Best film since a long time: ‘Historias que so existem quando lembradas’.

I am as much a film enthousiast and watcher as I am a film maker. Same goes for photography and same goes for novelwriting and poetry. I truly love the art that I make and that I enjoy seeing and experiencing. And of course I have some criteria for what I find beautiful and of high quality. And very rarely I find something that is of such amazing outstanding quality that it makes me humble as an artist.

Even rarer is to watch something, like a movie for instance, that in all aspects is so vlose to my own work and to what I desire to make. Tonight I had such an experience and I feel that – together with what has been going on in the past few weeks – will influence my further work profoundly.

Tonight I got to watch the movie ‘Historias que so existem quando lembradas’ of the Brazilian director Julia Mura who also wrote the script. The film showed me what I wish to be able to make someday in my life. Script, photography, music, coloring, camera handling, editing and directing is absolute perfection. I do not recall to have seen a movie of this quality since ‘Una giornata particolare‘ which is my all time favorite movie.

The story is simple. In a fairy tale village somewhere in Brasil people get old but do not die. They just live their daily lives. One day a young girl comes to the village. She makes pinhole photographs and her being in the village all of a sudden leads to adjustments in the behaviour of the villagers who slowly but gradually accept her presence. She stays with an old lady who bakes the bread for the villagers. An old lady who just wants to die to be reunited with her husband who passed away a long time ago. But the old lady bakes the bread and cannot be missed, so she doesn’t die. The young girl connects with the old lady to in the end set her free and become part of the village herself.

The story is a metaphorical story, a fairy tale about love, about mourning the dead, about growing old and about learning to die, to accept the inevitable at the time that’s most suited. It is a story about the mortality of man.

The director made the best use of the locations and the colors that were at hand to create an atmosphere of tranquility and tenderness. The film is in all its aspects a statement of love. The way it was shot and edited made it into a film that is really moving. The music in the film underlines the story in an amazing way and the photography is very surprising, beautifully stylistic and of extreme quality. I have never ever seen anything like this.

If you have the opportunity to go see this movie, please do so. If you love cinema you just have to.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij

Advertenties

The benefits of being ill (for a while).

Sometimes life travels at lightspeed for some. The reasons why are usually a totally unpredictable combination of events, challenges, situations and probably more known factors like character, emotion, personality, ambition and health. For me it’s not difficult to attach something personal to all of these words but the last one has, for the time being, become like the sand in the machine. And that was about time.

There’s no need or ambition in me to go through that whole string of words but a few things are at this moment determining my life in the short term. That is until expectedly the end of this year.

So I fell ill. An intense flu crossed my path and although that is no drama at all for me it meant that I for the first time in many months was forced to take a break. If only for a week or two. And taking a brake from work, obligations, efforts and ambitions forces one to think. Usually.

In the coming months is a lot of work waiting for me and with a lot of luck I’ll be able to get it done before summer. The long awaited novel is getting printed and so are two photobooks. The latter two however still have to be produced from ground up and that is quite a job even for someone like me who is able to make beautifully layouted work in a relative short timespan. And then of course there’s the big one. The film. Still so much to do and so much of it only possible to be done by me. It was, is and will be the biggest time consumer for at least another couple of months. That isn’t everything on the agenda. Because I am turning this work of writing, filming, photographing and publishing my profession rapidly. I know exactly what I want to do in the next part of my life and in fact I have been doing that already since about two years. It feels good, it is me out there doing what I love.

But there’s also the demonic shadow of the past preventing me to build a business of it in my home country because of a business past gone bad (nothing special there either but the left overs are still quite unmanageable). So if I want to do what I do on a solid basis I will have to work internationally. The good news is, I love that. Still, being stranded by illness for a while does force me to revise plans. Not in the least because when out of the performance loop the mind starts asking questions. Making reality checks. And so plans change.

Sure, I still will start to work from abroad for a large portion of the year as soon as it can be arranged. Economics will decide when, I decide if. But the timelines and the way this will happen shift, turn and change. It is not realistic for me to work from Nepal as a home base. I will however keep visiting the country I love so dearly and keep following, filming and reporting the fate of my Bhutanese friends in and around the refugee camps. Not because I promised but because I see that as an obligation to do so. There are more angles to the Nepalese society and the developments of Nepal that I want to report about. But it will never be my only world.

