Wednesday, 30 September 2009


A good movie should do one of three (or in the rare occasion, all three) things:

- Entertain by providing a form of escapism
- Demonstrate an innovative and creative way of telling a story
- Educate, inform and provoke

Balibo has not achieved all three, but only because the issue of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975 is neither entertaining nor a period in history that someone would want to escape to.

What Balibo succeeded in however, is telling a story that left me wanting to research more on an invasion that happened before I was born and determined to share the message that justice and the respect of human rights must prevail.

The last movie that had such an impact on me was more than four years ago.

For the first 20 minutes of the show, the narrative was somewhat confusing, jumping from present day to the past and the not too distant past. But the pace picked up when Roger East (Anthony LaPaglia) started his investigations in East Timor and by then, it was easy to differentiate the narrative that mainly toggled between Roger's story and that of the Balibo Five.

It's a gripping storyline, not least because it is based on a true story, but also because it tells of a journalist's thirst for The Story and a commitment to tell a story to the rest of the world in the hopes of spurring positive action and reaction.

The Balibo Five are five news journalists from two competing Australian television channels who went missing in Balibo, an East Timor town close to the Indonesian border, days before the invasion.

Their story is one of courage and of the desire to communicate to the global community just what is happening in a part of the world that even the United Nations had chosen to ignore.

Three weeks later, Roger arrives in East Timor, tracing the footsteps of the Balibo Five, in an attempt to find out what exactly happened to them.

His story changed his life, and probably mine, forever.

There were intense moments, scary moments and emotional moments. But most of all, it was a provocative moment. A moment that made you want to shake the international community for making the mistakes in East Timor, in Rwanda, in Darfur and never learning from them. A moment that made you recognise the simple power of words, the responsibility we have to tell a story worth telling and the world's apathetic state.

You see the brutality of mankind. You see how the rest of the world turned a blind eye. You see the sacrifice made by those who wanted to tell the truth.

And you tell yourself, human rights atrocities should never happen again.

Want to do something about this?

Find out more about the movie or how to protect human rights.


Maya said...

The last movie that gave me that feeling was Ararat. I felt sick to my stomach and couldn't shake off the images in my head long after the movie ended (and that's why I didn't wanna watch Hotel Rwanda, I knew I'll be very affected by it).

I just can't believe how cruel people can be, and how others can justify the cruelty so very simply.

I can't watch the Balibo movie on DVD at home... bec my parents will definitely have sth to say abt that (and they will side with the Indonesians).

Melody said...

Interesting how there's always two sides to a story isn't it?

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