In 1951 the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) began using movie cameras in secret surveillance of people who were suspected of being threats to the state.
Some of their prime suspects were then 21-year-old Aboriginal man Ray Peckham and 32-year-old Aboriginal activist Faith Bandler, on their way to the World Youth Festival for Peace in Soviet-controlled East Berlin.
ASIO Makes a Movie includes the spy agency’s footage of Peckham waiting anxiously aboard the ship at Port Melbourne while immigration officials held his passport. It features the agency’s secret home movie-style film of he and Bandler (and many other delegates) aboard the ship en route to Europe and at a factory in East Berlin where Peckham addressed the workers.
Morgan’s film explains how ASIO made immediate use of the latest technologies after its inception in 1949, including stills and home movie cameras, to chronicle the activities of targets. The film illustrates how the new affordability and popularity of such cameras in the early 1950s made the ASIO agents’ task of publicly filming their subjects – on the street, outside cinemas, even on the beach – far less conspicuous.
ASIO Makes a Movie reveals how closely ASIO filmed their activities in Australia, on board the ship to Europe and in East Berlin. Alec Morgan uncovers the fascinating story of ASIO’s unreleased silent footage.
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