Home' Nova National : September 2009 Contents Roger East (Anthony La Paglia) is not
a name most of us would identify with the
Balibo Five -- in fact, he was not killed at
Balibo, he was killed in Dili. But according
to the film, he is the man who tried to get
the story of the Indonesian invasion out of
the small country and he was the first person
to see the place where the Channel 7 and
Channel 9 reporters were murdered.
The strength of the film is not only
the central performance of La Paglia as a
jaded journalist, just looking for an easy
life, but also those of the television news
journalists. The easygoing rivalry between
the news stations, and their delightful
one-upmanship make it simple for an
Australian audience to identify with them.
Gyton Grantley (who will always be identified
as Carl Williams from Underbelly as Garry
Cunningham, brings a true Aussie drollness
to the character of the stubbie-wearing
cameraman. Damon Gameau as probably
the best known of the Balibo Five, Greg
Shackleton, gives a sensitive and nuanced
performance of a man in search of the truth.
It has to be assumed that the
circumstances of the journalists' deaths have
been pieced together from reports from
the people of East Timor, who have related
their own stories to counsellors and the UN
before and since independence.
I remember as a child seeing photos of
the building where they were killed with
a faded Australian flag painted on the wall,
but was under the impression they had
been lined up and shot. The portrayal in the
film is more brutal and unsettling.
The script, by David Williamson, is
good, although there are a couple of times
when a certain US sensibility noses its way
in. Australians, especially in 1975, were not
as vocally patriotic, nor would they have
believed that their nationality alone would
be protection enough from men with guns.
But that quibble aside, it really works.
La Paglia is to be congratulated on
championing this story of Australia's recent
history and making an entertainment, not a
history lesson, in the process.
than fish, it's easy to understand why. And
the fact that this film comes out hot on
the heels of The Cove (reviewed last
month in NOVA you can see why the
point needs to continue to be made.)
Ponyo, however, is desperate to leave
the underwater cave and explore the
world, and when she does, she is caught
by Sosuke, a small boy who lives with
his mother at the top of a cliff. His father
is a sea captain and their house works as
a lighthouse to guide the sailors home.
The colour palette used by Miyasaki
to create the ocean is exquisite and
the creatures swimming in the ocean
are strange and compelling. No matter
how much you say to yourself you
are watching a kids' cartoon and you
shouldn't find it so engaging, your senses
are bombarded by a sensuous score
by Joe Hisaishi that incorporates a wide
variety of musical styles and a visual
lushness that absorbs you.
As most Western animators work hard
to make their creations as similar to
reality as possible, where each hair on
an animal's coat is lovingly created, it is
kind of refreshing to watch an animation
that is retro. Ponyo, created by Hayao
Miyasaki (best known in the West for
Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle,
is based on Hans Christian Anderson's
The Little Mermaid, and before you start
asking why you should be spending time
on watching a Japanese version of that
old chestnut, there is much to engage the
most jaded filmgoer.
Ponyo is the story of a girlfish --
created by a wicked wizard who lives
under the sea and has a disgust for the
human race. As we watch the fishing
boats drag netting the bottom of the ocean
and collecting rubbish and junk, rather
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Balibo is a part of Australian history, but
there are aspects of the story that most
Australians would like to gloss over or
forget. Balibo is a good film, but it makes
the Indonesians the bad guys -- when the
question of exactly who the bad guys are
in the story of East Timor is a much more
The invasion of East Timor Leste by the
Indonesians in December 1975 could be
seen as opportunistic. After all, Australia
was going through a turbulent time with
the sacking of the Whitlam Labor
government in the November and a
caretaker government in place after that.
However, there is a question of whether the
Australians would have bothered to assist
the fledgling independent nation if we were
not so distracted. As an Australian, you do
hope that it was distraction rather than
political expediency and an eye on the oil
fields near the small country that motivated
this blind spot.
The fact that the film glosses over these
complex questions is understandable. For
filmmakers and filmgoers, it is much easier
to be able to identify the good guys and
the bad guys. In this film there is no doubt
that the Indonesians are the bad guys and
the Aussies are the good guys. The fact that
Indonesian war ships are anchored off the
coast and the Indonesians are invading the
country in civilian clothes, proves that these
guys don't play fair.
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