Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Balibo" - Cautionary Tale on Invasion & Political Incorrectness

In 1975, East Timor, a small island country in South East Asia, declared independence from the Portuguese. Nine days later, they were invaded by Indonesia.

Does anyone know much about East Timor? Not me, but freedom is a basic liberty that everyone has to uphold, even very small islands deserve their independence from oppressive forces. "Balibo" is a town in East Timor situated approximately 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) from the Indonesian border. It is located in the subdistrict of Balibo, Bobonaro District. It was estimated by Human Rights Watch that 70% of the town was destroyed during the militia violence that preceded the vote on East Timorese independence. Balibo achieved notoriety as the site of the killing of five Australian-based journalists now known as the Balibo Five, by Indonesian forces on October 16, 1975 during an incursion by Indonesia into what was then Portuguese Timor.

East (Anthony LaPaglia) is commissioned by a Timorese official to head the country's national press office, but he felt he needed to find out a few things first concerning the mysterious disappearance of 5 Australian journalists. East's mission was ignited more by the clandestine situation prevailing upon the disappearance of the 5 young journalists sent to East Timor - and why the Australian government "buggered off" - they didn't seem to care then. East was intent on finding out the whereabouts of the young journalists: were they kidnapped, were they still alive, what happened to them?

The narrative takes us to places - lush forests, undulating mountainscapes, rivers teeming with life; a place any sovereignty would aspire to acquire. Now why would the might of America ignore this desecration of national freedom when they vigorously invaded Afghanistan and Iraq? Why didn't Australia care when word got out that 5 Australian journalists went missing? You do wonder the motivations of the world's most powerful countries.

Anthony LaPaglia and the cast do well, earning LaPaglia a Best Actor nod from the Australian Film Institute in 2009. Oscar Isaac is a strong presence. And Damon Gameau is just too pretty for words. LOL

Roger East played by Anthony LaPaglia.

Jose Ramos Horta, which they pronounced "Joe- sey" (played by Oscar Isaac) is the Timorese head of Foreign Affairs tasked to recruit Roger East to head their news agency.

Greg Shackleton outscoops his rivals.

Greg Shackleton (played by Damon Gameau).

The 5 journalists sent by Australia to cover the events during the 1975 invasion of Indonesia to its neighboring East Timor. When the Timorese soldiers started retreating, these journalists went charging towards the Indonesian force. When the Indonesians started shooting, they scampered away for dear life.

Anthony LaPaglia in his heyday, could put other Hollywood actors to shame. He was born in Adelaide, Australia. (Was told that this is actually Anthony's brother Jonathan - read below. Good looks apparently runs in the family.)

Oscar Isaac is Juilliard-educated and born in Guatemala. His name and face is familiar because he played Joseph in "The Nativity Story" - the cutest Joseph we've ever laid eyes on! (above and below)

Oscar Isaac

Damon Gameau plays Channel 9 TV journalist Greg Shackleton, fearless and aggressive in getting scoops, never thought the imminent danger of his work would actually cause him harm.


Phishy said...'ve got the wrong LaPaglia in your "young Anthony" picture. That would be Jonathan you've got there, Anthony's younger and not-as-successful-at-acting brother. They share a strong family resemblance, but Jonathan has always generally been thinner. Appearance-wise, I think Anthony is the better-looking of the two, but that's a personal preferance, of course.

Other than that, fine write-up there on Balibo. I saw it premiere at the Melbourne Film Festival in '09. They had the actors and the family members of the murdered journalists at the screening. It was all very moving and powerful stuff.

Cathy Pena said...

@ Phishy:

Thanks for the correction. I had a feeling the photo could be a different LaPaglia but the brothers' similarity is uncanny. And since I almost know nothing about Anthony's family, it's easy to take the photo as Anthony's.

Loved the movie. Wasn't expecting much but "invasion" and news gathering take a cautionary form in "Balibo". Kudos to the whole production team for telling this story.