Stars, families share carpet at Balibo premiere

The red carpet premiere of Balibo on the opening night of the Melbourne International Film Festival had plenty of big name actors and celebrities.

But the real stars of the show were the families of the five Australia-based journalists murdered while covering Indonesia's invasion of East Timor in 1975.

The new film by Robert Connolly tells their story, and that of another journalist Roger East, who was executed while trying to uncover what happened to them.

The stars of the film - Anthony LaPaglia, Damon Gameau, Gyton Grantley, Nathan Phillips, Thomas Wright and Mark Leonard Winter - posed for photographs on the red carpet.

They greeted the families of the murdered journalists with big hugs.

Shirley Shackleton, whose husband Greg was one of the Balibo Five, held hands with Gameau as they walked into Melbourne's Hammer Hall.

"This is Greg Shackleton, my husband," she laughed.

Paul Stewart's brother Tony lost his life in Balibo.

Mr Stewart said watching the film at a private family screening was sad but "not as much as in 1975 when I saw the banner at Malvern Station saying five journos missing".

"Nothing's really changed for us since then. We've lived with it ever since then."

He congratulated Connolly on a wonderful film and said Winter had done a great job playing his brother.

"He comes across as the rascal that he was," Mr Stewart said.

East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta, actors Geoffrey Rush, Miranda Otto and Deborra-Lee Furness and Frances O'Connor were among the high-profile guests at the premiere.

An emotional Maureen Tolfree, sister of journalist Brian Peters, said she hoped many Australians would go and see the film and learn the truth about what happened some 35 years ago.

"I think it will bring to the Australian public what's gone on," she said.



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