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Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #25: Married Duo Tackle Love and Revolution in ‘Alias Ruby Blade’

Meet the 2013 Tribeca Filmmakers #25: Married Duo Tackle Love and Revolution in 'Alias Ruby Blade'

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

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.

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