A Long Way Back tells the story of Harold Martin, a 99-year-old WWII POW survivor. Captured by the Japanese in the Fall of Singapore, Harold, a native of Western Australia, spent two years enslaved at prison camps, forced to partake in the construction of the Burma Thai Railway. It was an undertaking that claimed over 12,000 lives—Harold’s, as fate would have it, was not one of them. Seventy years after his rescue, he embarked on a pilgrimage back to Myanmar and Thailand to revisit his past and pay tribute to his fallen comrades. It’s here—as he walks beside the rusted trains that once carried prisoners on a hellish journey to the camps—where his irrepressible spirit shines. Though many would consider his a story marked by terrible loss, Harold stands strong: walking for himself, speaking with utmost clarity, and telling his story for the very first time.
Director Samm Blake first came to know Harold as a daily patron of a cafe owned by her parents in Albany, Australia—the town both she and Harold call home. After learning of his past, the Blakes arranged to help Harold visit a few landmark locations of his lifetime: first, California, to visit the submarine that saved his life; later to Myanmar; and finally to Thailand, to attend an ANZAC Day service at Hellfire Pass. Samm’s footage, shot over two years, would later become this film. A Long Way Back was completed in 2015 thanks to crowd-sourced funding. It is dedicated to all POWs who worked on the Burma Thai Railway.