East Timor endured a brutal 24-year Indonesian occupation from 1975-1999 in which over 200,000 people were killed or disappeared. Few carry these scars more distinctively than Osme Gonsalves, a celebrated artist, singer, poet, actor, and prominent ex-resistance fighter, who struggles to find peace despite the goal of sovereignty being reached.
Frustrated by his nation’s perceived apathy, Osme creates a fake reality television show to travel the districts and interview the population about the contemporary reality of their lives.
This is a fluid mix of documentary & mockumentary, as Osme’s actual life coexists with the hyper-reality of the TV show and it's charismatic host Rambo Marabunta.
It’s an immersive story pulling the audience into the mind of a man living with invasive personal trauma, bravely facing his own demons to deliver a love letter to the nation he fought to free.
This is a timely message of peace and reconciliation for a nation still counting the costs of independence 15 years on.
"A documentary, about a mockumentary, about a
reality TV show." What are these elements?
1. East Timor’s First
Reality TV show
The ‘reality TV show’ will give Osme the perfect platform to interrogate his deepest thoughts and desires. The format will be loosely based on the Letterman show with a live studio audience, special guests, reports from the field, performance segments, and animated illustrations. Osme will be probing the contemporary heart of the nation whilst simultaneously exploring his own personal obsession; "What is Reality?"
2. Mockumentary about
Rambo Marabunta is the proud, charismatic host of the show. Rambo is respected. Rambo is famous. Rambo knows the president. Rambo is in-fact, the fabricated alter-ego of Osme Gonsalves. Initially the audience will believe this is a documentary about this famous host, however these will be mockumentary elements, with Osme's real life slowly revealing itself.
3. Documentary about
The documentary component will track the real life of Osme Gonsalves, an artist living in SE Asia’s poorest nation. Gradually these three layers will combine, blurring the lines between reality and fiction as the content of the TV show plots Osme's own life. The final segment will feature an interview between Rambo & Osme, forcing audiences to question how much of the reality TV show was real all along.
Although difficult to define the style of 'This is Reality' is perhaps best summed up as the love child of Sacha Baron Cohen's 'Borat,' and Joshua Oppenheimer's surreal documentary 'The Act of Killing.'
Where is this project at?
This film has received development funding at Screen Australia and will be in the Hot Docs Deal Maker program in Toronto in 2018. It is currently in production.
The Main Protagonist
Osme is one of East Timor's most revered personalities. A distinguished poet, singer, artist, actor, he's appeared in several feature films including Balibo (Directed by Robert Connolly) and was the lead role in Tom Wright’s award winning play Doku Rai. He was also a proud member of the East Timorese resistance movement, serving a variety of roles including active combat. Whilst his gun is now on display in the National Resistance Museum, his songs of independence continue to be sung around the nation.
Key Team Members
Writer & Director
Chris Phillips is an award winning filmmaker who has been travelling to East Timor for around 10 years. Chris has worked for a variety of NGO's and made short films in many countries including Ethiopia, Niger, Uganda, Cameroon, Laos and Cambodia. He is currently completing a short documentary for the Guardian about tribal fighting in Papua New Guinea. Chris has also worked as creative director, a projection artist, and run his own production company.
Chris collaborated previously with Osme Gonsalves on the short film "Ita Nudar Ema" which won Best Inspirational film at Top shorts in 2016. He is extremely passionate about this project, the culmination of a decade of work in this field. More work available at: www.thingsbychris.com
Michaela Perske (Pursekey Productions)
Pursekey productions is an independent production company based in Sydney specializing in factual content. We make engaging, challenging, intriguing and enlightening films. Our programs have screened nationally to wide acclaim and internationally in over 20 countries.
Michaela Perske is the company director and principal producer with over 20 years of media experience. Originally trained as a journalist Michaela has extensive experience in all areas of radio, print and TV. She has won numerous awards for her work and is currently developing a diverse slate of both factual and drama projects. More info at: www.pursekey.com.au
Thomas Henning writes, directs and produces theatre and film. He has made and presented work in Australia, Timor-Leste, Malaysia, Indonesia, France, Holland, Germany, Iraq, Slovenia, the United States and Greece.
Since 2010, Henning has been working in Timor, collaborating on projects ranging from theatre and film to arts festivals and research projects. His work has ranged from documentary to fiction, music videos to installation.
Henning is the co-creator and director of The Black Lung Theatre and Whaling Firm. He has written and directed several of the Black Lung’s works, including: Glasoon (2009), Rubeville (2006-07) and Avast (2004-08).
Ian Davies (Initialize-films)
Initialize Films was set up in 2005 by Ian Davies and since 2008 has been assisting producers find finance and sales and distribution partners for their feature film and TV projects. Initialize's first producer support programme Interdoc in 2008 helped finance 3 feature documentaries including Emmy-winning The English Surgeon.
Ian’s comment about THIS IS REALITY:
“I believe the project has great potential. This is one of the most bizarre and engaging narratives that I’ve read in over 15 years of assessing feature documentary projects. After reading the materials on the project and having spoken to the team I really believe that this film has the potential of becoming both a film festival favourite and a critical and commercial hit.”
Previous Collaboration: ITA NUDAR EMA
Chris Phillips and Osme Gonsalves collaborated in 2015 to create the short film "Ita Nudar Ema" (We as People) based on Osme's poetry. The piece won a handful of awards including:
Best Director at the Boston Global Film Festival
Best Inspirational Film at Topshorts
The film also opened the St Kilda Film Festival in 2015
Click the thumbnail (right) to watch the film.
East Timor was colonised by the Portuguese in the early fifteen hundreds and remained a Portuguese colony until after the Carnation revolution in 1975. After the briefest moment of sovereignty, Indonesia invaded East Timor on December 7, 1975, one day after American president Gerald Ford had travelled to Indonesia to pledge an extensive program of military aid to the Suharto Government. Both the American and Australian government (lead by Gough Whitlam) supported the Indonesian occupation, forcing the East Timorese to form an underground resistance movement to fight for their own sovereignty against one of the world's most populous nations. This fight lasted 24 years during which 200,000 East Timorese were killed or disappeared through torture, massacres, armed combat, and famine. The conflict ended after a U.N backed referendum in 1999 which recorded a vote in favour of independence of around 80%. In withdrawing from East Timor, Indonesian militia destroyed over 60% of the infrastructure in the country. East Timor has now been independent for almost 15 years.