The Cement City
The Home Space project is based on a 20 year research on how the suburbs and land around Maputo is changing. The cement city aka Maputo city centre is like a fungus growing at the expense of the land around it. The suburbs around the city are mainly self-built dwellings, first out of bamboo now slowly being replaced by cement blocks and corrugated iron. At a time when land had no value, plots were given to poor people mainly dislocated during the war, to cultivate. Over the years families grew and so did poverty and plots got divided and sold off, often sacrificing the allotments where women grew the household food.Read more
Do we need to understand every word to shoot a sequence?
Mama Teresa was my favourite right from the beginning. She spoke a few Portuguese words but went on speaking to me in Changana, her local language. The energy she gave out seemed to allow me to understand what she was communicating. I have used translators in past situations but although we gain information through the translation, I often feel very frustrated because the attention, focus, keeps slipping from the character to the translator and part of me stops feeling the person that I’m filming. So I took the decision not to work with a translator and allow me to go with the feel of her and allow her to just talk to me, whenever she wants, knowing that I did not understand her. No doubt I will discover crucial details during editing and probably get kicked by my editor for not having followed some of the leads. But I ask myself: do we need to understand every word to shoot a sequence? Can’t we sometimes just work on the feel of it?Read more
A bank banner advertising a credit scheme in Maputo: ‘We will help you redecorate your home, invest in education, go on holiday and look after your health.’
Mozambique is a socialist country but with a privatised infrastructure, such as most education, electricity, water, transport etc… all except the land. So technically people get offered a plot of land but do not own it! The power of banks is only starting, as most people are self employed or do not earn enough to be paid through banks, unless you work for the government. Anything they save, they invest in developing their house: a few more cement blocks or cement bags or corrugated iron… With the privatisation of water, most people have a tap in their yard but many cannot afford it, so children and women will walk to a selling point and buy one jerry can at a time for 20 medicais (50 pence). The electricity is re-bought. They go to petrol stations or kiosks and have a primitive system of “pay as you go.”Read more
I rented a room in the centre of town as public transport tends to be reduced to “chapas” – little mini buses which are always so full that you have young men’s bums sticking out of the windows and they have this tendency to break down, making any journey a challenge to time and patience…Read more
Day 3: Constructive Feedback
Our final day began with yet another strong note of caution. As if the previous evening and night had itself merely been an illusion, Werner jumped back into commenting on commentary and advised us to take it easy with text that is overloaded with too much depth. 'There are moments when you can depart far from the text', he said. He gave the end of Cave of Forgotten Dreams as an example.
The commentary moves into the abstract form of perception with the albino alligators. Only once the audience is comfortable with the subject can you go wild but it is important to anchor it well. The audience has to be taken by the hand and guided through the film.
Werner then delved back into the staging of moments in documentaries. For example, there is the scene in the Kinski documentary where we are taken on a visit to his old house, which was all choreographed. The basic pattern of the trip was rehearsed. ‘Sometimes it is better to come as a surprise but here it was right to set up the scene. The real surprise renders the best effects but this is not only always the case. We must sometimes be quick to take drastic steps in order to solve a problem.’Read more
Day 2: Being a lion tamer
The morning session began with an unexpected occurrence, an occurrence that sublimely facilitated the forgetting of the Fitzcarraldean trial that was reaching Crawley train station first thing on a Sunday, whilst engineering rail works shut down the entire local network. There was, of course, the other painful recollection that it was indeed early on a Sunday morning. Werner began the day with the reading of the passage of the horse’s death from Virgil’s Georgics. His eyes gazed at the manuscript with intent yet they burned wildly, completely transfixed in the text. Werner read the passage with that distinct accent of his whilst we hypnotically stared, captivated in a long gone moment in time. He explained how Virgil saved his Antarctica film. Arriving with no notion of what he would find Werner stepped onto the South Pole, looked around and thought 'We will do it like Virgil!'Read more
Day 1: Read, read, read, read.
I wanted to be as far forward as possible to be able to see Herzog's every muscle move in his face, to observe every movement, to completely concentrate and to listen. My notepad quickly opened, my pen at the ready, my only purpose to be attentive and to write down everything he uttered.
Werner entered the front of the room and took control of the microphone, a screen hung behind him and a projector fanned in front of him. Two speakers dangled either side of him. He welcomed us and began with his Rogue Film School mantra, ‘I will say this again, if you want to be a film director you must read, read, read, read.’Read more
The Rogue Film School: Meet and Greet
Whilst on the 16.27 train from Clapham Junction to Crawley many peculiar thoughts entered my head. First of all, why Crawley? Werner Herzog had chosen the furthest hotel from Gatwick Airport for his first European and third-in-all Rogue Film School, a hotel that happened to sit on the fringes of this town. Secondly I had to remember to breathe as I found myself reliving the moment the email fell into my inbox with the subject heading, 'Congratulations!!!'
I happen to recall that in the moment of receiving that email I had been in a pub, somewhere in Edinburgh, with, as a coincidence, the director of photography of the film that I entered The Great Flood, Scott Ward, and one of the editors of the film, Fiona Reid. Within that second all sound faded out of my cacophonous conscious state and all sight focused on the wording of the email, I looked to them pale as coconut milk and asked, ‘Should I go?’Read more
We have our first documentary PhD by practice! Amy Hardie (The Edge of Dreaming) and the rest of the SDI team celebrated yesterday with champagne and strawberries at ECA's last independent graduation ceremony. Edinburgh College of Art merges with Edinburgh University from 1 August.
But we have another ten PhD students with projects in the pipeline, so watch this space.
To find out about post-graduate opportunities, please go to our website.
With our Interdoc programme we have been running some clandestine whisky tasting soirees at different festivals wherever we are running sessions. A special guest list is invited but only get to know the time and the place via a text at the last minute. Such evenings are good fun and great way of networking.
Of course we also get a few gate crashers and this time, one of them was a woman who stepped straight out of a Vogue magazine, and when I enquired who she was, she replied “but I am Melissa, the star of Melissa’s film”.
Funny enough the following day, American filmmaker David Wilson (True/False Film Festival), was questioning at the Soap Box event what should be the best or correct way to refer to our documentary subjects?Read more