I am still a novel writer and that will not change, just like my love for writing poetry and songs for entertainment. So there will always be times when I am not in Asia or anywhere else for local reporting or filming but in stead I’ll be somewhere, anywhere, writing a novel. And the topic will not necessarily be connected to previous work because my very being as a literary artist doesn’t allow fixation.

So what does all of this mean for the plans I had and for a part still have?

Well, I am the journalist writer, photographer and filmer interested and focussed on human and women rights in South Asia. No doubt about that. But maybe after finishing the film not for this year anymore. Probably if not almost certainly next year again. But I am also the heremit writer in a soft spot somewhere writing that next novel. The sort of novel is already decided and quietly I am starting up research for it already. It is going to be very different from previous work, a challenge to write (that’s never a surprise) and a very special book. And I will also every now and then take the stage with a song or a short story in whatever show with dear theatre friends.

It will mean that I will not leave my country permanently. It will mean that I will leave my country intermittently, sometimes for long periods. But I’ll always be back for long periods. Like this year. Because this year, after the dust has settled of the books and the film and the two years of work involving the Bhutanese exiles issue, I will take a break for something very different, to keep myself in shape and not loose myself in one topic to work on and to take care that my mind stayes free. (I will not drop the topic of the Bhutanese, I can’t but it will be not the main focus for some time.)

Sometime this summer the real work on my new novel will start in traditional writing style. Designing the essence of the story, the plot if there is one to be, the characters, events, images and emotions. It will be England from roughly the end of the 19th century until the 1930’s. It will be distiguished romantic painters and one specific exquisitly beautiful model. A girl who became a model by fate and lost that work also by fate, never known by the public by her real name because she was not so high class savvy as that other famous painters model in that time but by the names of Greec goddesses or biblical Heroïns and who faded away in history but by her image remained unforgettable. I long to write about the life and loves of that woman who was once ‘Flaming June’. And this novel is one that will take quite some time to write wether I am in the flow or not. But it is a certainty that this will be my next major work.

Alice © 2012

The story of a longshot.

I am making my first documentary and am way into the post production stage of it. Editing the thing and grabbing footage from all over my library of over 50 hours of footage and glueing it into a story. I am not an experienced film maker and not a experienced camera operator so with the editing in Final Cut Pro X (thank you Apple for this amazing piece of software) on my Macbook Pro and a second 21″ screen I just have to find ways and tricks to cover up the imperfection that I see that is all around.
Of course the whole film is made with financial restrictions and therefore even the label ‘low budget’ would be insufficient. We’re working on a ‘no budget’ basis. Still, the film is going to be finished in a couple of weeks and it is going to be awesome. As things are now it seems that I can keep the viewer away from knowing with how litle means this film is made.

In my film are a couple of medium to long shots. Filmed with my Sony HVR-HD1000E (with some added support of a Canon 60D DLSR HD cam for some Dutch footage) mainly from my shoulder or in dogs view carrying the thing I’ve been trying to use a tripod as less as possible. Because for a documentary style film I simply prefer the images with the additional physical inbalance of the camgirl working with the camera. It kind of adds some quality to the work in stead of taking it away. Often I find tripod shots looking a bit ‘dead’.

As a camgirl I have my heroes. One of them is Peter Robertson, the steadycam operator that made the epic 5’30” longshot in the film ‘Atonement‘. A long shot that is so amazing in composition and choreography and made with such skill that it is incomprehensible for most people how it was made. Here’s that long shot. Please watch it closely and understand that no cutting was done and only he traditional digital editing has been done to make it like it is. To my opinion an Oscar winning performance of Peter. After you’ve watched it, please read his description of how he made it that I found on http://www.steadyshots.org, a website dedicated to the work of Steadycam operators. But first enjoy a drama in just over 5 minutes unfolding at the beach of Dunkirk. After that read what Peter Robertson says about how it was created.

In the meanwhile I’ll be back at my editing table.

Alice © 2012

Atonement
“Beach at Dunkirk”, By Peter Robertson

An incredible example of production coordination at its finest. Perhaps only bested by the 90 minute shot of Russian Ark – in terms of choreography and coordination anyway. There are elements of gunshots, animal cues, pyrotechnics, vehicles, special effects, and more that all had to both work perfectly and be timed perfectly. …not to mention the majority of the footing was sand.

Operator’s Commentary
(Taken from an email from Peter Robertson to Luis Puli.)

