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Post-production   /  Luigi Acquisto

The Circle of Silence (AKA The Age of Living Dangerously)

A cold case, a politically explosive investigation, a love story.


Impact areas



  • DIRECTOR Luigi Acquisto & Lurdes Pires

  • PRODUCER Stella Zammataro, Bety Reis and Glenn Scott - Executive Producer



The Circle of Silence (AKA Age of Living Dangerously) is a cold case investigation and a politically explosive story based on Shirley Shackleton’s Walkley Award winning book. Shirley travels to Indonesia to her husband’s grave. Greg Shackleton was one of five Australian based journalists killed in Balibó, Portuguese Timor by Indonesian soldiers in 1975. This is an unsolved mass killing and Shirley’s life has been marked by a fierce determination to discover the truth about the deaths. She starts her investigation in the wake of the decision by the Australian Federal Police to abandon its war crimes investigation into the deaths due to ‘insufficient evidence’. Shirley is sceptical about this claim and her investigation uncovers startling new evidence about the cover up of the murders by Australia and our role in aiding and abetting the brutal occupation of Timor, the largest genocide per capita since the holocaust just over an hour’s flight from Darwin.

Support this project

55.54% funded
  • $80,000.00

  • $44,431.10

  • 31st July 2021

  • 54

Minimum amount is $ Maximum amount is $





Peter Cronau $100.00
Tammy Burnstock $50.00
Nick Calpakdjian $100.00
Sandra Kanck $35.00
Mary Stack $100.00
Anonymous $20.00
Patti Manolis $200.00
Clare Batten $100.00
Katherine Horwood $300.00
Simon Connor $1,000.00
Anonymous $20.00
Howard Williams $100.00
Kerry Robinson $200.00
Mario Mirabile $100.00
Keryn Clark $50.00
Saba Nordstrom $100.00
Greta Perry $25.00
Mark Perry $100.00
Dierk von Behrens $100.00
Elizabeth Creed $1,000.00
Anonymous $50.00
jude conway $50.00
Carol Novacevski $50.00
Karel Pollak $50.00
Bruce Butler $250.00
Joan Peters $100.00
Francis Janssen $50.00
Martin Leach $500.00
Jane Crouch $50.00
anthony craig $100.00
Christine Perkins $100.00
Peter Hunnam $50.00
Jasmine Kastaniotis $100.00
Chris Adams $50.00
Pat Walsh $200.00
Polly Ifould $100.00
Miguel Nuno Quintans $50.00
Alison Bevege $50.00
Nancy Dickman $50.00
Peter Vadiveloo $40.00
Darren Venn $500.00
dale hess $100.00
Gail Rothe $50.00
Anonymous $500.00
Megan McMurchy $100.00
Eric Piotrowski $100.00
Edward Irvine $100.00
Jane Cousins $100.00
Paul Bridges $200.00
John Hughes $100.00
rob wesley $70.00
Rochelle (Rocky) Humphrey $20.00
2016 - Dec 2020 Donations $36,601.10

Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

The Balibó Five murders are a war crime allegedly committed by Indonesian soldiers. The Australian Federal Police started an investigation in 2009 but did not investigate in Indonesia or interview any suspects. The investigation was dropped in 2014 following advice from The Attorney General’s Department that jurisdiction did not exist for the AFP to proceed with the investigation or to lay charges because there was not an international armed conflict at the time as Indonesian troops were fighting Fretilin troops and not the formal government of Portuguese Timor. This is strongly refuted by Professor Clinton Fernandes. He asserts that Indonesia was attacking a country that had signed the Geneva Convention and this made it an international armed conflict and that jurisdiction does exist to lay charges. War crimes and justice are important themes in The Circle of Silence as are the need for ethical government and fair maritime boundaries with Timor-Leste.


What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The Circle of Silence will break the silence surrounding the murders of the Balibó Five. The film will tackle its three central themes; war crimes, ethical government and Timor’s oil and gas rights. This documentary has the power to create social change, promote debate, and to define the kind of society we want to live in; a society where the Australian Government's respect for the human rights of its citizens and our neighbours takes priority over trade, oil and gas.


What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

The film’s public screenings and its outreach campaign aim to have the Australian Government re-open the AFP war-crimes investigation into the Balibó Five murders. This will be one of the measures of success for the impact campaign. The film will have a civic education program in Australia, Indonesia and in Timor Leste. In Timor the film will be shown on national television, in the cinema, and will tour the country as part of Dili Film Works’ Travelling Film Festival. These screenings will be an important outcome for the film. A nation is built on its common stories and Timor has many but few published in any form. The Circle of Silence will contribute to building a national identity for one of the world’s newest nations.


How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

FairTrade Films is producing the film in association with Dili Film Works, Timor-Leste’s leading producer of film and television. Dili Film Works will coordinate the impact campaign and civic education program in Timor-Leste. This will involve working with many local NGOs and government bodies. Shirley Shackleton is a board member of the Balibó House Trust whose patron is The honourable Steve Bracks, former Victorian Premier. The Balibo House Trust honours the memories of the Balibó Five by working with the Balibó Community to enrich their lives. Shirley will explore ways in which the film can be used by the Trust in a broader outreach program in Balibó.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

The impact campaign will involve a petition to have the AFP investigation reopened into the murders of the Balibó Five. It is hoped that viewers will sign this petition. Another action is for diverse groups in Australia to organise screenings which can raise funds for communities in Timor-Leste. Broadly, the project’s impact campaign aims to raise awareness of human rights, war crimes and the need for fairness on the part of government in international relations.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

The reopening of an investigation into the Balibó Five murders is a solid indicator of success. Another would be prosecutions arising from this investigation. The wide publication of the truth about the murders of the Balibó Five is also important. There is a perception that everything is known about the murders but much that has been published over the last forty-five years is untrue and part of the international cover up of the crime.