Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sergio and Balibo

One of the only reasons to be out and about in this cold weather in our great city has arrived, and created much controversy this year. Jen and I have been working on our Melbourne International Film Festival schedules for a couple weeks now.

My first film was on Sunday afternoon, and being one of the few Jen and I are both seeing, and seeing at the same time, I met her in the cafe at ACMI, before we went upstairs to the cinema. Sergio is a documentary showing the amazing humanitarian work and death of Sergio Vieira de Mello. Brazilian born, Sergio studied his way to work for the UN. Working for the UNHCR in Mozambique through civil war, to negotiating with the Khmer Rouge to assist the displaced people to be able to return home and participate in the vote to return peace and order to Cambodia. The film then showed the work he did in East Timor, assisting in the establishment of independence by being the UN Transitional Administrator.

All this awe-inspiring work was mingled with reports, and footage, and personal accounts of the bombing on the UN Headquarters in Iraq, where Sergio was working as as the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General. The bomb blast from a truck parked just under his office window as he conducted a meeting, took out the 3 floors of the building, trapping Sergio and Gil, who was in the same meeting, under the rubble.

Interspersing comment from world leaders like Tony Blair and Condolezza Rice, were interviews by the two US Army officers, working on trying to rescue both men. And Sergio's fiance, who worked with him, and was there in the building on that day in Iraq.

Flashes of a message from Osama Bin Laden, and an interview with the terrorist who took responsibility for the blast, linked the act of jihad against Sergio for his work in East Timor's independence from Indonesia.

Emotionally draining scenes and recounts, backed with inspiring footage of the work Sergio did, the movie celebrates this beautiful man, and his world changing life.

Last night, keeping with the theme, I met Jen again and we walked down to join the line at the Forum, for Balibo. Having the Producer, former Premier of Victoria, and family members of the Balibo Five introduce the film, the anticipation was palpable as the curtain drew. This film opened the Festival on the weekend, and is a film based on the book The Cover Up, telling the story of 6 Australian journalists killed in Timor-Leste as Indonesia invaded in 1975.

Starring Anthony LaPaglia as Roger East, Aussie journo who was convinced to search for the missing Balibo Five, by now President of free East Timor, Jose Ramos-Horta. The Balibo Five were 5 very young, brave journalists trying to capture the atrocities happening in Timor-Leste, with hopes of having the world finally take notice.

The reconstruction of these 5 lads' quest for footage, their experiences around Balibo and surrounds, and their gruesome deaths is harrowing, and inspiring. Such an important story to tell of the history of East Timor, the world's ignorance to the plight for independence, and the plight of these six Aussies at work to get the story out.


  1. No love for the berry cheesecake though? Geez you're a harsh task master.

  2. The three mouthfuls you left for me??!! Come on, now! Hee hee!


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