Fonds - "Bitter Paradise: The Sell-Out of East Timor" fonds

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"Bitter Paradise: The Sell-Out of East Timor" fonds

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  • Moving images
  • Sound recording

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.

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  • 1985 - 1997 (Creation)
    Bitter Paradise: The Sell-Out of East Timor

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Physical description

178 video cassettes
6 audio cassettes

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Name of creator

Biographical history

"Bitter Paradise: The Sell-Out of East Timor" began as a film project with Elaine Briere’s working trip to the former Portuguese colony in 1975: she was the last independent photographer permitted to enter East Timor before the Indonesian invasion in that year. Through a series of filmed interviews and seminars and speeches involving Canadian businessmen, politicians, public servants and activists, Briere uncovers Canadian participation with Indonesian companies in business activities taking place in East Timor during the period, 1975-1990. In addition, the documentary reveals the lives of East Timorese families and individuals who engage in the liberation struggle in East Timor, Europe and in Canada. Finally, the documentary engages members of western organizations (TAPOL, the East Timor Alert Network) that seek to bring awareness of the Indonesian occupation of East Timor to the world. Briere films rallies in Canada in support of the liberation struggle, attempts (unsuccessfully) to publicly question Canadian and Indonesian political and government leaders on the occupation, and sympathetically portrays young Timorese who employ stories and song, along with public speaking, to enlighten Canadian audiences (including labour organizations) regarding the occupation and destruction of the island nation, its peoples and cultures.
Elaine Briere is a Vancouver documentary-maker, photographer, journalist and social justice activist. Her documentary, "Bitter Paradise: The Sell-Out of East Timor", won the best political documentary award at the Hot Docs Festival, North America’s preeminent documentary film showcase, in 1997. In addition to her work on East Timor, which includes a published collection of photographs ("Testimony: Photographs of East Timor", Between the Lines, 2004), Briere has directed a documentary on Canadian merchant seamen, "Betrayed: The Story of Canadian Merchant Seamen" (1997), and has produced photo-journalism and print articles for "The Tyee", "Briarpatch", "Our Times", and other publications dedicated to labour and social justice issues. Briere’s photographs have appeared in many publications including, "Carte Blanche Photography 1" (2004); "The Other Mexico: The North American Triangle Completed" (1996), "South East Asia Tribal Groups and Ethnic Minorities" (1987) and "The Family of Women" (1979). Her photographs have been featured in exhibits in Canada, Japan, Sweden and the United States.

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Scope and content

The fonds consists primarily of video recordings of interviews, meetings, seminars, performances, and local footage shot in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, East Timor and Indonesia. It consists of 178 video recordings including 97 beta tapes (large and small), 80 VHS tapes and a broadcast DVD and 6 audio recordings. Many of the video elements include both a beta and VHS copy. The fonds is divided into three series. The largest consists of beta and VHS tapes of raw footage and background research shot or collected by Briere from Canada, the United Kingdom, Indonesia and East Timor. This series also includes six audio recordings. There is a separate series of video recordings of lectures and interviews with Noam Chomsky regarding East Timor recorded during his visit to Vancouver in March 1996. The third series consists of beta masters of the finished documentary, including video in NTSC and PAL formats, and English, French and Swedish language versions.
Much of the content of "Bitter Paradise" consists of interviews with Canadian and foreign individuals engaged in the events in East Timor, either as businessmen, bureaucrats or politicians working with the Indonesian government on trade and development projects in East Timor, or as activists, dissidents, and supporters of the liberation movements within the island nation. In Canada, interviews with Warren Allmand, David Kilgour and Svend Robinson (federal Members of Parliament), David Webster of the East Timor Alert Network, Geoffrey Robinson (Amnesty International, now UCLA History Department), portray the interests of those supporting the resistance, while Colin Baker (Simons Engineering), David Mundy (Kilbourn Engineering) and Ron Richardson (Asia Pacific Foundation) identify business and development opportunities in East Timor and Indonesia for Canadian companies. There are insights on East Timor supplied through interviews with local and international actors including Noam Chomsky, Carmel Budiardjo (an Indonesian dissident and founder of TAPOL) an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Constancio Pinto (former guerrilla fighter and currently Timor Leste Ambassador to Washington) and Muchtar Pakpahan, a labour leader jailed repeatedly in Indonesia who, in 2011, resigned as head of the Indonesian Labour Party. The documentary also includes live footage from international broadcasters (BBC, Australian Broadcasting Corp.) of the Dili Massacre (Santa Cruz Cemetery) in November 1991, when more than 260 protesters were killed by Indonesian troops. The broadcast filming of that event, first shown on ITV, UK in 1992, was pivotal in the campaign to bring western nations to apply pressure for independence, achieved a decade later.
The fonds also contains archival film footage from the Portuguese era of East Timor, film on projects being undertaken in the country by the Roman Catholic Church, smuggled footage of the East Timorese resistance movement in countryside, footage of Indonesian troops being trained in Australia and of the Indonesian invasion of East Timor.

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