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Persons of Interest

★★★★☆

Australia owes Haydn Keenan a debt of gratitude for six painstaking years of work in unearthing the intrigues of this country’s most secretive organisation. Since its birth in 1949, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation has been used as a blunt instrument against political opponents, intimidated peaceful protestors and damaged the livelihoods of both its targets and its operatives.
 
Based on extensive archival work, Keenan presents a formidable indictment of ineptitude, overreach and Cold War paranoia through the declassified ASIO files of four of Australia’s most prominent dissidents: Communist Party member Roger Milliss, anti-war protestor Michael Hyde, Indigenous rights activist Gary Foley and Power Without Glory author Frank Hardy. As Keenan’s subjects reel from the intrusive dead hands rising from the pages, 16mm surveillance film and the wrenching reminiscences of former ASIO agents round out a sordid, heart-breaking insight into Australia’s secret history.
 
Our national consciousness prides itself on its history of dissent. If this meant anything more substantive than lip service to Ned Kelly and the Eureka Stockade, then Keenan’s series deserves to be on the high school history syllabus, its subjects deserve to be national heroes instead of historical footnotes, and its contents deserve to be the subject of national outrage. Persons of Interest is a milestone in Australian documentary, the most revealing insight into stealthy manipulations since Rats in the Ranks and the best character study since Neil Davis in Frontline. At the risk of disqualifying myself from any government employment opportunity for the rest of my life: this series is absolutely not to be missed.

Persons of Interest screened as part of the Melbourne International Film Festival. Click here for all of our reviews from MIFF 2013.