Reports from the production of this year's Bridging the Gap short documentaries, part 3
The Isle of Islay, Scotland. Human population: 3,457. Sheep population: 20,000 (or thereabouts). Wallaby population: 1 (deceased)?
We have come to Islay with one intention – to solve the mystery of the wallaby.
A wallaby is a small kangaroo more often associated with the dusty plains of Australia than the Hebridean Isles of Scotland. In 2004, one such creature showed up at the side of the road. When it was found it was dead, it was suspected to have been flattened by a car. The police soon buried it to keep their unsolved crime rate down.
How it got to the island and how it died remain till this day, a mystery. But Islay is a small community in which everybody knows everybody and secrets don’t
stay secrets for too long…
The search goes on: Alistair giving a calf something it’s not going to likeRead more
Roxana Vilk is producer of the POETS IN PROTEST series made by SDI Productions for Al Jazeera English. She's also the director of the episode on Yehia Jaber: Laughter is My Exit.
There is something very enticing about filming poets. Here are these characters, reflective and questioning by nature, living through a truly historic time of change in the Middle East.
The idea for the documentary series Poets of Protest came after I had been commissioned by Reel Festivals to make three short films during their poetry festival in Beirut in 2011. I was curious to see the changes in the Middle East through their eyes and their poetry. There is also an added creative challenge: How do you bring their poems to life on screen? Poems are an art form in their own right, and film is a whole new artistic language. I wanted to explore where these two art forms could meet and create something new together. And I was keen to have an equal number of female and male poets, three men and three women. I proposed the idea to Al Jazeera English during the Edinburgh Pitch hosted by the Scottish Documentary Institute, and they liked the idea!
Yehia Jaber is a well loved and very funny Lebanese poet. Back in June 2011 when I first met him, it was his laughter that immediately drew me in: it is warm, infectious, and can’t help but gather you up in its path. With his shock of white hair and a cigarette constantly perched precariously on his lip, he is everything you imagine a poet to be, questioning society and politics around him, and spot on with his sharp, funny observations of life. I immediately warm to his poems, which are both incredibly funny and deeply emotional. I knew in my gut we had to make a film together.Read more
Reports from the production of this year's Bridging the Gap short documentaries, part 2
I've spent the past three months hanging around on wasteland in Cranhill, Glasgow. Cranhill is perhaps best known for spawning Scotland's most successful rock brothers Angus and Malcolm Young who formed AC/DC and, least we forget, another famous son of this fine scheme – Junior Campbell from the Sixties' beat group Marmalade, but perhaps best known as the man who penned the iconic theme tune to 'Thomas the Tank Engine'.
Rab and Michael keeping their eyes in the sky, hoping for a capture.
Prior to my film endevaour, Cranhill represented something different to me. When driving from Glasgow to Edinburgh of an evening, you pass three tower blocks on your right as you leave Glasgow. These blocks with their semi-circle reflectively-glazed peaks were the first blocks in the city to incorporate what can only be described as a visual bungle. I am talking about the city authorities' attempts to brighten up our city's night skyline by adding insipid lighting decorations to every housing tower block over 15 metres high. These particular blocks with their ill-conceived illumination have always felt like they mark your exit or your return into Glasgow, and for that reason, I find them a reassuring landmark which has become a focal point in my short film.
Over the past three months, I've spent days hanging around directly in front of these tower blocks, spectating and documenting a century-and-half old, little-known Scottish sport called doo fleein' – or pigeon flying, if you're not familiar with the colloquial terms.
Reports from the production of this year's Bridging the Gap short documentaries, part 1
Chinese takeaway is one of the most popular carry-out foods in the UK. However, working as a takeaway driver might not be the most delightful job. Through the eyes of a takeaway driver, we are not only able to look at the world beyond the takeaway counter, a mysterious catering community that provides our familiar late-night snacks, but also at the city we thought we knew everything about.
