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Balibo

I went to a media screening of the new film Balibo yesterday, which covers the murder of the five Australian journalists in East Timor in 1975, prior to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. The film also follows Australian journalist Roger East, who is invited to Timor by Jose Ramos Horta and tries to discover what happened to the journalists. I’m not allowed to say much about it, but I will say that the film is in the tradition of Australian political movies such The Year of Living Dangerously, or perhaps foreign films like The Quiet American. I highly recommend it when it comes out. During the film I couldn’t help thinking: this could not have been made fifteen years ago. At that time, the Australian government was still pretty much supporting the Indonesian Occupation of East Timor. In the East Timorese solidarity movement, the final reports of Greg Shackleton were often played (John Pilger showed them in his various films about East Timor). The remarkable thing about those reports, was their partisanship. Here were journalists for commercial television channels making reports which are clearly pro-Timorese. I couldn’t find the footage on youtube, but there’s a ten minute video on youtube here, which has that footage. (Sorry, it wouldn’t let me embed it). There’s also some shots from the film in the following promotion of a book, which notes again the partisanship of the journalists:

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Rjurik Davidson is a writer, editor and speaker. Rjurik’s novel, The Stars Askew was released in 2016. Rjurik is a former associate editor of Overland magazine. He can be found at rjurik.com and tweets as @rjurikdavidson.

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  1. I read a rather revisionist review in The Weekend Australian on the Balibo Five. It seemed coming close to blaming Shackleton et al's deaths at least partly on their willingness to continue to investigate (in the review reappraised as recklessness, perhaps some kind of macho posturing and lack of foresight on their part), rather than extraordinary repression of the Indonesian Government (and Australia's complicity in these atrocities). I was pretty surprised and horrified.

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