In December 1967, during the height of the Cold War, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared while swimming off Cheviot Beach, near Point Nepean, Victoria. Holt was a strong swimmer, enjoyed scuba-diving and spear-fishing and was in robust health. His disappearance led to one of “the largest search operations in Australian history.” Holt visited the beach with four friends, but only one of the group, Alan Stewart, went into the water with the Prime Minister. While Stewart kept close to the shoreline, Holt swam out into deeper waters. Eyewitnesses recalled seeing Holt swim then drift like “a leaf being taken out” as he was caught by the riptide and pulled towards the dangerous waters of the Heads. Despite the police search, Holt’s body has never been found.
In 1968, the police released a report which made no definitive findings on Holt’s “disappearance.” This led to various conspiracy theories filling the column inches like the suggestion Holt had committed suicide or that he had been assassinated by the CIA as dirty commie-sympathizer or that he was collected by a commie submarine and had defected to China. This last one led to the book The Prime Minister Was A Spy which claimed Holt had been a “sleeper” working for the Chinese since 1929. When Australian Intelligence Services discovered the (alleged) truth about Holt, the Chinese quickly arranged to have the PM taken out of the country.
Eventually, 2005, a coroner’s court returned a verdict of accidental death—but the rumors and theories about Holt’s disappearance did not stop.
So now comes filmmaker Scott Mannion‘s fictional take The Defector which owes a small bit to some of the theories already mentioned and a big bit of imagination. It’s a well-conceived and beautifully crafted short film which is most likely a calling card to a larger feature. According to Mannion, The Defcetor has already caused quite a storm and has apparently been “banned” in China—read into that what you will.