The one-take Steadicam Dunkirk shot in Atonement may well prove to be the emblematic scene that the film will be remembered for. However, this was only one of a series of carefully crafted sequences that we, as a camera department with myself as the main camera operator, were asked to create in response to Joe Wright’s powerful and uncompromising vision.

Nevertheless, this was certainly the toughest shot to achieve, physically and logistically, coming in the last week of a long shoot and at the end of a day when we rehearsed many times with and without camera. The concentration levels needed to remember every beat, twist and turn of the shot, where to follow the actors movements, when to remember a step or obstacle whilst holding the shot composition compounded the physical demands of carrying a heavy camera.

When Joe (Wright) and Seamus (McGarvey) first approached me with the idea of shooting the Dunkirk scene as a one-take Steadicam move I knew that it would take every ounce of my technical and physical Steadicam nouse from the past twenty years of operating to achieve. There would be no plan B to fall back on, with no wiping off and on the backs of background actors or objects to create edit points should a take prove imperfect.

Born partially out of financial necessity–I believe there was only enough money in the budget for 1,300 extras for one or two days–it was, nevertheless, a daring piece of filmmaking that challenged the gods. It was conceived to place the audience physically and emotionally inside the nightmarish vision of Dunkirk.

The scene tells the story of Robbie Turner played by James McAvoy attempting to return to his love Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley) from the doomed beaches of Dunkirk. He is dying and engulfed by the living hell of one of World War II’s most tragic episodes. It is essentially Robbie’s nightmare that the camera describes, restlessly moving around a scene, sometimes bizarre (soldiers skinny dipping), sometimes macabre (cavalry horses being shot) and sometimes painfully moving (a choir singing on a bandstand). The uninterrupted flow of images drift in front of our eyes like a hallucination from a Bosch painting or, in the case of the dying horses, like the contorted images from Picasso’s Guernica. The shot, unedited, has the power of a real nightmare with its bizarre associations. We sense that these events are all happening in the same physical space that we travel through as an engaged audience, not as a series of juxtaposed and montaged images that we view as outsiders. The camera not only shows the desperation and pain felt by the dying Robbie as he begins to realise that he may never see his love again but also the plight of a huge mass of stranded soldiers who desperately seek to return to their lives and loves. As such, the scene transcends the simple story of one individual’s tale of lost love and evokes the sentiments of a great anti-war statement.

Technicalities

We shot Atonement on the Panavision system in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio, using the Panaflex XL on the Steadicam with Primo lenses. However, the Dunkirk sequence itself posed many extra problems for us in the camera department. Whichever way the shot was timed on recces it always came to just under five minutes, ruling out the use of a conventional 400ft magazine. Our excellent 1st AC, Carlos de Carvahlo, pointed out that we could use a Panavision 500ft magazine, which had originally been produced for hand holding the earlier Panavision GII camera. Whilst heavier than a modern lightweight 400ft magazine, it was still preferable to a 1,000ft magazine, which was inconceivable on a shot like this. The extra 100ft gave us the time length we needed for the shot.

Framing and composition posed a few problems too. The shot demanded a wider framing for the architecture of the set at certain times and a closer framing on faces that would loom into the lens at others. Again, we ignored convention and opted for the Panavision 17.5-34mm short zoom, which by remoting its function gave Seamus the option to zoom in shot. This lens gave us the optical range to see the set in all its glory without distorting the faces too much at close quarters. Seamus and I choreographed these zooms at moments in the shot when the natural movement of the Steadicam disguised them to the viewer’s eye.

These decisions all had a bearing on the final configuration and weight of the Steadicam. By remoting all of the lens and camera functions it meant that I was carrying three motors (focus, iris and zoom) as well as the extra weight of the magazine. Add to this two video transmitters, one to the director’s monitor and one to Seamus who needed a picture to gauge his zoom and iris pulls and you have an overall payload that weighed more than a standard airline baggage allowance.

The next problem was how to fly this around the beach with weightless elegance, covering close to quarter of a mile in the process and achieving the precision framing that the director demanded. It was not possible without a swift course of steroids and a metal spine implant to attempt the whole shot on foot. It was obvious that at certain times I would have to ride on a vehicle to cover the ground at speed and keep up with the action. I chose to ride a “mule” provided by Bickers Action Vehicles. This is a small open-backed vehicle with a rear-facing platform, much like a golf cart. A low step was rigged so that I could slide off the back when I needed to continue the shot on foot. I used this for the first part of the shot when the three main characters are striding along the beach past the horses being shot. The step off the “mule’ comes at the rear of the beached Thames barge, where a pause was built into the action to help disguise the step-off.

