At First Glance: “Balibo” A Special Look

No one ever said films were created equal. Some films get seen by many viewers quickly, others only a handful, and some just don’t get seen, especially outside of the country of origin. When this is the case, the global audience could be the most effected. And if the film tackles a heavy and important issue, like this historical film about journalists, the loss is even greater.

The Transmission Films film “Balibo”, looks like a gripping and suspenseful thriller about five journalists who were murdered while doing their jobs, and a sixth who was seeking the truth about what happened to them.

This drama stars Anthony Lapaglia (upcoming “A Month of Sundays”, “Holding the Man”), Oscar Issac (upcoming “X-Men: Apocalypse”, “Mojave”), Damon Gameau (“The Kettering Incident”, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries”), Gyton Grantley (upcoming “We Were Tomorrow”, “House Husbands”), Nathan Phillips (upcoming series “Hunters”, “These Final Hours (Short 2015)”), Mark Leonard Winter (“The Dressmaker”, “The Fear of Darkness”), Thomas Wright (“Outsiders”, “Everest”), and Bea Viegas.

The film is directed by Robert Connolly (upcoming “Barracuda”, “Paper Planes”) and written by Connolly (“Paper Planes”, “Underground: The Julian Assange Story”) and David Williamson (“On the Beach”, “Dog’s Head Boy”). It is based on the book “Cover Up” by Jill Jolliffe.

The film debuted on Aug. 13, 2009 in Australia, but has yet to make its way to the US in any wide or limited capacity. Previously, the film was shown at various film festivals from late 2009 through 2010 and one last one in 2012.

The film has since gone on to be nominated for 13 Australian Film Institute Awards; winning four, One Australian Directors Guild Award, and nine Film Critics Circle of Australia Awards; winning three.

Continuing on this journalism series, but with a slight detour. It dawned on me that there was one film I knew about, but hadn’t made any formal plans to include. This film, which sadly has never been made available here in the US, that I know of, but should’ve been some time ago, appears to be one worth seeing. I mean, come on, Isaac is now an incredibly well known actor, and you’d think that would spur interest in getting this film released other than in Australia. Regardless of that, it certainly is a film that deserves a special mention. So here it is. In a special look at the trailer, that I remember seeing years ago.

This film deals with Australian journalists who were murdered 1975 in the Balibo in East Timor. They became known as the Balibo Five. The sad thing, as with so many other journalist deaths, is that they were doing their jobs when they were killed. The group of five had been in East Timor reporting on incursion activities by Indonesian soldiers, which came before the Indonesian Invasion of East Timor on Dec. 7, 1975. The film also deals with the murder of Australian journalist Roger East, who was in East Timor investigating what happened to the five men. He was murdered on Dec. 8, the day after the invasion began.

Now that the sad history and story outline is out there, what did I think of this film’s trailer?

I was amazed! Amazed doesn’t seem right. I’m in awe. That was one incredible trailer! I’m a lot more interested in this film than I thought I ever could be. Each time I’ve watched this trailer it has moved me in ways that most trailers simply can’t. So much emotion was captured in a short period of time. I can only imagine what the actual film will feel like when you spend almost two hours getting to know everyone and the situations they’re in, as well as seeing what happened to these men being portrayed.

And, then, of course, it just makes me so damn sad. Knowing that these men were killed while trying to bring an awareness to what was going on in one part of the world.

If this trailer can be as powerful and impactful as it is, I’m fairly certain when all the film’s pieces come together, the emotional toll it will take on any given viewer, will be just as strong, if not more.

I actually know very little about this tragic historic event, other than the final outcome, so I did a little research. That itself was a huge undertaking as I couldn’t just sit for hours and read what I’d found. I wouldn’t be able to get this done. But I did learn a lot. I’ll read the rest later, as what I found lends itself to the idea that even though these events depicted occurred over 40 years ago, the saga hasn’t ended. There’s still so much to do in order to bring justice for these men and to honor them.

This film in part seems to do just that. Or, at the least, present a factual account of this terrible time. Every moment seemed to more or less line up with what I’d read on the event. And it’s because of this adherence to fact, and I would say authenticity, that this film already has me hooked and so emotionally invested. Then, as makes sense, you have the actors. They bring all of these important figures to life and provide you what looks like a very easy way into who they were. This is what will probably be dragging me along the entire time.

The scenes shown of the men who make up the Balibo Five, look like there will be enough insight into who they are. How they function as a team and get along as friends. I’d say that given how these characters end up, that’s not a bad thing at all. Connolly and Williamson seem to care about giving viewers as full a picture as possible, otherwise the overall emotional effect could be lost. There would also be hardly any incentive to watch the film at all.

LaPaglia and Isaac, are going to be carrying a majority of this film, and it looks like solid work. For Isaac, like we definitely know now, his performance looks like another complex and nuanced one. Just the little I gleaned from his character is that he’s passionate about his country and also about discovering what happens to these journalists. This performance and film are just going to be that one elusive film I’ll always be wanting to see, but can’t.

LaPaglia, also has a lot to take on. I’ve seen him in a few things, not much, which is probably sad on its own, but it just depends on what he’s offered and decides to take. Most notably I spent many years watching him of and on in “Without a Trace”. I liked him enough and the show, and was always wondering what would he be in next? I never really found out, as I don’t think much of it was accessible to me. I’m certainly glad this performance has me right that he’s an actor to keep an eye on. His performance, like Isaac, and the others is going to be a heavy one. There’s a lot to embody and it doesn’t look easy. Each moment just seems like one sharp blow after another. I can only imagine what that was like emotionally for him, and it makes me wonder why he wanted to take on this role at all. For those that have seen this film in the last seven years, I truly hope you enjoyed his performance, as it looks like an incredibly strong and unforgettable one.

When it comes to films about important subjects, times in history, or important people, it’s best if they can be seen by a large audience. If a film isn’t, yes it’s a disappointment, especially if you enjoy the work of many of the actors involved. However, there still can be a silver lining. At least the film was made. At least someone cared enough to research and make the film so others can be informed too. Some historical events go by unnoticed and others a merely forgotten. Film has the power to elevate these types of stories and make them relevant again. And when it comes to journalists being killed in the course of their work, bringing the truth to the forefront of people’s minds, never ceases to be relevant.

Poster, because why not? It’s really been the only other thing I’ve seen about this film.



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