By MELISSA WELLHAM
The Indonesian occupation of East Timor is a period of political history still fresh in the minds of many Australians. The brutal and violent invasion, which lasted from 1976 well into the 90s, was a divisive issue in Australia – and indeed, the world over – for many years.
Alias Ruby Blade is a documentary that covers this period of history – but from a never-before-seen perspective.
This is not just a documentary about the tumultuous birth of a new nation. This is also a story of intrigue, revolution and romance.
At the heart of Alias Ruby Blade is Kirsty Sword, a young Australian activist who dreamed of being a documentary filmmaker – but instead became an underground operative for the Timorese resistance in Indonesia.
Code named ‘Ruby Blade’, Kirsty’s task was to act as a conduit of information between the resistance movement and international humanitarian groups, and the imprisoned, charismatic leader of the resistance: Kay Rala “Xanana” Gusmão.
As Xanana and Kirsty worked together to achieve the independence of the East Timorese people, they grew closer and closer – forging a deep bond despite their circumstances.
Through correspondence, they slowly fell in love.
Alias Ruby Blade follows their incredible story from the very beginning, to the triumph of East Timor’s freedom – demonstrating the power of individuals to change the entire course of history.
This remarkable film is screening in Australia as part of the Human Rights Arts and Film Festival (HRAFF), a not-for-profit organisation that aims to challenge and inspire audiences from all walks of life.
The annual film festival explores issues of human rights, and introduces Australian audiences to the injustices, tragedies and triumphs that occur in the lives of many. Many of these injustices are happening on the other side of the word – but sometimes, as in the case of East Timor’s bloody political history, the conflicts are happening much closer to home.
HRAFF selects films that will engage and educate their audiences – and encourages viewers to talk about their experiences. The film festival has screened for a fortnight in Melbourne – and will spend the next few weeks touring Australia.