The shot continued, on foot, up the beach, onto the promenade and around the bandstand. After the bandstand I stepped down via a ramp, cunningly disguised by the art department as a pile of bomb debris and sat back onto a rickshaw rig, expertly gripped by Gary Hutchings and Dean Morris. This was then steered backwards through the chaotic scenes of soldiers riding a merry-go-round and disabling heavy artillery to the beginning of the pier. Here, with the help of a line of carefully placed soldiers filing past camera to once again disguise my step-off, I travelled, on foot, for the final part of the shot up some steps and past a line of soldiers to look back on the mayhem of Dunkirk.

I hope this demonstrates how the whole shot was planned and executed like a military operation in itself and stands, as often these endeavours do, as a testament to the great teamwork it took to achieve. Forget Dunkirk, if I hadn’t had the support of such a brilliant crew the sequence would have been the movie’s Waterloo.

Myth and Legend

The final take used in the movie was Take 3. We attempted a fourth but my timing was off and I missed my footing on the steps leading up to the bandstand. In a shot such as this, once the camera stops dead the shot is pretty much unusable. I realised, having given my all in the rehearsals (two of which were completed fully loaded with the camera) and three previous takes that I didn’t have enough juice in the tank to complete a fifth. It felt like I had just performed a ten-hour gym session and, in hindsight, I consider myself lucky to have even completed three takes. Much has been publicised in print about how the Steadicam operator “collapsed” or even “fell over” which was claimed in some reports. All slightly melodramatic representations of what actually happened but I suppose that every movie needs its myth and legend.

The beach Steadicam team were:
Joe Wright Director
Josh Robertson 1st AD
Seamus McGarvey, BSC Director of Photography
Peter Robertson, GBCT Steadicam / A Camera Operator
Carlos de Carvalho, GBCT A Camera 1st Assistant Camera
Jennie Paddon A Camera 2nd Assistant Camera
Rawdon Hayne B Camera 1st Assistant Camera
Iain Mackay B Camera 2nd Assistant Camera
Gary Hutchings, GBCT Key Grip
Dean Morris Grip
Chris Macaleese Camera Trainee
Simon Thorpe Grip Trainee
Nick Kenealy Video Assist
Clive Bickers “Mule”

Movies That Matter.

If you haven’t been there, go there!

Movies That Matter is on in The Hague until next Wednesday when the party hit’s the theatre. And you better don’t miss it if you care for great filming, documentaries and human rights. All in an amazing mix. And next year there will be another Dutch film there as far as I am concerned.

That is also where my only criticism is to this wonderful cinematographic event. Too few Dutch films and too many films focussing on the Arabian Spring, the Middle East, North Africa and Iran / Iraq. As if there isn’t really happening much concerning human rights elsewhere on this beautifully godforsaken planet. Sure, there are films from other areas like China and elsewhere but it seems that the programming this year is a little too much influenced by the usual suspects. It is how it works, when there’s a hot spot on the globe you only have to wait for a year or so and all the film festivals get filled with documentaries about these regions. It would have been nice to see just a little more diversity.

Still, it’s a great little festival. One cinema and one theatre, being next door neighbours, showing great films from great film makers on topics that are important. In this time of Voice of Whateverland, X-Factor and all that crap it’s good, no essential, that festivals like these are there. Quite simply to keep the minds of the people in focus concerning the state of the world. Now that even my country, formerly a decent and social country, has become xenophobic and selfish (who the heel do they think they are that they have the right to even talk about cutting development aid funding) it is so clear to me that we need to grab the attention on what really matters in life. And that is not ecnomical crisis but that’s life itself. And where that is made impossible I can assure you people will loose dignity and decency. And when that happens it not religion but the arts that are the last straw for human values and human rights. Actually, looking at many films in the programma it is ever so clear that it is most of the time religion that is the cause of the problems.

So, do yourself a favor and go there. Watch some movies, talk to people. Get involved and when you’re at the flyer stand near the entry of the Filmhuis cinema, get yourself a Headwind flyer! If not this year, I hope to see you next year. In a seat watching my film.

Alice © 2012

New flyer for Headwind available for immediate distribution.

