Sunday, June 29, 2008

Ganja Queen

HBO's Ganja Queen is a documentary about incarceration of Schapelle Corby, an Australian woman at Bali, Indonesia on a charge of smuggling 4.2 kilos of marijuana inside her boogie-board bag. Her protestations of innocence fail to impress the Balinese authorities, commute or even reduce her life sentence. The efforts of her sizable legal team and supporters are likewise in vain.

But the story of Schapelle Corby is not nearly black and white as that summary might suggest. The viewer is left with a host of unanswered questions until the end. Is she guilty as the Balinese prosecution team claims (even without having established their case beyond reasonable doubt - the defense team accuses them of tampering and then destroying key evidence), was she set up by a family member (she has a jailed brother, a father who had drug problem and a family friend who was arrested for growing marijuana), is she a very smooth and clever drug ring operative, veteran of many smuggling forays into Indonesia or is she completely innocent - a helpless creature of circumstance, victim of a random event in which she played no part.

Schapelle's case unfolds like a well-written whodunit story. Every character appears suspect when viewed through the lens of the prosecution team. However, if you put yourself in the shoes of an average visitor to Bali who finds herself on the wrong side of law just because someone stuffed marijuana into their unlocked bag, a terrifying picture emerges. Schapelle's is a nerve-wracking tale of how such a person would be considered guilty until proven innocent, to how the system would change the rules of engagement at will to make it impossible for them to establish their innocence.

There is something Kafkaesque about the whole situation if you believe that Schapelle is not guilty as she claims. The Australian government is not able to successfully intercede on her behalf even though an overwhelming majority of her countrymen believe her version of the events. At some point even her most ardent supporters begin to question her story, they wonder if she is not really who she claims to be - just another regular tourist to Bali. The film leaves you with disturbing questions about standards of jurisprudence and the legal rights of a individual in a foreign country.

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