Sunday, August 26, 2012
for Claire Jager, Ross Mathews & Liz Crosby
Claire Jager, Ross Mathews, Liz Crosby
Level 4, 150 William St
Woolloomooloo 2011 27th August 2012
Dear Claire, Ross and Liz
Have I ever, in any email or letter I have sent you this past few years, intimidated or placed you at risk of any kind? As you know, I have been banned by Screen Australia from even speaking with members of SA staff on the phone (let alone making any kind of funding application) for having intimidated one (or perhaps all!) of you and placed you at risk. I have tried, through FOI legislation and through the Office of the Ombudsman, to be provided with one paragraph, one sentence, one phrase or even one word that any reasonable person could construe to render me guilty of having intimidated you or placed you at risk. I have yet to be provided with any evidence at all and, it seems, I will have to acquire the evidence in the Supreme Court of NSW next week.
As you know, my being banned is the culmination of a sequence of events that leads back, Claire, to your June 2009 assessment of my documentary project ‘Chanti’s World’. In the interests of context it is worth revisiting that assessment – one that begins very promisingly:
“If the film was to be the story of how an evangelical Christian missionary agency ‘steals’ children from poverty-stricken Cambodian families in order to turn them into Christians as quid pro quo for ‘rescuing’ them from the street of Phnom Penh - an unholy exchange of succour for souls - and as a bonus, the main character has been continuously filmed for 14 years since she was a child, and now enlists the help of the hopelessly enmeshed filmmaker to get her own children back from the Christian agency which is acting illegally ... then we have a great film.”
Unfortunately, Claire, you did not actually view the ‘promo’ for my ‘Chanti’s World’ application – presenting you with something of a disadvantage in forming a view regarding the strengths and weaknesses of the project – especially since this ‘promo’ encapsulated around 14 years of my record of Chanti’s life. Your problem in assessing ‘Chanti’s World’ appropriately was compounded by your assertion, expressed in your assessment, that:
“The accompanying DVD of stills do not excite confidence or optimism.”
I had included no DVD of stills in my submission so it remains a mystery to me to this day what this sentence refers to. Since neither yourself nor Ross has provided an explanation (despite my many requests) I have had to resort to conjecture. Perhaps your use of ‘stills’ was a typo and that you were referring to a DVD of raw rushes I submitted by way of demonstrating the strength of the cinema verite footage I had at my disposal. If so, and in the absence of viewing my ‘promo’, you may have been led to believe that this cinema verite footage comprised my main (indeed only) audio-visual representation of ‘Chanti’s World’. If so, your lack of confidence and optimism would have been understandable.
Another problem with your assessment, Claire, resides in two statements you made in relation to the church that had ‘stolen’ Chanti’s two eldest daughters. You refer to my:
“conducting war with the agency, the Brisbane church which runs it…”
and add, a few sentences later,
“He appear to have alienated - justifiably, it may be the case - relevant NGOs operating in Cambodia, thus making it highly unlikely he could access direct funding from them.”
Yes, I had alienated the church that had ‘stolen’ the children (Citipointe, based in Brisbane) and, yes, it is highly unlikely that Citipointe (and associated Christian NGOs turning a blind eye to this ‘stealing’ of children) would wish to provide direct funding to ‘Chanti’s World’. The idea that a church being investigated by a filmmaker that has charged it with the illegal removal of children from their parents care (a church that has threatened to sue him!), would wish to provide ‘direct funding’ to him. The proposition implicit in your comment about my alienating Citipointe is just absurd and, by itself, in any fair assessment process, result in the assessment being discounted and a new one commissioned.
Your assessment, Claire, was problematic in numerous ways – the most glaring being that you did not view my ‘promo’ before deciding to knock back my ‘Chanti’s World’ application. Neither did Ross Mathews or Julia Overton. The logical and appropriate Screen Australia response, once I had pointed out the problems with your assessment, would have been to commission another. This Screen Australia decided not to do.
There are, as you know, other stages to this dispute but it starts here – with you and Ross not viewing the ‘promo’ that was the centrepiece of my application. Or so I allege. I have invited all three of you countless times to contradict my assertion that you (Ross and Claire) admitted to not having seen my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo. You have not done so. I invite you again to contradict me and say words to the effect of, “James, we never admitted to not viewing your promo. You are mistaken. We did view it.” A clear, unequivocal answer to this question would go some way to clarifying just how and why this dispute began. If you, Ross and Claire, insist that you did view my ‘promo’ in mid 2009, I have been playing fast and loose with the truth in claiming for three years that you did not. If, on the other hand, you were to now admit that you did not view it, my original complaint had (and still has) merit and all that has happened since, and which will lead myself and Screen Australia to appear in the Supreme Court of NSW next week, has been both unnecessary and a waste of time, energy and financial resources.
I do appreciate that you are caught here between a rock and a hard place. To claim, three years down the track that you did view the promo raises the question: “Why did you not admit to having seen it before this dispute escalated to the point it has.” If you do now admit to not having viewing the ‘promo’ in 2009 the question arises: “Why have Fiona Cameron, Ruth Harley, Glen Boreham and the Screen Australia Board and the offices of the Hon Simon Crean and the Ombudsman allowed this dispute to progress to the point where, in order for me to get copies of correspondence I have supposedly written, I must sue Screen Australia for defamation in the Supreme Court?
It would certainly be very helpful vis a vis next week’s Supreme Court hearing if one or all three of you were to either (1) Confirm that you did not view my ‘Chanti’s World’ promo or (2) That you did view it and I have been lying all along.