In a last CALL FOR ACTION the Headwind production team is working together with the new eu1.tv pan European tv channel (available on cable and internet) by Ziggo and UPC. In the coming week both the new trailer as a new way of crowdfunding will be published on the eu1.tv website. To support that effort we will distribute flyers on the Movies That Matter film festival starting off in The Hague on March 22 at the Filmhuis.

Alice
director and producer of Headwind 

This is the flyer:

Short trailer of Headwind released today.

Today the short trailer of Headwind is released with a call for support and funding.
More information about the film can be found at http://www.headwindfilm.com.
The trailer will be published on http://www.eu1.tv too later today.

We still need substantial funding for the completion of this film.

Alice
director of Headwind

Call for Action: the importance of free Bhutanese journalism in Nepal.

A couple of days ago I wrote an article on this website to advocate the role of journalism for the Bhutanese community in exile. I did that after a fire incident hit the Beldangi 2 refugee camp near Damak in the Jhapa district of Nepal. The whole situation concerning information flow of the events proved the importance of adequate and independent journalism in the region.

Yesterday I received further information on the challenging situation the free journalists focussing on the Bhutanese refugees / exiles are. For many years now they have been covering the situation and major events for this large group of people with almost no financial means. On their own pockets and with little support from abroad. And because these journalists are refugees themselves they have to be careful as they are not issued formal journalists status in Nepal. Refugees are not allowed to do paid work outside the refugee camps.

Journalists and community workers from Bhutan Media Society bringing relief to fire victims in Sanischare camp,
Morang District, Nepal, summer 2011. (Photo © 2011 Alice Verheij)

Their challenges are not only financial. Due to the nature of long term refuge in camps (more than 20 years now) it is only logical that tensions rise frequently inside the refugee community inside the camps and the Nepalese communities around these camps and in nearby villages. Working as a journalist coming from the refugee community means that one has to toe the line quite often. Some of these men (unfortunately only men are doing this work) are threatened or even abused. The work can easily become from relaxed to difficult to dangerous. Only their perseverance and conviction that free journalism is the essence of a free peoples has been and still is keeping them active.

Bhutan is not a free country and threats are often coming from Bhutan to the more active refugees in the community who inevitable critisize the government of their country that has exiled them. Nepal is not a completely democratic and liberal country although much progress has been made in the past six years after the revolution that abolished the monarchy. In present day Nepal there still is an instable government and freedom of press is not something that can be taken for granted. The number of attacked journalists is unfortunately impressive. This poses an extra danger to the work of the Bhutanese journalists in exile.

Lastly there is the massive UN guided resettlement going on. This means that some of the group of active young journalists are leaving the area to be resettled in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmakr, the UK or the Netherlands. So continuous refreshment of resources is essential to keep proper journalistic work alive and news regarding the situation in the refugee camps flowing. It is therefore that a lot of things are needed. Equipment, training and good connections with the journalistic community in Nepal and abroad.

Much of what is needed is still there but to be honest journalism is endangered strongly. These journalists need support. Urgently. Their running cost mounts to some 535 dollars per month to keep the websites online and the journalists at work. That amount of money is needed for transport and media access and normal running costs. Thankfully there is a free news agency setup some years ago. The Bhutan News Service. They as a group are connected with a community aid group the Bhutan Media Society and they keep the websites www.bhutannewsservice.comwww.apfanews.com and www.radiobhutanonline.com alive and kicking.

And now they are about to go down. The funds are exhausted, there are no reserves available and support is low. The exiled community globally is not economically alive to the level that it can be expected that they on their own will be able to cater for the cost.

I myself have been working with these journalists extensively in the past one and a half year. I know their qualities and their sacrifices. I know what they can do and I know that if they can no longer work that the effect will destroy one of the last remains of freedom for the Bhutanese living in the camps in Nepal.

CALL FOR ACTION

If you want to help them, please contact me through email at alice.verheij@xs4all.nl. I would like to work with anyone who understands the importance of free journalism in refugees communities and am able to channel support to the right people and organizations. Any media organization, Journalistic educational facility or individual journalist is kindly requisted to contact me and step in to build a proper financial backing for these young and strong journalists and to facilitate training facilities for the upcoming generation of free Bhutanese journalists.

Alice Verheij © 2012
director Headwind (www.headwindfilm.com)
friend of Bhutan Media Society

Headwind and bad times.

Within a couple of weeks my world has turned for the worse. I experience a shitload of headwind.

