Ivens came to Australia in early 1945 as the Netherlands East Indies(NEI) Film Commissioner, to document the re-colonisation effort of the Dutch Indies from Australia. He was employed by the NEI Government Information Service (NIGIS) in Melbourne they had 128 staff—25 of these ‘Indonesians’—(a branch office of three in Sydney), and a further 24 journalists and stringers attached as war correspondents.
However, Ivens defected and started as an independent film maker to document the Indonesian struggle for independence, resulting in his Dutch passport being revoked by his government. He moved from Melbourne to an apartment in Birtley Towers in Elizabeth Bay Road, Sydney.
The movie premiered on Kings Cross in August 1946.
The Dutch Government tried to stop screening elsewhere in Australia and asked for an export ban, this was initially granted but overturned a month or so later. It then screened in New York and London as well as Indonesia and New Zealand.
The film was instrumental in internationalising the Indonesian cause and it supported the strong relationship that was building up between Australia and its neighbour Indonesia.
Ivens left Australia in 1947. In 1985, his work was finally recognised by the Dutch Government, who offered him an apology and awarded him the highest Dutch film award the ‘Golden Calf’.
The documentary had a profound impact on documentary making in Australia and it encouraged discussions about censorship, politics, national security, international relationships, film regulations and communism/cold war issues, with numerous people involved in these discussions at the highest levels: politician, bureaucrats, military, film makers, and many others. It opened up a range of issues around film making that were very specific for a rapidly growing up Australian film industry that up to than was basically based on British examples.
Paul Budde (2020)
See also: Black Armada
Movie on YouTube Indonesia calling — Joris Ivens, 1946
There are five more documents in the DACC Archives on Joris Ivens and his film. Use the search facility to access them.