Tsunami of New Dreams

How do you keep life together after surviving a massive natural disaster? Watch the teaser for a new documentary feature film that revisits the impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami on the people of Banda Aceh, in Aceh Province, Indonesia. Life in Banda Aceh forever changed on a Sunday morning.

Tsunami of New Dreams is a documentary about the human impact of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Banda Aceh. But instead of focusing on the casualties it tells the story of the survivors and their post-tsunami dreams. The outcome of this extreme natural disaster was an immense human tragedy and we learn that survivors of all ages could continue their broken lives only by moving on from terrible losses. Everyone found a way to rebuild their lives. The tsunami was so devastating that in addition to impacting the lives of individuals it also crippled the Acehnese separatist guerrillas and the Indonesian army, that had been fighting a decades-old war. Ironically a devastating tsunami facilitated a peace accord.


The film presents unique archival footage and artistic recreations of tsunami-moments, in addition to the tales of survival and snipets of the survivors’ post-tsunami lives.

One of the survivors’ stories was so unique that we decided to edit some of it in the form of a short film. Ichiro and the Wave presents a unique and inspirational experience by a survivor who was fishing on a boat when the tsunami struck. Ichiro’s post-tsunami outlook remained positive and his matter of fact descriptions help to understand the step-by-step disaster scenario. bandatsunami.com/ichiro

We also worked with local musicians and ethno-musicians to provide the narrative with a local flavor and perspective. Aceh star singer Rafly, for example, performs a minimalistic powerful rendition of Haro-Hara, a song of deep despair written in ancient Acehnese.

Everything is destroyed, fallen into the lakes,
and everyone is gasping for breath in the catastrophe.
Everything is devastated, everyone feels despondent.
Everyone is left with nothing.
All is washed away.

Nobody cares and there is no one to help.
There is chaos in almost every corner,
people do not know what to do.
Don’t make a noise no more.

The interviews in Tsunami of New Dreams emphasize a positive outlook on life, and also provide valuable information about disaster preparedness in the region. The subjects interviewed represent a balanced sampling in terms of geography within the city and surrounding areas, age, gender, education level, occupation, income level and understanding of natural hazards.

BA-Web-Fisherwoman BA-Web-UnLady BA-web-Syafawi BA-Web-Muharram BA-Web-Mosque BA-Web-Ichiro-1

Tsunami of New Dreams
A documentary feature film by Isaac Kerlow
Total running time: 90 min, color
Completed: January 2021
In Indonesian, Acehnese and English, available with English or Spanish subtitles

Tsunami of New Dreams is a Singapore/Indonesia/United States co-production. Produced in collaboration with the Earth Observatory of Singapore, ICAIOS the International Center for Aceh and Indian Ocean Studies in Banda Aceh, Indonesia; art-science-media.com, and the AXA Research Fund. Producer: Isaac Kerlow. Associate Producers: Saiful Mahdi and Yenny Rahmayati. Assistant Producers: Jeannie Loo, Rizanna Rosemary, Aida Azlin, and Antoinette Jade.

Faith and Science Short, Festival and Screening Schedule

Using segments of the feature film we assembled a 9-minute short film called Tsunami Memories: Faith and Science. In this short a few tsunami survivors reflect about the topics of faith and science as they remember the Indian Ocean tsunami that caught by surprise the city of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in 2004. The short premiered online at the 13th International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Fest 2020 in Malaysia.

February 2021
Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Market, Clermont-Ferrand (SHORT only)

October 2020
International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Fest, Malaysia (SHORT only, World Premiere)