The local premiere of the acclaimed Australian film, “Balibo,” which recounts the murder of five journalists allegedly at the hands of Indonesian soldiers during the 1975 invasion of East Timor, was stopped on Tuesday after the censorship board banned the movie.
The Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club had planned to show the film for the first time in Indonesia to a private audience at the Blitz Megaplex in the Grand Indonesia Mall.
But a few minutes after the 7 p.m. screening time had passed, JFCC President Jason Tedjasukmana emerged from the screening room to tell a crowd of about 100 journalists and other invited guests, “We have some bad news. The LSF [Film Censorship Agency] officially banned it today.”
The film had been submitted to the LSF by the Jakarta International Film Festival (Jiffest), which had planned to screen the film during the festival, which begins on Friday. The censors reviewed the film Tuesday afternoon, according to Tedjasukmana, and news of the ban was relayed to the journalists’ group by Jiffest officials.
Nauval Yazid, Jiffest’s manager, said that while the censors gave no official reason for the ban, the festival would abide by the ruling.
“They told us that we cannot show the movie,” he said. “The reason was not really clear. It is likely because of concerns that it will affect relations with East Timor and Australia.”
As with all films shown publicly in the country, the festival’s organizers are required to submit all entries to the LSF for approval before screening. Nauval said “Balibo” was added to this year’s line-up because the festival thought it was an important film that ought to be seen by Indonesian audiences.
Pudji Rahayu, the head of the LSF secretariat, refused to comment on the ban when contacted by the Jakarta Globe.
JFCC board members debated whether to press ahead with the screening despite the ban, but were dissuaded after lawyers told them they could face criminal charges for defying the ban.
“Even though this is a private screening, it is in a public place,” Tedjasukmana, a correspondent for Time magazine, said. “There is a very high risk in showing a banned film in a public place.”
The film tells the story of five journalists who were killed in the tiny border town of Balibo when it was taken over by Indonesian forces in October 1975. The so-called Balibo Five, according to official government accounts, died in crossfire.
Asked about the ban following Tuesday’s announcement, freelance journalist and well-known press freedom activist Ezki Suyanto was seething. “This is ridiculous,” she said. “They [the censors] cannot accept reality.”
Given the widespread availability of pirated DVDs, however, it is assumed that copies of the movie will be circulated widely.