06 December 2009
The "People" Want "Balibo" Banned...
It was hardly surprising that the Indonesian Censorship Board (Lembaga Sensor Film / LSF) slapped a ban on the film Balibo. The film tells the story of five journalists killed in Balibo while covering the Indonesian invasion of East Timor. It also tells that story from the perspective of Roger East (who was ultimately murdered on the docks of Dili) and Jose Ramos Horta.
A good review of the film can be found over at Patrick Guntensperger's blog.
The film portrays the killings of the five journalists as murder. The cold hard reality was that they were executed. Any story to the contrary that the five were innocently caught in the cross-fire between Indonesian and Fretilin forces is just that, a story.
It is probably worth noting that the NSW Coroner's Court found enough evidence to forward the matter to the Australian Federal Police for a War Crimes Investigation.
But this post is not about rehashing the "facts" of the event. Rather it is about the amusing statement from the current Chief of the Army, General George Toisutta, who argues that the LSF decision to ban the film equates to the voices of the Indonesian public being heard. Simply, Indonesians across the board want the film to be banned.
I am not quite sure how the Indonesian people have spoken on this one in regards to voicing the opinion that the film must be banned. The simple fact that it has been banned means that most of the Indonesian populace has not had the opportunity to see it yet in order to formulate an opinion on it.
However, it has to be noted that banning a film in Indonesia does not have the same effect as it used to. Video piracy ensures that almost any film is available, if you look hard enough, and normally before it "opens" in Indonesian theatres. Word on the street is that Balibo is already freely available from road-side vendors of the latest films.
Furthermore, the Alliance of Independent Journalists (Aliansi Journalis Independen / AJI) have already screened the film for a select few, 300 or so to be a little more precise.
When it is all said and done, this is a film. It is an interpretation of historical events that clearly runs counter to what the Indonesian government have told their people about the incident.
However, banning the film ensures that it stays in the public conscience. A ban tends to increase the popularity of a film. The ban is sure to have people wanting to see it in order to see what the government is so committed to preventing them from seeing. And, more than anything else, the film is unlikely to seriously harm relations between Indonesia, Timor Leste, and Australia at the people to people level. The only harm that may befall these relationships are on the political level as desperate politicians seek to ground out some cheap political points on their rivals.
It is funny in that really sad kind of a way that the Indonesian government does not believe her citizens to be intellectually capable of digesting this film and making decisions on its content in rational ways. The government, once again, is severely underestimating the maturity of the Indonesian community as a whole.