Carmela Baranowska is an St Kilda resident and independent filmmaker. Carmela’s reputation as a filmmaker with a deep interest in East Timor preceded my meeting her through a friend.
When I began this documentary, in December 1999, Carmela was already in East Timor and she had already made a significant contribution to our understanding of what was happening in East Timor during 1999.
Carmela bought a second hand camera in early 1999 and went to East Timor to find out what was happening there. Her footage became the programs we saw on SBS television that showed Indonesian military intimidation mounting through out the year.
In September it showed her holed up in a compound in Dili with other journalists, UN Staff and Timorese women. With tears streaming down their uplifted faces and children clinging to their legs, the women were pleading with an American UN official, as tall as the Empire State Building to help them. It was clear this decision was all too easy to make for people who were so far away from the danger of personal, physical and moral danger.
The UN official had just announced the UN were leaving the Timorese to their terrible fate at the hands of militia, after promising them before the ballot, that what ever happened, they would stay.
According to another friend of East Timor, Louise Byrne, the moment when we saw infrared footage, shot by Max Stahl about the same time, of parents throwing young children into the protective shelter of the compound in Dili, was the moment when East Timor really entered the Australian psyche.
HT Lee another mutual friend and photo-journalist was there in the compound too. HT initiated a petition among the journalists to petition the UN against leaving. Carmela is sending sms a story about HT and we will post a gallery of his photographs in tribute to his work for East Timor. HT passed away in Melbourne in 2004 following heart surgery.