they also travel across their own histories of growing up on the land, of the stolen generation, of kinship, of football and of walking in more than one cultural world.

Two are white, one of those feels a bit like an impostor, uncomfortable with the ease of his life in the face of the adversity staring back at him and feeling unsure of his place and his right to be there. All six leave knowing that reconciliation is not a black issue, it’s an Australian issue, and sport is one way forward.

The warmth and compassion of the Sri Lankan people and their unbroken spirit shifts something in the footballers, and they find themselves reflecting on who they are and just what is possible with their will, their celebrity and a few boxes of sherrins in future.

 

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