Saturday, July 6, 2013

An 'intimidating' email for Ruth Harley

My email to Ruth Harley of 4th July, copied to the Screen Australia Board, speaks for itself. It will, no doubt, be seen by Screen Australia as further evidence of my intimidation - such is the way that words can, in an Alice-in-Wonderland-ish way, be made to mean whatever those in positions of power want them to mean. (In the very powerful documentary THE ACT OF KILLING, one of the murderers justifies his actions on the basis that he was killing communists and thus saving Indonesia from Communism. When asked what a communist was, he said it was anyone opposed to the Suharto regime.)

In my one and only conversation with Fiona Cameron, in the foyer of Screen Australia, an hour or so prior to my first arrest, I asked Fiona to point out to me where, in my correspondence, I had intimidated anyone at Screen Australia. Fiona’s response was, “I feel intimidated,” but she declined to provide me with any specific passage that she felt intimidated by. The only evidence Fiona required, or that the Screen Australia Board requires, is that she (and other members of staff, I guess) ‘feel’ intimidated by being asked, more than once, direct questions they do not wish to answer.

4th July

Dear Ruth

My letter to the Hon Tony Burke MP of 2nd July speaks for itself:

Hopefully Mr Burke will appreciate the inappropriateness of banning a filmmaker without presenting him with evidence of the crimes that led to his being banned or giving him an opportunity to respond to the allegations. Only under pressure from the Minister is this matter likely to resolved on the basis of facts, evidence and truth since the Screen Australia Board clearly does not believe that I have a right to be provided with evidence of my crimes.

That Screen Australia should go to so much trouble to make it difficult for a filmmaker to pursue his profession is extraordinary and unprecedented.  Fortunately, the writing of screenplays is a time and not a capital intensive activity and I have been able to pursue this stream of my filmmaking career with relative ease. Documentary filmmaking is more capital intensive, however, and Screen Australia’s fatwa has made pursuing CHANTI’S WORLD more difficult. Not impossible, just difficult. The finished film will make all of those at Screen Australia who tried so hard to be obstructive (and succeeded) in appearing very foolish indeed.

Given that this month will be the fourth anniversary of the beginnings of the CHANTI’S WORLD dispute, it is worth looking at the facts. I know that facts, evidence, truth are of little interest to you in this dispute but, with a bit of luck, they may not be irrelevant to the Hon Tony Burke.

After 14 years of self funding  CHANTI’S WORLD and finding myself without money necessary to take the next critical step I applied to Screen Australia for  development funds. Claire assessed the project but failed to view the 7 minute promo that was the centrepiece of my application. This error on her part could easily have been resolved by Ross Mathews and Julia Overton insisting on the promo being viewed. They did not. The problems with Claire’s assessment did not end here. She wrote of me:

“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.”

My response to this statement of Claire’s was:

This comment about NGOs is astounding. It is absurd. How could I make a documentary that is, in part (even if a very small part) about NGOs and accept money from any one of them? This would be totally unethical and would compromise my independence totally. I trust that you will re-read this statement of yours, Claire, and realize that it is quite inappropriate. It is statements such as this (perhaps made carelessly) that make it apparent how important it is that applicants be given access to the Reports about their projects and an opportunity to respond to them.

As for alienating NGOs, again you use a word (alienating’) quite inappropriately. You could, I suppose, say that 4 Corners has wound up ‘alienating’ Rugby League through its investigations. Of course any investigative journalist, any doco filmmaker worth his or her salt is going to ask difficult questions and wind up ‘alienating’ those who do not wish to answer them.

A few years later, the NGO that I had ‘alienated’, Brisbane-based Citipointe church, the same NGO that illegally removed two young girls (Rosa and Chita) from the care of their parents, threatened, in writing, to have me arrested, jailed and banned from visiting Cambodia ever again if I did not desist from accusing the church of stealing the daughters of poor Cambodians. This threat has been made many times now but never carried out. And nor will it ever be carried out – because having me arrested and jailed in Cambodia would lead to questions being asked in the mainstream media that Citipointe would not be able to answer truthfully.

Five years after the illegal removal of Rosa and Chita from their parent’s care Citipointe church still retains custody of the girls and refuses to provide either the parents (Chanti and Chhork) or myself (as their legally appointed advocate) with copies of documents that the church insists it has that give it a legal right to be retaining custody of Rosa and Chita contrary to the express wishes of their parents.

Citipointe simply refuses to answer any questions at all relating to the church’s illegal removal of Rosa and Chita from their parent’s care – just as Screen Australia refuses to answer any questions at all relating to the evidence it has that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff.

I am copying this email to Citipointe with yet another invitation to the church to sue me for defamation if it takes exception to my stating, unequivocally, that its removal of the girls from their family was illegal.

That Screen Australia has unfairly (and maliciously) sought to make it difficult for me to pursue my career as a filmmaker is no longer my primary concern. No, my primary concern is that you have placed on record that I have intimidated and placed at risk members of Screen Australia’s staff – a contention that you know to be untrue and that the Screen Australia Board knows to be untrue. My reputation is important to me and I will not cease advocating on my own behalf until Screen Australia either provides me and the industry with evidence of my crimes or publicly acknowledges that I have never intimidated or placed at risk anyone at Screen Australia with my correspondence.

best wishes

James Ricketson

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