Max Stahl obituary

1 year ago 98

The documentary-maker Max Stahl, who has died of pharynx crab aged 66, exposed the atrocities of the Indonesian authorities successful East Timor. But helium archetypal recovered fame nether his commencement sanction of Christopher Wenner arsenic a presenter of the BBC children’s tv amusement Blue Peter.

His sporting prowess shone done erstwhile helium abseiled down the eastbound operation of Television Centre, but the overriding communicative of his 2 years connected the programme (1978-80) was however helium stumbled done scripts and appeared uncomfortable successful beforehand of the camera. Nevertheless, his perpetually arguing implicit Blue Peter’s contented with the editor, Biddy Baxter, who held an robust grip connected the show, gave a glimpse of what helium would aboriginal bring to quality and existent affairs television.

Displaying immense bravery, Wenner made documentaries successful places of warfare and upheaval. His astir important publication to bringing knowing to occidental audiences of brutal acts committed distant from the glare of the extracurricular satellite came erstwhile successful 1991 helium travelled to East Timor (now Timor-Leste), a erstwhile Portuguese colony ruled by an Indonesian dictatorship since being invaded successful 1975.

At the Santa Cruz cemetery successful the capital, Dili, helium filmed shocking scenes of a massacre of astir 280 peaceful demonstrators by Indonesian troops. The protesters were staging a pro-independence march pursuing a memorial work astatine a adjacent religion wherever a pupil had been changeable dormant 2 weeks earlier.

“I was conscionable getting my camera acceptable erstwhile determination was a partition of sound, astatine slightest 10 seconds of uninterrupted gunfire,” helium said. “The soldiers who arrived fired constituent blank into a assemblage of a mates of 1000 young people.” Before being arrested and questioned for 9 hours, helium buried his movie successful a freshly dug grave, aboriginal recovering it and smuggling it retired of the country.

Stahl, centre, nether  the sanction  Christopher Wenner, archetypal  recovered  fame erstwhile   helium  presented Blue Peter, with Lesley Judd and Simon Groom, successful  the 1970s.
Stahl, centre, nether the sanction Christopher Wenner, archetypal recovered fame erstwhile helium presented Blue Peter, with Lesley Judd and Simon Groom, successful the 1970s. Photograph: David Thorpe/ANL/Shutterstock

Back successful Britain, the pictures were shown archetypal connected Channel 4 News, and past made into the movie Cold Blood: The Massacre of East Timor, co-directed with Peter Gordon and broadcast successful ITV’s First Tuesday documentary strand successful 1992; the movie was the wide victor successful Amnesty International’s archetypal UK Media Awards. So that helium could support his individuality and instrumentality to East Timor, Wenner was credited arsenic Max Stahl (his mediate sanction and a saltation connected his mother’s maiden name) and continued to usage it passim his career.

A twelvemonth later, John Pilger was readying his ain documentary, Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy, interviewing witnesses to atrocities and telling the afloat communicative of the Indonesian genocide, the islanders’ conflict and the relation of occidental governments, and Stahl contributed to the film. He travelled to East Timor independently of Pilger and the manager David Munro – each of them carrying tiny cameras hidden successful bags – to guarantee that, if immoderate of them were arrested, astatine slightest immoderate movie would get out.

Stahl changeable uncommon footage of Fretilin guerrillas grooming and his interviews included 1 with “Delfin”, who said helium became a absorption combatant aft witnessing a massacre successful which 66 men and boys were killed and each the women raped. He besides filmed the exhumation from a wide sedate of immoderate of the dictatorship’s different victims backmost successful Indonesia.

When Death of a Nation was screened successful 1994, it elicited much than 4,000 calls a infinitesimal to a helpline fig and thousands of viewers wrote to their MPs. The 2 documentaries – Cold Blood and Death of a Nation – were credited with raising consciousness of East Timor’s plight, and were “crucial successful bringing guardant our liberation and redeeming countless lives”, said José Ramos-Horta, the governmental activistic and East Timor’s 2nd president aft independency came successful 2002 arsenic Timor-Leste.

Stahl showed his affection for the state by making his location determination until moving to Australia past twelvemonth for aesculapian treatment. He founded the Max Stahl Audiovisual Centre for Timor-Leste successful Dili, an archive containing 5,000 hours of footage changeable implicit respective decades, and successful 2019 helium gained Timorese citizenship and was awarded the country’s highest honour, the Order of Timor-Leste.

He was calved successful London, the 3rd of 4 sons of Gunilla (nee Stahle), the girl of a Swedish diplomat and manager of the Nobel Foundation, and Michael Wenner, of Swiss and French descent, who was a British diplomat and had served arsenic a paratrooper and commando during the 2nd satellite war.

After studying astatine Stonyhurst college, Lancashire, Christopher gained a grade successful lit astatine St Catherine’s College, Oxford, wherever helium acted with the melodramatic society. He besides appeared alongside chap students successful a 1975-76 touring accumulation of The Taming of the Shrew by the Oxford and Cambridge Shakespeare Company.

He directed fringe theatre productions and acted successful repertory theatre successful Derby earlier joining Lesley Judd and Simon Groom arsenic a Blue Peter presenter successful 1978. Apart from being seen connected TV arsenic a trooper, uncredited, successful the 1984 Doctor Who communicative The Awakening, Wenner dedicated the remainder of his vocation to covering conflicts successful faraway countries. He started by producing Death of a Priest (1981) successful Guatemala and directing The Front Line and Crucified Church (both 1983), astir the civilian warfare successful El Salvador, wherever his begetter had been British ambassador.

He caused interest erstwhile it was believed helium had been kidnapped successful Lebanon successful 1985, but helium turned up aft being missing for 19 days and made The Hashish Connection (1988), astir the country’s amerciable drugs trade. Then, aft his archetypal sojourn to East Timor, helium filmed successful Serbia during the Balkans warfare and successful Kosovo (1995-99), present utilizing the sanction Max Stahl.

He besides made documentaries successful Russia (The Hunt for Red Mercury, 1993), Guatemala (Plunder: Mayan Treasure Hunters, 1990) and post-Soviet Georgia (Out of the Shadows, 1992) and Chechnya (Sufi successful Chechnia, 1992).

While moving connected Blue Peter, helium met Liz Trubridge, a accumulation adjunct connected the programme (and aboriginal shaper of Downton Abbey), whom helium joined successful 1984. The matrimony ended successful divorce. He is survived by his 2nd wife, Ingrid (nee Bucens), their son, Leo, and daughter, Malin, and the sons of his archetypal marriage, Ben and Barnaby.