Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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August 17, 2010 , , , , , , , ,

Where The Mind is Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow

domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the

dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought

and action–

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

When I was young, I used to recite this song everyday. After the recitation, I always felt liberated, pumped up and ready to tackle the world. Occasionally, I would think about the meaning of this poem. Where is this place – where words come from the depth of the truth? Where is this heaven of freedom? Always, hoping I will go there sometime.

Now, as a filmmaker, I re-examine these verses often. Documentary filmmakers often put their lives in danger in order to tell riveting stories of the unrepresented. For example, Burma VJ is a documentary about the video journalist who risked their lives to expose the oppressive regime in Burma.

Filming in war torn countries or politically unstable regions is always risky for a filmmaker. The most obvious is the threat to personal security. Apart from that, the filmmaker has to deal with language barriers, negotiating terms in a foreign turf, gain trust and access to the characters.

Laura Poitras’s film, “The Oath” is an intimate portrait of Osama Bin Laden’s former bodyguard Abu Jandal was filmed by in Yemen. Yemen is not a very dangerous place (though, I am sure many people will question my judgement) but a female filmmaker shooting a story about anyone associated with Osama is enough of a risk.

James Longley’s films Gaza Strip, Iraq in fragments and Sari’s mother where all filmed in conflict zones. Restrepo, is a feature length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan’s Korengal valley. The movie focuses on a remote 15-man outpost, “Restrepo” named after a platoon medic who was killed in action. The documentary filmmaker Tim Hetherington and author Sebastian Lunfer (The Perfect storm) spent 10 months, on and off, with the troops in Korengal valley to make Restrepo.  James and Tim like many documentary filmmakers and journalist put their lives on line like the characters in their stories. They truly lived their films.

The other day, I told my husband, I had to go to Juarez, Mexico, after I heard an NPR story. Ciudad Juarez is a border city to the South of El Paso. The drug cartels, corrupt police, gruesome violence and abject poverty has made it very hostile territory. I want to make a film there. He did not think I should go there. He spoke like any concerned husband would.

Now, I do not have a body of work to show like that of Laura or James or Tim. But, like them I will go where my story needs me to go. I think deep down, I know that they feel Tagore’s poem.

Coz the fancy place in his poetry, “where the mind is without fear” is not a geographical location it is deep inside you.  Tagore’s poem nurtures the mind to act without fear.


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