For whatever reason my love left me, the exact reasons are still a bit unclear although some hints are there. No one to blame. After that came creative crisis. Poetry is far away, theatre performance went well but the videorecording failed tragically (can’t do camera and perform at the same time) and a few days ago my allowance was decreased with more than 30% leaving me with not enough money to live. Rent, health care and normal dayli things leave me without enough money for food. Hard times ahead. And to top it all the effort of finishing Headwind is for whatever reason anyone has until now still more than 90% depending on me. Too little support, to little progress, too little co-operation. It is so clear that if I would stop working on this film it will never hit the screens. That alone makes that this is essence a film made by with. With some support but not enough by any length. Financially this film project has made gone all the way into post production with a reasonable balance sheet but also with ruining my personal economic life. Productionwise it still is mainly me effort, no matter what has been tried so far to expand that effort and have others become co-creators. Currently I am doing camera, audio recording, soundtrack building, audio and video editing, directing and 90% of the producing, writing and financing myself. That is not a good feeling at all.

So I have to get back in fighting mode but somehow I really can’t. Too damned tired of it all. Because doing this all on my own is just too much. But ok, I’ll put up another fight, like I’ve always done but there is little pleasure left in my life especially as I feel so very much displaced with my heart and emotions left in Nepal and my body in this cold, grey and cynical country. From whatever perspective my personal life is a total shambles. Single, desolated, technically bankrupt and creatively worn out. This time the fight is extra tough and I have no idea how long it will take to get on my feet again.

A few things are clear however.

I will finish my film no matter what happens and my finished novel will be published. No idea where or how to get thefunds for it, but it will certainly be finalized in the coming two months. After that all I do will be connected with making my personal life manageable, because at this stage it certainly isn’t. And when that point is reached I will be gone. Leaving this country for as long as possible beause I do not want to spend the rest of my life in this land. I cannot survive here and I feel out of place an useless. I hope that some time soon I will be able to go and place my life in the hands of whatever God / Gods and dedicate what’s left of it to writing, filming and showing the western world the gravity of life in South Asia. Because it is high time that that region with all it’s challenges becomes more known to the west.

I feel I am finished here and as always before in my life I know that this means I have to go elsewhere. And no matter what, I will be able to finish what I started and what I love to do when I feel a bit better: finishing Headwind and bringing my work to the screen. And that is not easy, not easy at all. But it certainly is worth all the crap that is happening to me. Because there are people waiting for that film to come to their screens. Unfortunately in the west most people don’t give a damn about knowing the reality of forgotten exiles let alone support the making of a film. In the end it is like with most guerilla filmers: you make it because there is no way not to do that, wether anyone is interested or not.

Alice © 2012

About the need for free journalism for the Bhutanese in exile.

A couple of days ago a fire ravished a part of the Beldangi 2 Bhutanese refugee camp in the southeast of Nepal near the little town of Damak. I know that camp well as I have spend there a lot of time filming my upcoming documentary ‘Headwind’. There were no fatalities or severe injuries and that of course is both a good thing and a miracle. Knowing the situation in the camp and knowing where in the camp that fire was I can safely state that swift action of the inhabitants of Beldangi 2 who demolished some 35 huts to prevent the fire spreading has saved them from a disaster like the one that took place on March 22 2011 in the Goldhap camp which was almost completely incinerated. This time ‘only’ some 250 people have lost their huts, their homes.

During the hours of the fire incident and in the wee hours of yesterdays morning I reported on the incident on my website mirroring and analyzing the information given to me through different channels I have with people in Nepal and outside of Nepal and who had direct access to witnesses at the scene. That has made it possible to be clear on the status of the incident and be clear on the fact that no casualties were to be counted, a thing that is of great importance to all Bhutanese who have family and friends living in that camp. I tried to be as objective as possible and continued checking facts and figures by referencing the information coming at me. Hopefully I did that well enough to serve the community. Looking at the statistics of my website it is obvious that the news regarding the fire was well read by many people in a very short span of time. I am pretty sure that a lot of Bhutanese have read the information I gave.

One thing that has become very clear is the fact that it is totally impossible to have any news concerning incidents like this spread to the global community (and international media if needed) without the presence of journalists in the area. Most of the people I connect with are young journalists who are taking their voluntary task as a non profit journalist very serious and they have once again proven to be the backbone of news and information gathering and publishing for the Bhutanese community.

But their work is under grave threats. Let me explain.

First of all none of them are regarded as professional journalists because they are refugees themselves and therefore not allowed to work as a journalist. This means they have no press cards and no legal protection like other journalists do have.

