Backstory: How Foreign Correspondent got inside Bali’s Kerobokan jail for an romantic assignment

“When do we wish to go?”


That was a doubt acted to me early one morning in April.

It was Syarpani, an officer from a communications territory of Indonesia’s corrections department.

With my terrible Bahasa, a review stopped there.

I asked Syarpani to call a ABC producer, Ake Prihantari.

But we knew what he meant.

About 6 months before, Ake and we had discussed a awaiting of filming in Kerobokan jail for a length of time.

Guard examination over Kerobokan prison

Guard examination over Kerobokan prison

A ensure keeps watch over Kerobokan prison.

ABC News

Syarpani would come as a minder though we could fundamentally select when we wanted to go.

We always suspicion it was rarely doubtful that a ask would be concluded to though we had lifted a awaiting with a Foreign Correspondent module months before.

I rang a executive producer, Marianne Leitch, immediately to broach a news.

The following week, Ake and we flew to Bali to accommodate a jail’s Governor.

Matt Davis inside Kerobokan

Matt Davis inside Kerobokan

Foreign Correspondent writer Matt Davis inside Bali’s Kerobokan jail during a week prolonged assignment filming life on behind bars.

ABC News: Samantha Hawley

We had an unfit to grasp wish list.

I suspicion it best to aim high and work backwards.

We asked for 10 days filming, that we be embedded in a womanlike block, including during night, and that we would film in all cells.

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Life inside Kerobokan

To many Australians, Bali’s Kerobokan jail is a place of creepy fascination, a repository of wretchedness in an island playground. But what’s it unequivocally like in there?

The Governor laughed divided my suspicion to live in a jail 24/7, it was distant too dangerous in his view, and filming in cells was, to start with, a no as well.

We were postulated only 4 days to film.

In a finish a stipulations were loosened, we filmed for 8 days and we gained entrance to a cells.

We could not stay and film during night.

I was not postulated a wish of vital in, that was substantially for a best.

Syarpani, a corrections dialect minder, flew to Bali to manipulate though we were mostly left to a possess devices.

We roamed a masculine jail drift freely, and we spoke to fundamentally anyone who wanted to pronounce to us.

I never felt threatened or unsafe.

One Australian invalid approached me on a initial day of filming, clearly annoyed.

He told me a jail was a ruin hole and what was a indicate of a story.

“We are not perplexing to re-invent a wheel, we only wish to uncover a day in a life of a prison,” we told him.

Eventually, a prisoners came around.

Foreign Correspondent producer/cameraman Matt Davis and cameraman Phil Hemingway with inmates inside Bali's Kerobokan prison

Foreign Correspondent producer/cameraman Matt Davis and cameraman Phil Hemingway with inmates inside Bali's Kerobokan prison

Foreign Correspondent producer/cameraman Matt Davis and cameraman Phil Hemingway with inmates inside Bali’s Kerobokan prison.

ABC News; Samantha Hawley

We were not there to film those who didn’t wish to be filmed.

We weren’t there to follow around Australian lady Sara Connor or her boyfriend.

In a finish they devoted us and what we were doing.

TV crews have filmed in Kerobokan jail before, though not like this.

Ake has a clever attribute with a Corrections Minister and a minute didn’t discuss any specific restrained and we were told that worked in a favour.

Syarpani done it transparent that a Minister was anticipating a outcome would be a story about an overcrowded, underfunded jail that, notwithstanding a limitations, manages to duty and provide a prisoners with humanity.

We told it how we saw it and, in a end, that’s what we showed.

But we don’t consider any of a Foreign Correspondent group who went in, including myself, Ake, cameraman Phil Hemingway and producer/ camera user Matt Davis, had any suspicion of a romantic tour we’d also be taking.

Sam and Ake

Sam and Ake

Indonesia match Samantha Hawley and writer Ake Prihantari in Kerokoban jail with Bali 9 prisoners Si Yi Chen and Matthew Norman.

ABC News

Mostly, we didn’t select a inmates we talked to, they were comparison by a jail authorities.

Australian Bali Nine members Matthew Norman and Si Yi Chen, who are portion life for drug trafficking, were apparent picks.

They’re positively indication prisoners.

For writer Matt Davis, one of a many unusual moments was when Errol Vaes, a Bali-based worker operator, was authorised inside, most to everyone’s disbelief, to film Norman and Chen.

“After substantiating that Chen had turn concerned with a trafficking operation to try and self-finance a pilot’s course, we set adult a few shots of Si Yi looking into a sky and a worker pulling divided into a atmosphere,” Davis recounts.

“At a finish of a shot, Errol mentioned to Matthew Norman that a final support was of a beach, a camera pierce they had planned. In conference a word ‘beach’, Si Yi kindly asked if he could take a demeanour during a monitor. Errol and we now froze, afterwards offering him a screen.”

For a subsequent 20 minutes, a worker gave a Australians a perspective of a universe they haven’t had for a past 12 years, an prolongation of their prophesy that nothing of those concerned can simply forget.

We had always approaching to film in a womanlike territory of prison, though in a finish a accede was not granted.

The masculine and womanlike sections had only been segregated and a women’s Governor would not concede us in.

It was a contrition since with distant some-more singular space, a women have it a lot worse than a group in Kerobokan.

It’s a long, tough toil to exist inside those cells.

But we did pronounce to Indonesian woman, Yanti, and for Ake this was one of a hardest tools of a shoot.

“Yanti, a beautiful soul, stays so bubbly and happy, plays an active purpose in a jail and teaches other prisoners dancing.

She told me, ‘Sister, we need to stay certain and keep being active since it is formidable vital in prison, divided from my children. If we don’t, we might only kill myself’.”

Ake says she still thinks about Yanti a lot.

As journalists, we are only typical people and some stories are harder to tell than others. Some keep we watchful during night.

Telling a story of dual reformed group jailed for life was not easy. Safe to contend during a finish of a time filming, we walked divided with a complicated heart.

For me a recover of tension creates it easier to stay level-headed and pierce on.

As my crony Ake has been wisely advised, don’t dwell on feeling bad, feel blissful that we were given a present to tell their story.

A present indeed.

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