Review from Cinephilia, Australia October 2012-11-07

Synopsis: Peter A Gordon returns to East Timor to revisit the people and places of his 1991 documentary on the then occupied country and find out what has changed for them since independence.

Although Bloodshot: The Dreams And Nightmares Of East Timor serves as brief history of the country from its invasion by the Indonesians in 1975 to its state today as a independent developing nation, its real strength is the people whose story it tells.

The film has three main strands. First is the director’s epiphanic experience in 1990 on hearing Shirley Shackleton recount the story of her husband, Greg, who was killed with his crew by the Indonesian Army as they invaded East Timor in 1975. This led a year later to Gordon with a young Australian woman in her early twenties, Kirsty Sword and a cameraman, Max Stahl, to go East Timor to report clandestinely on what was happening. Gordon and Sword left when things started to look too dangerous, with Sword moving to Djakarta where she worked undercover for the Timorese Clandestine Front and Stahl staying behind to shoot more footage.
The next strand of the narrative developed when Stahl filmed over 200 East Timorese being gunned down by the Indonesians. He smuggled the film out of the country and it became pivotal in opening the eyes of the world to the plight of its people

The third strand brings us up to the present day when Gordon returns to East Timor to reconvene with Stahl and Sword and find out how things have changed since the country gained independence. Sword is now married to the former Timorese guerrilla leader and Prime Minister, Xanana Gusmao, and continues her social justice work, whilst Stahl also lives in East Timor with a new wife and two young children.

Many people hearing director Peter A Gordon narrate this story might be reminded of Werner Herzog’s approach to his subject matter. Although clearly moved by his subject matter, Gordon takes a philosophical, reflective approach to it. How else can we deal with such injustice and suffering and the fact that life goes on despite it?

With interviews with Sword and Stahl as well as Xanana Gusmao and José Ramos Horta and some of the East Timorese who survived Indonesian atrocities, Bloodshot: The Dreams And Nightmares Of East Timor is a moving account of courage, commitment and the upwards movement of the human spirit.