In October 1975, the obscure little Portuguese colony of East Timor was given independence after 400 years of European rule. A mixed Melanesian/Polynesian population was sitting on rich mineral and fossil fuel potential and surrounded on three sides by the region’s powerhouse, Indonesia (with Australia to the south). After only nine days of independence, Indonesia invaded in one of the most cynical and brutal land grabs in modern history.
The Indonesian armed forces, knowing that an invasion was a gross breach of international law, wore plain clothes and did everything they could to extinguish evidence and witnesses. The most celebrated victims of the atrocity were the Balibo 5, young Australian television journalists who were stranded in the border town of Balibo as the invasion began. Without the benefit of modern-day communications, they simply disappeared and the Australian government, who (along with the US) gave tacit approval to the entire horrible exercise.
The always watchable Will Smith returns to our screens this week in a more than decent drama called The Pursuit of Happyness. Smith plays solo dad Chris Gardner who struggles to find a way out of the poverty trap (through an unpaid internship at stockbroker Dean Witter) while bad luck, and life itself, conspire against him. Happyness is a well-made reminder that it can be flippin’ expensive being poor and it successfully wrung several salty tears from these calloused eyes.
Incidentally, Smith’s son Christopher is played by Smith’s real-life son Jaden, proving that the apple really doesn’t fall very far from the tree.