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As he drove across Ilkley Moor, Peter Gordon heard of a growing conflict in south-east Asia. What he filmed there shocked the world
A Wharfedale filmmaker has revisited a fledgling south-east Asian nation 20 years on from his groundbreaking undercover documentary in which he recorded a massacre of more than 250 people by Indonesian soldiers.
Producer and director Peter A Gordon has filmed a new documentary charting the progress of East Timor – and the lingering nightmare of the horrors endured in its struggle for independence.
Mr Gordon learned about the strife in East Timor from the more peaceful surroundings of Ilkley Moor.
While driving along a moorland road he heard an interview on Women’s Hour with the widow of Australian journalist Greg Shackleton, who was killed with his crew by the Indonesian Army as it invaded East Timor in 1975. Shackleton was the last reporter to film on the island.
But listening to her story, Mr Gordon resolved he would lead the next film crew.
Mr Gordon, 59, of Ben Rhydding, led a Yorkshire Television undercover camera team in East Timor in 1991, investigating Indonesia’s occupation of the country and its independence movement.
What they filmed sparked world outrage and changed the course of history.
Cameraman Max Stahl captured footage of the Santa Cruz cemetery massacre in the capital, Dili, in November 1991.
More than 250 pro-independence demonst-rators were said to have been killed.
The footage was hidden and smuggled out to Australia.
The documentary, Cold Blood: The Massacre of East Timor, was first aired on ITV in 1993 and went on to win numerous international awards.
The footage, and the testimonies of other journalists present, caused outrage around the world.
Indonesia eventually relinquished control in 1999, following a UN-sponsored agreement.
In his new film, Bloodshot: The Dreams and Nightmares of East Timor, Mr Gordon has documented the transformations which have taken place since independence.
He has also heard of the harrowing stories of those who survived the massacre.
And he has tracked down the former guerillas the crew originally met in secret mountain hideaways.
Mr Gordon said: “I’d always wanted to tell our story and the story of East Timor and there came a point when I wasn’t so busy on other projects that I had time to pursue this one.
“Also the country has come to have a degree of stability after all the trauma, which I thought would be a sensible time to try and make a new film.”
The original documen-tary also changed the lives of the crew who made it.
Max Stahl became a national film-making hero, while researcher Kirsty Sword fell in love and married guerilla leader Xanana Gusmão.
Gusmão became East Timor’s first president and is today its prime minister.
Mr Gordon was unable to meet Gusmão in 1991.
But he met him for the first time while making the new film.
Cold Blood: The Massacre of East Timor recently premiered in Melbourne and was due to screened outdoors in Dili yesterday.
Visit bloodshot-documentary-east-timor.com for more details.