"East Timor drama Balibo wins presidential honour"

>> 20090903

"East Timor has awarded the filmmakers of Balibo, a new political drama about the journalists murdered in the southeast Asian nation in 1975.

President José Ramos Horta presented Balibo director Robert Connolly and producer John Maynard with the Presidential Medal of Merit at a ceremony in the East Timorese capital, Dili, on Sunday.

Actor Anthony LaPaglia, one of the film's stars, was also on hand for the ceremony — held after a week of public screenings of Balibo, which was translated into the local Tetun language.

"This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for us, as well as the Timorese audiences who were, for the very first time, seeing a feature film dubbed in their own language about events in Timor," Maynard said, according to the Australian Associated Press.

"Men, women and children were moved to tears as they sat on the ground and watched what was for many part of a hidden history and for some, a painful memory."

The drama — billed as first feature film completed in East Timor — explores the story of the Balibo Five, a group of Australian TV journalists killed about six weeks before the December 1975 Indonesian invasion.

Indonesian troops raided the border town of Balibo, where the journalists were based, with many now believing they were killed for raising awareness about Indonesia's incursions into and attacks against East Timor preceding a full-on invasion.

Not long afterward, a sixth Australian journalist who travelled to the area to investigate the deaths was also killed by Indonesian troops. Indonesia has claimed both that the journalists were "communist sympathizers" and also armed combatants.

Balibo is based on the book Cover-Up by Jill Jolliffe, at the time a freelance journalist who was evacuated from East Timor. The 2001 book accuses the Australian government of aiding in the cover-up of the circumstances surrounding the journalists' deaths.

Balibo premiered at the Melbourne International Film Festival in July, won several jury prizes at the Brisbane International Film Festival in August and will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival this month." (CBCNews | 1 Set)

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