Creative husband and wife team, Alex Meillier & Tanya Ager Meillier, first became involved with the East Timor region in 2005 when they were stationed there as part of a documentary unit for the United Nations Mission of Support to East Timor. They came across the autobiography of the former First Lady, Kirsty Sword Gusmão, and found the point of view for the story that was right for them. In the meantime the pair honed their filmmaking techniques working in features producing, photographing and editing the film "Obscene" which premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival and then working as editors for Michael Moore on "Capitalism: A Love Story." In 2009 they began planning to shoot their latest work, "Alias Ruby Blade."
What it's about: "Kirsty Sword, a young Australian activist, aspired to be a documentary filmmaker in East Timor, but instead became an underground operative for the Timorese resistance against Indonesia in Jakarta. Her code name: Ruby Blade. Her task: to become a conduit of information and instruction for the resistance movement’s enigmatic leader, Kay Rala "Xanana" Gusmão, while he was serving life in prison for his revolutionary activities. Through correspondence, they fell in love. "Alias Ruby Blade" captures their incredible love story, from this beginning to the ultimate triumph of freedom in East Timor, demonstrating the astonishing power of ordinary individuals to change the course of history.
What else should audiences know?: "We want the audience to understand that though we are intensely interested in the story of the history of the liberation of East Timor and the sophistication of the non-violent resistance struggle, what we are even more interested in is the power of ordinary people to change the course of history. That’s what this film is really about. And that is why you don’t need to know anything about the geography or the historical conflict to appreciate this story."
On the challenges: "On the one hand, the story is relatively obscure and under reported in the United States, but on the other hand, a number of notable documentaries have been produced about this topic. We didn’t seek out to make an investigative documentary, as others have done before us, we sought to make a dramatic film that could be accessible to a wide audience outside of the activists and journalists that might already be interested in this topic. So for us the challenge was to make a film that would appeal to people on both sides of that spectrum of involvement and awareness of the larger topic."What they hope audiences will walk away with: "Rather than pointing to one specific message or cause, we would like people to exit the theater with a little less fear to speak out or act with courage when confronted with injustice and hypocrisy of all forms. If anything, we want our film to be a reminder for people struggling for justice and for human rights that sometimes the good guys really do win."
Films that inspired them: "One film that comes to mind immediately is “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” made by our Executive Producers Abigail Disney and Gini Reticker. First, you’re taking a story about the women’s peace movement in Liberia and elevating it out to a very broad audience. Then, we studied the way it was shot and edited and applied some of the lessons we could glean from it to the craft of Alias Ruby Blade. It also helped us to have the filmmakers themselves giving us notes in the edit. Another film I could point to as a inspiration would have to be "When We Were Kings" – in particular the editing style and interview technique of putting the subjects in the moment of an event that transpired in the past. The checkerboard style of editing of the brilliant first scene of that film was a direct inspiration for the end of our film, we watched it over and over again."
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they're doing next. We'll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on April 17 for the latest profiles.