Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens In Australia - screener

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Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens In Australia

Film by John Hughes

Year: 2009, 103 mins
Code: JH-Indonesia
ISBN: 978-1-921895-20-3

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Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens in Australia recalls the birth of Indonesia, and the impact of a small film, made at a moment of crisis, on Australia’s relations with its northern neighbor and its legacy for Australian documentary film culture.

Two weeks after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in August 1945, Indonesian Independence leaders proclaimed “Indonesia Merdeka!” ‘Freedom for Indonesia’ and an end to Dutch colonial rule over the Netherlands East Indies. Internationally renowned Dutch filmmaker Joris Ivens, in Australia as Film Commissioner for the Netherlands East Indies government in exile, resigned his position in protest against Dutch policy, which sought to re-impose its colonial rule. In collaboration with Indonesian activists, Chinese, Indian and Australian trade unionists, and local artists and filmmakers, Ivens made Indonesia Calling, a film documenting the crucial role of Australian trade union support in the establishment of the new Republic of Indonesia. Ivens’ film was an activist documentary; it actively contributed to the events it depicted. All those who worked on it became ‘adversely known’ to the security services.

Writer / Director: John Hughes
Producers: Andrea Foxworthy, John Hughes
Editor, Graphics, Design: Uri Mizrahi

John Hughes is one of Australia’s most respected documentary (and drama) film directors, his work having won many awards. The films are usually Australian in orientation, examining art, cultural politics and history.  The work is often intensely research driven; the films are serious investigations into their material. Also they have cinematic creative flair.  His credits are numerous, starting in the early ‘70s with short films such as Nowhere Game, through to acclaimed documentaries in the ‘80s such as Film-Work, to the narrative feature What I Have Written in the ‘90s, and onto the recent award-winning documentaries The Archive Project (2006) and Indonesia Calling: Joris Ivens In Australia (2009).

Hughes was honored with Film Australia’s coveted Stanley Hawes Award, for Achievement In Documentary in 2006, and the inaugural Joan Long Award from the Australian and New Zealand Film History Association (2006).

Winner, Best Documentary: Public Broadcast, Australian Writer’s Guild Awards (AWGIE Awards), 2010.
Finalist, Documentary Feature Award, Australian Directors Guild Awards, 2010.
Finalist, FOXTEL Australian Documentary Prize, Sydney Film Festival, 2010.
Official Selection, Sydney Film Festival, 2010.
Official Selection, IDFA, 2009.
Official Selection, Melbourne International Film Festival, 2009.
Official Selection, Brisbane International Film Festival, 2009.
Official Selection, Halls Gap Film Festival, Australia 2009.

Australian filmmaker John Hughes tells the improbable story of how Ivens made this 17-minute film, which became part of the Indonesian independence movement … To do it, Hughes ends up providing a mini-biography of Joris Ivens, a legend in his own country and to doc folk but unknown to many many more; a sketch of the geopolitics and independence history of the region; and a close-up study of how a film is made. All the stories are immensely worth knowing …

Hughes returns Ivens’ complexity to him, without excusing or justifying any of his decisions. He shows how Ivens made the film, which was reenactment – in this case, significantly after the fact …

And then Hughes locates the drama that Ivens caught within the wider one. He reveals the internal, red-baiting politics (aided by J. Edgar Hoover, whose FBI was spying on Ivens while he was in the U.S.), which only got worse and affected the lives of everyone who worked with Ivens. He showcases the unsuspected courage of the Australian government in backing the Indonesian independence struggle against the interests of Australia’s traditional allies, the English, Americans and Dutch. He shows how the film was used, and why people in Indonesia thought it was so important. At the end, you also know that the filmmaker himself is an artist committed to making media that matters, and sophisticated in weighing the consequences of storytelling choices.” - Patricia Aufderheide, Centre for Social Media website, Nov 30, 2009

Hughes’ use of his Dadaist screen design relates to his partnership with the Melbourne-based editor Uri Mizrahi.  Hughes gives credit to Mizrahi for his involvement in the creation of their screen style …  the layers of meanings come from the various readings of the objects within the film’s montage, rather than the layering of images on top of each other.” – Catherine Gough-Brady, Dox Magazine, Winter 2009.

John Hughes has a unique film style.He layers images and texts using a Dadaist technique to provoke a critical reading of the film.  This makes his films complex to watch because they work outside a familiar film language and do not meet our expectations.  Hughes likes to challenge the viewer on all levels.” – Catherine Gough-Brady, Dox Magazine, Winter 2009.


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