Secondly, a lot of them are themselves being resettled and the more experienced in that group of very motivated young people are quite indispensable for free journalism in and around the refugee camps.

Thirdly, they are lacking professional equipment and good connections for swift response even though some equipment was brought to them recently.

And besides all that they have only limited support for their work.

Still, there are some media initiatives that have proven to be of great value and some of them have been working in this area for years. Websites like Bhutan News Service , Media Network Bhutan and the newly instated e-paper The Refugee Herald are well managed regarding the circumstances they have to work under. These guys need support, continuously. Support from international media and support from the global Bhutanese community. Their work is of increasing importance now that the resettlement of the refugees is going fast. Within a couple of years most of the refugees will have been resettled, but not all of them will leave. Many (some think maybe up to 15,000) will stay in the camps after resettlement closes in 2015 as the UNHCR has hinted. Who will tell their stories if local journalism has gone? Who will keep relatives and friends informed of their situation from a journalistic angle.

This observation should lead to a call for action. A call fo action to the international journalistic community for support and a call for action to the global Bhutanese community to not let these guys down and support them in supporting the Bhutanese living in the camps and living in diaspora.
For me this means that I will continue reporting and traveling to the region in the coming years and do whatever is in my ability to help out.

Alice © 2012

The Artist… what a movie!

Rightfully the Oscars this year went to a film about the magic of movie, the amazing personal lives of actors from a past movie-era. In black and white and without speech. A black and white silent movie in 2012. What a great thing! I totally love it ‘The Artist‘.

This is the very definition of what ‘Less is More’ really can be artistically.

Go watch it when it’s where it belongs: in the cinema. Not on a tv screen or a computer, but on the big screen!

The Headwind Poject: an overview.

In the past year the Headwind Project has broadened from making a documentary to much, much more. At this stage the project is in fact a more than full time job for the Headwind Production team. The following graph shows what is done and what is coming in the (near) future:

Alice © 2012

Headwind production team brought donations to Beldangi hunger strikers.

Dear readers and visitors,

Attached here is a newsitem as published on the Bhutan News Service, the information regarding the handover of donation funds for food and first needs support from the Dutch Nepal Foundation (Vereniging Nederland Nepal) by the Empowerment Foundation’s Headwind Nepal Production Team in co-operation with BRAIN (Bhutanese Refugees Association of Intellectual Novas) on Janury 3, 2012 in the Beldangi 2 refugee camp in Nepal to the ex hunger strikers.

Please read and support the Bhutanese refugees, the making of the Headwind documentary and the Empowerment Foundation for making this charity work possible.

Alice © 2012
director of Headwind
communications Empowerment Foundation
www.headwindfilm.com
www.empowermentfoundation.nl 

Winter morning.

The morning sun shines through my window. I can see how it lits the pearly white of the woodwork of the house opposite of the one I live in. It’s cold in my room. The heater was turned down last night and it usually only takes a few hours for my room to become freezing cold. My windows are single pane, the house is quite high and I live just under the the flat roof on the top floor. So the nightly cold easily takes hold of my little hideout. My hideout is made just right for me. It’s small and exists of a square room and a small annex, the latter being used for storage, drying laundry and the cat bin. The room itself is spacious enough to live in but to small to stack my things in a nice manner which results in a somewhat cluttered look. I somehow, being quite chaotic, haven’t found the way or the discipline to keep it tidy. So there’s things lying around everywhere. My equipment for filming, photographing and writing. My artwork and my books, a chaise longue in bright red, a bed that’s white and too empty with only me in it. The desk is small and occupied by a hundred years old typewriter and little bottles and boxes because I like little bottles and boxes.

There are musical instruments but I rarely play on them. I seem not to have the time to learn playing one properly. An electric bass and a collection of percussion instruments and drums. And on the wall opposite of my bed is a huge wall painting on cotton by Klimt: The kiss. In the not so far corner is a heater. It works on gas and above it is a tiny chimney with a big golden mirror and my temple. Not that I am overly religious but I do like to medidate and my temple has a role in that. Shiva is the God who’s most impressively positioned in the middle of the chimney, dancing as ever in a tempting pose. Next to Shiva are Parvaati on the one side and Aradanashvara on the other side. The three of them being my inspiration with a mix of feminine looks and male powers. Of course there’s incense. I like the smell of good incense. And some Bhuddist things like a prayer wheel and a shell. To remind me of the culure that impressed me and to remind me that there’s more in this world than this European non-religious and non-spiritual world.

