geoffoofilm alert




Bananas in Pajamas and other enigmas
The first note on the Sydney Film Festival’s ASIO file is dated 21 March 1960. It is a copy of a minute written by now anonymous officials and relates to a visa application by a Miroslav Kitic, an official from Yugoslavia Film in Belgrade who has applied to attend the Melbourne Film Festival. The minute asks for a number of things to be done and is addressed to, among others, ASIO officers B1 and B2. No objection to the visit is raised. Notwithstanding this a handwritten note written on the same day shows that the organisation leapt into investigative action. The nine line note advises that the MFF is “the annual festival sponsored by the Melb Film Society as the PO Box No is the address of the Society. Erwin RADO, who appears to be anti-communist is the leading light in this organisation, although its activities have been communist-penetrated in the past”.[Document 1]

This flurry of activity resulted apparently from a note from the Chief Migration Officer at Australia’s High Commission in London, Mr G C Watson who described Kitic as “the manager of Yugoslavia Film Belgrade, (who) wishes to visit various countries in the Far East and then proceed to Australia for the Internation(sic) Film Festival in Melbourne from 21st May to 13 June 1960 where two feature and several short Yugoslav films are to be shown”[Document 2]

ASIO’s Director General himself, the redoubtable ICF Spry, then springs his troops into action personally signing a note asking his Regional Directors in the Northern Territory, Queensland, Western Australia, Territory of Papua New Guinea Victoria and New South Wales advising of Kitic’s attendance at MIFF and listing proposed contacts with film distributors in Australia. Regional Directors are asked to “take appropriate Travel Control action.” [Document 3]

Kitic continues to attract ASIO’s attention from the date of his arrival. The Regional Director in the Territory of Paua New Guinea was the first to sight him and sent in a note to his colleagues based on extensive scrutiny of his passport. Matters mentioned in the note were that his occupation was shown as “sluzbenik”, that one attached document “was completely filled with visas, entry and exit stamps’  and that he had “visas for Czechoslovakia and Indonesia but none for the USSR or China.”[Document 4]

Kitic’s visit is closely monitored. There is a clipping from the Melbourne Herald in which he was reported as suggesting that Australia should have its own film industry and the reporter was clearly taken by the fact that Kitic used his hands expressively when he spoke. Copies of this document were sent for notation to nineteen people including the Director General and the mysterious B1 and B2.[Document 5] There are another five separate notes about Kitich on the file including the fact of his departure on 15 July 1960.
Nothing more happens to disturb ASIO’s contemplation of the Sydney Film Festival until May 8 1963 when a report from that journalistic hotbed Honi Soit, dated May 8 1963, mentions that the SFF will be taking place from 7-20 June. “Programmes are rather hazy up to, including and surpassing the last minute due to one overworked Festival Director, Ian Klava[Document 6] , being in correspondence with fifty countries, many of whom communicate in exotic languages.” The report was signed “Bruce Beresford” and copies were again sent for notation to 17 officials, including the Director General and the enigmatic B1. B2 was not on the distribution list. [Document 7]

B2 was back on the distribution list when Klava was next noted by ASIO. He was listed as being, along with his ‘fiancee”, a guest at a dinner party given by the Czechoslovakian Consul-General, one Vlastivlav Kraus. Other guests included the then General Manager of the ABC, Sir Charles Moses and Lady Moses, the musician and conductor Sir Bernard Heinze and Mr Benedykt Polak, the Polish Consul-General. In case ASIO operatives didn’t know who Klava was in this distinguished company he is noted as “the permanent Director of the Sydney Film Festival” in separate parenthesis. Sixteen copies of the note are to be distributed.
At this point clearly Klava attracted ASIO’s attention. It would appear that an operative spoke to him about the festival and a file was raised in his name. A handwritten note next to a mention of Klava’s name says “To be indexed” followed by a further handwritten note dated 17 July 1963. “done”. Klava explained how the SFF operated, its somewhat precarious finances and its selection policy. ASIO’s interest in what was shown was clearly restricted to the Eastern bloc. The only nations sending films that attracted attention were Bulgaria, Poland and Czechoslovakia.[Document 8]

Next the telephone tappers get into the act and a “Secret” Intercept Report advises that “a woman acting on behalf of Mr (Ian) KLAVA of the Sydney Film Festival contacted the Czech Consulate on Monday 17.6.63 where she informed Mr (Stanislav) VODICKA that Mr (Rudolf) Prokes had left the Hotel Canberra and is now staying at the Carlton Rex, Room 401. At the time the woman also said that she believed KLAVA had taken Prokes to meet someone.” Fortunately for posterity the note mentions that Prokes is a “Czech business visitor and Director of “Filmexport”.”
The usual distribution roster, including only B1 on this occasion, is noted and copies are to be filed on the SFF’s file as well as those of Klava and Prokes.[Document 9]

