Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hidden treasure reveals the truth and horror of 1991 massacre in East Timor

IT IS a story of murder, betrayal, love and intrigue – but sadly not one you are about to see anytime soon on a TV or cinema screen near you.
I sat transfixed – and I’m not ashamed to say a little moist-eyed – through a screening of ‘Bloodshot: The Dreams And Nightmares Of East Timor’ here at Southampton Solent University this morning.
Also on hand was producer/director Peter A Gordon, an unassuming yet clearly committed film-maker, who poignantly reminded the audience of students and staff that today (November 12) was the 22nd anniversary of the Santa Cruz massacre on the South East Asian island nation.
It was the filming of this bloodbath by former Blue Peter presenter turned war cameraman Christopher Wenner (now there’s an amazing fact for you!) that alerted the world to these atrocities and forms the basis for the narrative of Bloodshot, which reflects on events of 1991 and weaves a story of the fate of the survivors.
Gordon had been in East Timor making an undercover film before the violence erupted that Wenner (now reborn as Max Stahl) captured so dramatically. Helping make the film was Australian researcher Kirsty Sword, proving an adept front for their ‘tourist movie’ cover. Her local language skills proved invaluable and in another you-couldn’t-make-it-up moment she fell in love with, married and had three children with Xanana Gusmão, former resistance leader and latterly prime minister (see below).
That story is the subject of another film, Alias Ruby Blade, a bigger budget production that concentrates on Sword’s admittedly amazing story but at the expense of the bigger picture that Bloodshot encapsulates.
I guess like many people, my knowledge of the struggles in East Timor was sketchy at best, informed by some of the United Nations circus who turned up when I was in Afghanistan in 2002 fresh from the independence celebrations of the newly-born Timor Leste.
Gordon revealed that the film has just gone out on TV in Timor, but only after a seven-hour debate on the merits, or otherwise, of showing such a powerful retrospective on the massacre which killed 250 people in just a few hours.
And it is a powerful portrayal, but Gordon admits that it is not as ‘commercial’ as it could be which maybe accounts for why TV companies or cinema distributors are not queuing up to sign up the rights.
Which is a shame. Contemporary history is served poorly by mainstream media, beyond the first flush of recording in words and pictures atrocities and disasters. This portrayal is accessible, moving and thought-provoking. It deserves a wider audience.
See a trailer for Bloodshot here