The ghost of Julian Assange

Jan 23, 2024
Digital Artwork of Julian Assange.

Despite being detained, silenced, and hidden from public view in the maximum security Belmarsh prison for the past five years, as the day of his extradition draws near, the spectre of Julian Assange looms ever larger over the politics of the AUKUS lands.

By exposing U.S. war crimes in Iraq in the searing documentary Collateral Murder, Assange, an Australian citizen, ignited a firestorm of controversy and earned the undying hatred of the U.S. and U.K. military intelligence community. They and their Five Eyes collaborators have subjected this Australian citizen to unrelenting lawfare through the misuse of their courts for over a decade in a sickening travesty of that laughable contradictions, British justice.

As Assange’s extradition approaches, as he prepares to transit from the frying pan of Belmarsh into the fire of a U.S. supermax, as his life hangs in the balance, Byron Bay filmmaker Kym Staton, has been touring his new documentary, The Trust Fall: Julian Assange around Australia to rapturous acclaim.

The media release says the film is about the most famous political prisoner of our times, Julian Assange:

“Assange is a multi-award winning Australian journalist who has been detained in prison for more than 4.5 years and faces extradition to the U.S. with the threat of a 175-year prison sentence – all for revealing the truth.”

The film examines the extraordinary significance of the documents released by WikiLeaks, the astonishing personal risk taken by Assange, the resulting ruthless overreaction by the spooks, and the broader fundamental threats posed to press freedom and our right to know.

It features a wide-ranging array of luminaries defending Assange, including Daniel Ellsberg, John Pilger, Tariq Ali and Chris Hedges, with the insights of experts including Jennifer Robertson, Jill Stein, Stephanie Morici and Nils Melzer, in addition to reflections of Assange’s family, including Stella Assange. John Shipton and Gabriel Shipton.

The Brisbane launch of The Trust Fall: Julian Assange at the Five Star New Farm on January 16 was wildly successful. The film was intended to be screened in the purple room, the largest theatre in the New Farm complex, which holds over 200, so when that room sold out, they had to open a second theatre, which also sold out, so they opened a third room, which was almost full on the night! Close to 400 people attended the opening night in Brisbane. Director Kym Staton was highly pleased with the turn out of the Brisbane premiere. “The response was overwhelming,” he said.

The film has been exhibited at about a dozen festivals over the last six months. The world premiere in July at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Nova Cinemas, Carlton, was sold out a week in advance. Two hundred-and-forty attended, and the theatre put on another screening the same night.

The Mareeba Drive-In was the first cinema to book the film, so Kym Staton and his co producer Natalia Minana travelled to Mareeba in far north Queensland to attend the theatrical debut on December 28. They had no idea how many people were coming on the night of the screening because the drive-in didn’t do online ticket sales. They were pleased when they drove through the gates to see 108 cars – 215 people attending in a small country town! And at the end, they not only cheered and clapped, they also tooted their horns!

The reception in Brisbane lacked the horn tooting, but the applause was similarly sustained and rapturous. The Trust Fall: Julian Assange is a powerful and important documentary, imaginatively filmed and lyrically written. My favourite line from the script? “As the Mandela of our time walks a long walk toward freedom every day around a six-metre cell.”

Jonathon Sri, who is the Greens candidate for Lord Mayor of Brisbane in the forthcoming city council election, was a speaker at the Q&A that followed the film. He said,

“I guess two things that stuck out for me: just how hard the United States and their global empire will work to suppress the truth and to punish people who speak out.

“But I was also struck by the fact that in other parts of the world, people are paying a lot more attention to what’s happening to Assange. And he’s one of our guys. And yet, here in Australia, it doesn’t quite resonate in the same way. And I was really struck by the fact.

“The movement hasn’t been as strong here and I think we’ve all gotten distracted by other issues and there’s so much going on, it’s hard to keep across all this stuff. But I came away from the film thinking Australians really need to pick up our game because as the commentators in the film pointed out, we have a lot of leverage here and that’s the question that we all need to be asking ourselves is: How much pressure are we putting on our own governments, particularly on the. Labor and Liberal parties to shift their position? Because right now they’re basically bowing down to the U.S.”

Assange said that if lies can start wars, truth can lead us to peace. Groups that represent the world’s journalists, like the International Federation of Journalists, the MEAA, and Journalists Without Borders have warned the prosecution of Assange means the end of honest journalism. We live in terrible times and witness crimes that are leading us towards a third world war. At the same time, the mainstream media and our politicians are the vectors for these war-provoking lies: Anthony Albanese, Penny Wong, Peter Dutton, Simon Birmingham, the Murdoch press, Channel 9, the ABC, are the problem, not the solution, because they blithely ignore the mistreatment of this Australian citizen by our allegedly closest allies. For them, Julian Assange is the unwelcome ghost of any integrity they once possessed.

What can be done? It depends on us, the people of Australia. Contact your federal M.P. and express your concerns and urge them to join the Bring Julian Assange Home Parliamentary Group. Julian Assange’s father John Shipton is organising a conference in Melbourne in March, Night Fall in the Evening Lands. The screenings of The Trust Fall: Julian Assange are steadily expanding. If you want to take friends to see this important film, go to the website and click on the homepage to see upcoming screenings. Encourage your local cinema people to request it. And go to the upcoming protests, when they are called in late February, early March.

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