Balibo – The Story People Should Know

Balibo Movie“It’s over, It’s over Roger… The Indonesians will come and they will take this land and no one will even know we existed…” These are the words of José Ramos-Horta (played by Oscar Issac) the secretary of foreign affairs in Timor as he lies gasping for breath after a fist fight with the Australian Journalist Roger East played by Anthony LaPaglia… The Year is 1975 just prior to the Indonesian invasion of East Timor…

Balibo is an Australian production and the first movie ever to be shot in Timor…. and the movie is loosely based on the book Cover-Up, by Jill Jolliffe. The movie is the story of two journeys…

The first Journey is that of five Journalists Greg Shackleton, Gary Cunningham, Malcolm Rennie, Brian Peters and Tony Stewart (The Balibo Five) which has happened in the past and now they are missing and potentially murdered by the Indonesian Army….

The Second Journey is that of Roger East who has come to East Timor on the request of Ramos-Horta to head the Timor Broadcasting Company… but he wants to find the whereabouts of five missing journalists… and as a deal Ramos-Horta is taking Roger East to Balibo to find more about the Balibo Five before he takes up his new duties…

The Invasion is imminent and Ramos-Horta knows they do not have a lot of time left before that happens


Balibo Five

The dialogue at the start of the post is after a fist fight that started because Ramos-Horta in a fit of anger accuses Roger that his priority is not the thousands of Timorese who lost their life but the five missing Journalists…. To which Roger replies that the world does not care for dead brown people because if that is reported it gets a place in the back page of newspaper…. but if the news is about five missing white Journalists then the news gets placed in the front page….

Roger East

Roger East

This exchange of words is probably only five minutes of the move but has a big significance in my opinion…. The fact that Balibo Five cared for what the world did not care and Roger’s understanding that only by making the world care for what happened to the Balibo Five can there be any international consideration to the issues of the Timorese people…. This debate alone can be written about in length… because the international community is always divided on issues of local politics and war… if not divided in the issues they are definitely divided on the extent of involvement they want on issues not directly impacting them….. More involved in where they should not and less involved in where they should….


José Ramos-Horta

The movie of course is not about this dialogue but about the Journey of all the 6 Journalists… the Balibo Five and Roger East in search of the Balibo Five…. All killed in their respective Journeys by the Indonesian Army…  The movie was previewed in the Jakarta International Film Festival but later banned by the Indonesian censorship board as they claim that Balibo Five died in crossfire and was not executed by the Army….. The culprits who had the Balibo Five or Roger East murdered have never been brought to Justice…

I dedicate this review to the 180000 Timorese who lost their life in the Indonesian Invasion of Timor and all the fearless Journalists all over the world and to the filmmakers who work towards bringing stories that either the world did not care for or tries hard to forget….. If we did not have people like the Balibo Five, Roger and Horta and the makers of this movie we would have so much of history never told……

Here is the Trailer of the Movie

Categories: Movies, Reviews

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