Subject: Aussie funding pulled on Indonesia film fest

[Australia withdraws funding; Indonesia censors Timor films.]

The Australian

Funding pulled on Hicks screening Sian Powell, Jakarta correspondent 10dec05

AUSTRALIA has left organisers of an Indonesian film festival in the lurch on the eve of its opening by withdrawing funding because it objects to a documentary about Guantanamo Bay inmate David Hicks and three other works.

Organisers of the Jakarta International Film Festival, which opened last night, were told on Thursday night they would not be receiving $18,000 promised by the Australia-Indonesia Institute.

The institute, a government-funded body set up to promote friendship between the two countries, has sponsored the festival in previous years.

It offered funding again this year but withdrew the offer because four of the 33 films selected did not meet institute guidelines, the Department of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

A departmental letter sent to the organisers said the institute wanted films that would "deepen" relations between Australia and Indonesia.

Festival director Orlow Seunke said the screenings and workshops would still go ahead, and the funds would be found elsewhere.

"'Twenty-four hours before the opening - that's ridiculous," Mr Seunke said. "I blew up, I was so furious."

The Dutchman, who is running his second Jakarta Film Festival, cannot understand the objections to the four films, all of which have been approved by the often prickly Indonesian Censorship Board.

The films cited by the department are The President Versus David Hicks; Dhakiyarr Vs The King, a film about an Aboriginal quest for justice; Garuda's Deadly Upgrade, an Australian-directed documentary about the poisoning death of human rights campaigner Munir; and We Have Decided Not to Die, an 11-minute Australian film about the cycles of life.

"They never asked to see a list of the films," Mr Seunke said yesterday. "This looks like the politburo."

The Indonesian censors have banned him from screening two films about East Timor on the grounds the works may "open old wounds".

Curtis Levy, who made the critically acclaimed Hicks film, was in Jakarta yesterday to run a documentary-making workshop for the festival.

"It's terrible that Australian bureaucrats are trying to stop Indonesians seeing these films," he said.

Fellow filmmaker Graeme Isaac was equally incensed.

"It's these sedition laws," said the producer of the Dhakiyarr film, which was screened at the US's Sundance Festival.

"They create an atmosphere that makes middle-ranking bureaucrats feel able to do things like this."

This was the first time in the festival's seven years that funding approval had been withdrawn, according to founder Shanty Harmayn.


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