Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Well, yesterday was my first "wow" day of the festival and I have a sneaking suspicion it might be my one wow day this year, but who knows.

First Balibo. This is a film I bought a ticket for at the last minute, after getting an alert from the TIFF late Monday night that there still were tickets available. And I'm so glad my will power was weak at that moment.

It's an Australian film, set in 1975, about events I admit I knew nothing about before this. I suppose I'd vaguely heard of East Timor, but barely, and really don't know much about Indonesia, either.

To sum up the (true) story very quickly... East Timor was a Portuguese colony for about 400 years. It declared it's independence and very soon after, neighbouring Indonesia invaded committing many atrocities, and the world not only sat by and did nothing, but purportedly helped Indonesia, since some felt the new government in Timor had communist leanings.

But the story focuses on Australian journalists. Five who went into east Timor to a small village named Balibo, near the Indonesian border, a few weeks before the main invasion, and then one older journalist (played by Anthony Lapaglia) who went 3 weeks later to try to find them, or find out what happened to them.

I found the story moving and engrossing and like other films of it's kind, like The Killing Fields, Shake Hands with the Devil and Hotel Rwanda, it exposes events where history can look back at decisions made by the UN, in particular the powerful countries of the world, and we have only to hang our collective heads in shame.

The exciting thing about this film coming out now, is that it's now East Timor's tenth anniversary of breaking free of Indonesian rule, and also largely because of the film, Australia is now persuing war crimes charges on those responsible.

In this photo of the principle cast members, the actor, next to Lapaglia is Oscar Isaac, who played Jose Ramos-Horta, who represented East Timor, in exile, for 24 years in the UN and who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 and is now President of the country.

The film follows two timelines, interweaving them. Basically the route of the missing five journalists, and the route of Lapaglia's character, Roger East, and Jose Ramos-Horta following behind three weeks later. It all builds to a pretty horrific and moving conclusion.

This film got so much buzz during this year's festival, I kind of expect it will get some kind of distribution. I hope so.

If it comes to your city, go see it.

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