B2 springs into action and on 27 May 1963 apparently requested a ‘habitation check’ on Ian Klava. (No copy of this note was supplied by the National Archives.) A Field Officer reports to the Senior Field Officer that Ian Klava lives with Lucy Klava at an address in Maroubra. Klava’s electoral claim was signed by Joe Scully of the Commonwealth Film Unit who is “cleared to “Secret” level and is on the “WATCH” list in B1 Section”. No doubt employing all necessary guile, the Field Officer reports on a phone call, ostensibly placed “to inquire about joining the Sydney Film Festival”, to Klava’s home in which “a foreign female voice” advises that Klava, to what should be no surprise, can be found at the venue where the Sydney Film Festival is then taking place. The report is sent on to Headquarters in Melbourne for the attention of B2 by the Regional Director in NSW. It notes that Lucy Klava, designated in the report as being 31 years older than Ian Klava, “is probably his mother.”[Document 10]

Gnawing away at the SFF bone, a Field Officer from B2 prepares another report in January 1964. The officer has obtained a copy of the 1963 SFF “souvenir programme” from a Commonwealth Film Unit employee Malcolm Otton. In a forensic analysis it appears that the operative has discovered a hotbed of persons of interest. It reports the names of the SFF Committee members who are “persons on record”. These were Allan Ashbolt, Frank Bagnall, Hans Bandler, David Donaldson, Bern Gandy, Stanley Hawes, R W O’Brien, H M Scales, Professor  A K Stout, Ian Klava, and Vera Koenigswater. Ashbolt, Bandler, Klava and Stout had their own ASIO files to which copies of the note were directed. Reading more widely, the officer reports on an article appearing in a magazine called Spotlight in which one Arthur Rudkin, whose ASIO file also gets a copy of the report, is quoted as saying the “Sydney Film Festival was depressive as there were no Soviet films shown”. You can't win either way.[Document 11]

But the interest in the SFF was continuing and the Field Officer reports that “if further enquiries are required in connection with the Sydney Film Festival, it is suggested that (blacked out) could be approached as he has indicated he would co-operate with ASIO as he did not like to think that the Festival was being used as a means of exhibiting Communist propaganda films. It is also respectfully suggested that (blacked out) is another person who would be willing to supply information to this Organisation. There were it appears one or two would be moles on the SFF Committee.
Keping a weather eye out, in December 1965, an ASIO official thought to draw up a list of film studios and producers, a copy of which found its way onto the SFF file. It accompanies a personnel list of all those involved in some way with the organisation of the 1966 festival. In February 1966 ASIO reports from a “source” that MOSCOW “will send some 300 drawings relating to Eisenstein (the most renowned of classical Russian film producers) and his work for display and publicity purposes during the Sydney Film Festival in June/July this year. Moscow will forward them air freight, and not charge for the use of them. Source says there could not be any better publicity than this for the festival.” [12] One assumes the source was richly rewarded for this priceless nugget of information.
In 1966, David Stratton was appointed Director of the SFF following Ian Klava’s resignation. Nothing untoward occurs then until 1968 when Stratton is spotted among 300 guests at a Cocktail Party given by the Polish Consulate-General . A report on the event was made by Jan Napierja-Kowalski who recognised Mr Ferguson, Labor MLA for Fairfield and Mr David J Strutton (sic) the director of the Sydney Film Festival. “The latter celebrated the occasion by wearing a red tie and pocket handkerchief. Kowalski said that some two years ago he had been advised that Strutton was distinctly left-wing in his views. Since Kowalski is very interested  in the Film Festival of documentary and other type of films, he has frequently been coming in contact with Strutton and until seen last night he had never noted any evidence of Communist sympathies. During a talk he told Kowalski that he was leaving soon on an overseas tour, preparitory (sic) to organising the 1969 Film Festival and that he would visit many countries including those of the Iron Curtain Bloc searching for suitable films. The report was signed by H S Dalrymple-Hay the Security Officer, St Marys Division. It is not clear just who Kowalski was or what his position in the Organisation.[13]

The next year, at 14.30 hours on 7 May 1969 “an unidentified male stranger entered the New Flats Area (of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra) from the east and went to the embassy compound. Photographs …were taken of this male who is possibly identical with David STRATTON, Director of the Sydney Film Festival. This male left the area at 15.25 hours and walked towards Manuka and (a) Photograph …was taken of him leaving.” This report went to Controller B2 but that, folks, is the last bit of info on the released record.
Later of course Stratton joined another organisation which had its own B1 and B2. Your taxes remained at work.