Pride of Place for Balibo, East Timor

For the first time in Tahiti, the director Pacific Films, Frédéric Mourgeon, has offered the public: an exclusive viewing of the film ‘Balibo’ at the Liberty cinema on Friday 3rd February at 7.30pm, Wednesday 8th and Saturday 11th at 10am. This film, which is a blend of fiction and documentary, is a must. It gathers forces to deal with a sad and widely unknown Oceanic reality: the invasion and colonisation of East Timor by Indonesia between 1975 and 1999.

Why did you want to put this film forward at FIFO 2012?
I know that for the last few years FIFO has expanded to new audiovisual formats. ‘Balibo’ is an interesting film which is in line with FIFO’s mission to make the voices of Oceania heard. Furthermore, this feature-length film deals rigorously with a historical subject and gives an informative view of the reality in Oceania. It is the right time, quite by chance, as we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of East Timor’s independence in 2012.

Very little is known about the invasion of East Timor by the Indonesians and in fact about the history of this island in general …
Yes, whilst this was probably one of the most violent events to have struck Oceania over the last forty years (over 200,000 dead…) being able to show ‘Balibo’ is an opportunity: there are in fact very few feature-length films about Oceania, and this one has never been screened in Tahiti. Not in France either, for that matter, as it is too distant from the region’s problems.

To have a better understanding of the film, can you explain why the Indonesians seized this province and what the outcome was of this painful period?
From 1586 East Timor was a Portuguese enclave. Following the Carnation Revolution in 1974 in Portugal, the government recognised the right for self-determination and independence for overseas populations. In 1975, a law for the decolonization of Timor was voted. The Portuguese and people of Timor were in agreement on this point but not on the consequences, this led to chaos: Indonesia, a newly independent nation, benefitted from this disorder to seize this neighbouring island which did not however share the same culture or religion. The territory and periphery were occupied then by military forces for more than 20 years. The Timor resistance did not measure up against the occupying forces and besides several ONG and a few states, the situation did not stir much interest internationally. East Timor’s self-determination, notably supported by the UN, materialized with the referendum in 1999. Independence was declared in 2002.

Information: Balibo Evening
– Friday 3rd February, 7.30pm, at the Liberty cinema (on invitation)
– Screening followed by a debate in the presence of the director of Pacific Films, Frédéric Mourgeon and an Australian specialist, Stuart Menzies, programme manager for ABC2
– Wednesday 8th and Saturday 11th at 10am, on presentation of a FIFO ticket, at the Liberty cinema

Balibo: when the world closed its eyes…  
The Australian director Robert Connolly has tackled a painful period of recent Australian history. In 1975, five Australian television reporters were killed in East Timor, in the village of Balibo, by special Indonesian forces, whilst they were covering the Indonesian… invasion. In the film, we follow the investigations of an Australian reporter following in their footsteps to try to understand what happened. Through the story of these five men, the director takes another look at the Indonesian invasion, which was denied at the time, and Australia’s silent complicity in not protesting. It is a very well constructed film which is full of energy, with reconstructed historical scenes and images allowing this forgotten province to be envisaged.