This could be seen as either very good or very bad timing.
A feel-good documentary starring Xanana Gusmao is about to screen at the Sydney
Film Festival while the nation he fought to liberate seems to be tearing itself
apart. Gusmao is both the narrator and central subject of A Hero’s Journey
directed by Singaporean filmmaker Grace Phan.

According to the PR guff, the film is about forgiveness, which sounds
pretty lame in the light of all the turmoil that’s descended on East
Timor in the last couple of weeks. Phan says: “This film is about
beauty, courage, leadership, love. It is a journey of multiple
dimensions: from war, pain, loss and sacrifice to forgiveness,
reconciliation, nation-building and true liberty.”

There’s not much evidence of forgiveness and reconciliation in Dili at the
moment but you have to wonder whether Xanana could see the trouble coming, given
how much time he is said to have devoted to the documentary project.

The media release says: “The unprecedented one-and-a-half year production has taken President
Gusmao and the film crew across the length and breadth of Timor-Leste’s rugged terrain, revealing the raw,
awesome landscapes of the country to the world for the very first time, and sharing intimate,
personal stories from the 24-year resistance against Indonesian Occupation.”

As easy as it is to love Xanana, in the light of the current troubles is it
mean to suggest that all that time he devoted to recounting his hero’s journey
might have been better spent running his country?

Declaration: The writer once media trained East Timor’s foreign and
defence minister Jose Ramos-Horta and other members of the East Timorese

Peter Fray

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