Indonesia Calling

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Indonesia Calling is a 1946 Australian short film that gives a glimpse of immediate post-World War II Sydney as trade union seamen and waterside workers refuse to service Dutch ships (known as the “Black Armada”) containing arms and ammunition destined for Indonesia to suppress the country’s independence movement.

The short film Indonesia Calling was based around a re-enactment of the mutiny by Indian seamen aboard the Patras, a ship laden with arms sailing for Indonesia from Sydney. The brave Indian sailors, under Dutch armed guard, stopped stoking the engines and the Patras was forced to return to Sydney Harbour. The only motivation of the Indian sailors was solidarity and support for another Asian country also seeking its independence from colonial rule.

E V Elliott, Head of the Seamens’ Union of Australia,
presenting an Indonesian flag to Jan Walanouw. Source: NFSA

This short film was made by a Dutch film maker Joris Ivens who resigned his position as Film Commissioner for the Netherlands Indies government as a protest against the Dutch policy of recolonising Indonesia. In Sydney in November 1945 he was approached by Indonesians and Australian sympathisers to make a film about the Australian events supporting the Indonesian independence struggle.

Narrated by Australian actor Peter Finch, the film premiered to an audience of Indonesians in Kings Cross, Sydney, on 9 August 1946. It screened three times a day for a week, to packed houses. The film was then smuggled into Indonesia by Waterside Workers’ Federation official Ted Roach. It was shown in open-air cinemas to freedom fighters who were delighted with such support in Australia.

Read more about Black Armada from http://stories.anmm.gov.au/blackarmada/

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