Here are some pictures from the shoot for this film:
DoP David Lee (left) and director Yu-Hsueh Lin (right) enjoying a dinner break at the takeaway, the driver Jerry watching telly and not hungry at all.Read more
I want to start the film with the 'wall of shame' as it is known from a beautiful song, as a way to introduce the history of Western Sahara. In order to get there, we had to get permission of the Polisario Protocol Bureau and get a police car escort. I asked Khadra if she would consider coming with us. She immediately accepted and offered that some of her family members join us. That meant two daughters and her son and his wife and a few kids!
They asked me to go and buy camel meat so we could have a picnic in the desert. The two Land Rovers were loaded with pots and pans and meat. It took a 2-hour drive across sand and stone to get there. The police car was driving sometimes at the front, sometimes at the back, trying to foresee danger. It felt like we were in a car chase movie! Meanwhile in our Land Rover, music was blasting out of the speakers and the women were waving their arms in the air and singing along. They have many revolutionary songs with wonderful rhythms. It was impossible to film or take photos, as the car was shaking so much. But I want you to imagine those beautiful, rather large women, with every inch of skin covered but their eyes. And some of them had large black sunglasses. In total disguise, yet having the time of their lives!Read more
Woke up with the anticipation of visiting Algiers. It is such a beautiful city, built on hills and looking at the sea. People compare it to Marseilles, but actually it is more beautiful. White buildings with beautiful blue iron balcomies. Large pleasant avenues with trees and gardens, and the constant view of the sea. Having a rest from walking through the casbah, we saw that the cinematheque was playing one of my favourite films, Touki Bouki, so we went in. There were four of us! The sound kept breaking down, but it was still pleasurable to see the film on a big screen in Africa.
Time to get to airport, only to discover that we had two seats but bad luck: the pilots were on strike, so we may or may not have a plane... So we waited and waited, and two hours later we were rushed through customs (yes, it seems they can do it) and onto a plane to Tindouf. Our poor fixer Hamdi had been waiting for us there for the last 30 hours.Read more
The Scottish Documentary Institute has been commissioned by Aljazeera to make a six-part series on Poets in Protest. One of them is on the Sahrawi poetess Khadra who happens to be an old lady living in exile in one of the Polisario Camps in the middle of Sahara.
For those of you who do not know about the Sahrawi cause, these citizens of Western Sahara not only got colonised by the Spanish many moons ago. Once they managed to become independent, the Morrocans moved on their territory, pushed them out, and build a 3,000km wall around it. They also planted over 8 million land mines to make sure that the Sahrawi will not cross back into their land. Algeria gave the Sahrawi liberation movement, the Polisario Front, refuge on its territory and set up several camps for people to live – and so they have for the last 35 years. The war has moved into diplomacy rather than military and therefore they now live peacefully in those camps but In a state of complete dependence on international aid.
With Roxana Vilk, the producer of the series, we decided that Al Khadra will be the perfect example of grassroot poetry. She uses words instead of bullets in order to express her anger at Morocco's invasion.Read more
Just a quick note to say that Amy Hardie, acclaimed director of The Edge of Dreaming and Head of Research at the Scottish Documentary Institute, has started blogging at Amy on the Edge.
Her latest post is on why impartiality is not the right aim for her.
We recommend that you sign up for updates from amyhardie.com, as Amy has some very exciting projects coming up!
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Last week we had the pleasure of screening the Scottish premiere of The Woman with The 5 Elephants at Edinburgh College of Art, with a long Q&A by director Vadim Jendreyko.
85-year-old Svetlana Geier dedicated her life to language. Considered the greatest translator of Russian literature into German, Svetlana has just concluded her magnum opus, completing new translations of Dostoyevsky’s five great novels—known as “the five elephants.”
As a precocious teenager living in Ukraine with an unusual facility for languages, Svetlana was brought to the attention of her country’s Nazi occupiers during World War II, and found uneasy refuge translating for them. She fled in 1943 and never returned … until now.Read more