I don’t like the cold. Especially not when I am alone. Today at least there’s a sun shining so I won’t get depressed but the days when even that light is gone push me down. I miss my love, her presence and smile. Her laughter and cheerfulness. I guess that’s what it means to live with a long distance love. I long for another chaotic phone conversation in which we seem unable to hang up on each other but I have to take care not to use the phone too much, it’s costly calling and crossing 10.000 km’s.

So, I get up and make breakfast. Fried rice with tea because I still have some rice left from a previous meal and I notice I’m out of milk. Today I will do some shopping and when I get dressed I realize my clothes are dark, mostly black. It looks good on me but somehow I long for the bright colors I wear when in Nepal. I’d rather wear orange or red but these colors are absent in my wardrobe while the kurta’s I have are to chilly to wear on a day like this. Somehow it took just a week to be dragged back into the greyness of life here. My mind still wonders to the rice fields around the little farm with the fields filled with yellow mustarde plants, the mountains in the distance in a light blue haze and the sounds of birds everywhere. There are no birds here and mustarde comes in small pots. My body is in Patan holding the one I love and my eyes scan the old carvings of the temples at Durbar square. My skin thinks it feels the sun touching it and keeping me warm and when I close my eyes I can still hear the sounds in the streets of the little town and smell the smell of freshly prepared food everywhere. I even hear the bells of the mandir, I think. But it’s becoming like a dream as if it is not real.

And I know I am lost. Unable to stay here, unable to go there. At least for now because I have to finish my film first. But then I will return and see her again. Will it be forever then?

Alice © 2012

Storm

When winter comes storm comes first. It’s an old meteorological law in the Netherlands. Always in November and December there are storms hitting the shores of my country.

When storms coming, animals get unrestly. That’s an old biological phenomenon. Always when there’s a storm coming the birds fall silent and animals get itchy. I just have to look at my cat to witness this.

And when a journey comes I get all stressed. That’s something I’ve become aware of over the last couple of years due all the traveling I’ve done. It’s the last days just before departure that are bugging me.

Painting ‘Ships in distress in raging storm’ by Ludolf Backhuysen, painted in 1690.
Collection Amsterdam Rijksmuseum.

So there’s a storm raging in my head. It immobilizes me and wares me out. It’s a bad storm because I get tense and scared. Scared things might go wrong. I start expecting trouble while traveling. Problems at the customs when leaving as my life is not without problems, trouble with the weight of my bags as I carry an excess of equipment. I worry about possible traveling damage to my cameras and computers. I worry about the money. But I’m also getting more and more anxious. Going on a long and complicated journey is like taking a drug. Adrenaline and endorfine start flying. The longing to see dear friends on the other side of this stupid globe gets stronger by the day. So I get jumpy.

This time is not much different from other journeys. This time I do not travel alone, which is a great thing. This time I also very different in another sense. Because this time I am not going away but I am coming back.

This is the deal. The last two weeks I have become emotional. Because I sense that this journey is decisive for the next coming years in my life. It might very well be a journey that changes me from a visitor to someone who has a foundation in a society that was alien to me but is slowly getting a society of which I am a part of. It will be a journey of choices to be made. Choices for a future working in an area under complicated circumstances for a group of people in distress or a future ‘at home’, meaning in Europe, filming and writing and building a third career. Choices will have to made by me in the early part of the coming year. The outcome depends on my ability to organize a local project, getting the funding to live there and getting certainty in my mind that it is the right thing to do. And I am not sure. I know my deep desire for not having to live in western society but I also am aware of the limitations and the possible bloccades that might prevent me to do what I think is the best thing to do.

So this journey is about finishing the filming of Headwind, finishing the editing of my novel and getting the darned thing printed, about making amazing photographs, about talking with my friend in Nepal to see wether the ideas that we have are feasible and spending time with a few people there that I’ve come to love. They are waiting for me to return, I know that.

And after all that, I will know what to do and not to do. I will make a choice and work on the outcome of that choice full force. I will continue to have a storm blowing my mind because that is how my mind works. And I am scared at the same time. Scared of losing it all, losing the connection, losing my energy and flexibility, losing the opportunity to create the things I want and losing the ability to make a change for the better in some peoples lives. I am really scared of all that. But aren’t we all scared a little bit just before the storm?

Alice © 2011