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Slightly off-topic but this is very close to my heart for personal reasons. Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day
70 years ago, over six million people were killed during the Holocaust. Pause for a moment and really
imagine that. Over SIX MILLION PEOPLE. That's the whole of greater Dallas — gassed. Or Madrid. Or Santiago De Chile. Or Frankfurt. Or Miami, Philly, Toronto. Or a whole country the size of Israel, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, Singapore, Jamaica or the Republic of Ireland. Systematically slaughtered for their religious beliefs, cultural and ethnic identity. And others for their sexuality, color, age and gender, physical or mental disability. And in those days, 6 million people will have felt more like 10 million nowadays, not to intellectualize the numbers.
So please let's all take a deep breath and remember, so that we don't repeat history. Or maybe, in a huff of small-minded temporary madness, wish we would and could. Or feel too sorry for ourselves for some or other unhappiness that life has dealt us and blame it on the other ones, across the street. It's easy to forget. It's easy to ignore there's the potential to inflict incredible suffering in most of us, by choice, by apathy, by ignorance, or worse still, by willful ignorance.
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Look at the Balkans in the heart of Europe not even 20 years ago, or Rwanda, or much more recently Darfur or in fact the Central African Republic, this year, now, today! North Korea, a country of concentration camps. Burma, as recently as two years ago being slowly released from the grip of a dictatorial junta, now suffering from quickly spreading violence towards their Muslim minority, inflicted by the supposedly “peaceful” Buddhists population, with hundreds killed since rioting began. Or of course look at Syria, look at barrel bombs tearing limbs from babies, look at English teenagers filtering into the country via Turkey, to fight for a “revolution” that has long ago drowned its children in a bloodbath of genocidal proportions. Or Turkey, itself happily indulging in an epic genocide in Armenia less than 100 years ago — it still hasn’t acknowledged that part of its recent history.
And the only weapon that actually works long-term is education. Which ironically enough is something that has always been one of the most important cornerstones of Jewish culture, even enshrined in the Talmud.
Historically, Jews have often been more educated than the population of the countries they’d made their home in. Opinions vary as to why that is, but as they tended to be confined to urban areas, by choice or often not, skilled occupations and home ownership were a logical result of that. The Holocaust ripped dark holes into societies not only by killing off a whole minority, but also by exterminating ideas and a skilled and educated workforce. As a result, there are still areas, notably in former Russian Jewish communities, which are clearly worse off now, to this day.
And of course, as another inescapable cornerstone of human existence, education and property ownership seems to attract more suspicion, jealousy and criticism, especially when it’s part of a community that seems exclusive and segregated. I found myself listening to a BBC segment on Aleppo this morning and it made me think that Aleppo is known to have been one of the earliest permanent settlements in the world, and it used to be home to the oldest Jewish community in the Middle East, with the oldest synagogue, and even more importantly, the oldest form of a bound manuscript of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Aleppo Bible or Codex. It had remained in Syria for over 500 years, and during the Holocaust was hidden in the Aleppo synagogue. In 1947 when tensions rose throughout the Middle East due to the UN decision to establish Israel, rioters burned down the ancient synagogue and these oldest-known scriptures disappeared. More than a decade later the Codex that had been hidden by someone affiliated to the synagogue at the time was smuggled into Israel. Sadly though, big parts of it were irretrievably lost. Look at the picture of Aleppo emerging now, and it looks virtually like Dresden circa 1945. Only skeletons of buildings, rubble and dust.
So what’s my point? Just — let’s remember! And let’s not forget. Let’s not only not forget, but let’s remind people. I know it sounds preachy, probably boring and long time ago-ish. It’s not. It’s happening all over the shop, all of the time. Perpetrated mostly by architects of terror that use and manipulate their people to do their dirty work. People that have either forgotten, or never had the chance to learn about the Holocaust blueprint in the first place. Who don’t know what it feels like to be a cog in a big and murderous machine. Education is the key.
Holocaust Remembrance Day may not be a time to open cans of worms, but it does strike me as sad yet apt that even Israel, a country with one of the most educated populations in the world, is not beyond fallible when it comes to making (un)educated choices.
Following a trip to North America we've had some interesting new developments not only for The Safe Word
, but also for The Apple
, Herman Rosenblat
's tragic true story of a lie. It's really too early to say much more but here's hoping it'll pan out.
This sign on Williamsburg Bridge struck me as so apt. Even though these two projects couldn't be more different if they tried, both The Apple and The Safe Word are nontheless set at least partially in Jewish communities in that awesome part of NYC, so I'll take that as a sign. Try and judge me.
There's been a lot of interest for my TV series The Safe Word. I've been working on this for the last couple of years, so in the last few weeks I had to put everything on hold to write the pilot script and finalize the concept and extensive series bible for this new true story concept.
We are currently talking to networks in the US and Canada, let's see what happens.
Editing of All The Wild Horses
has been very slow going, due to the sheer amount of footage and the painstakingly careful weaving together of the different stories.
It will still be a while until this baby is completed. Stand by for further news.
Filming on horseback (photo © Richard Dunwoody)
Well, that happened. Helping the herder
1000 kilometers on 30 different horses in 8 days. 12 hours in the saddle every day at a trot or a gallop, filming most of the time. 5 hours of usable footage, 4 kilos of lost body weight, and 1 very happy (and very exhausted) camper. I did collapse after crossing the finish line though and didn't surface for about 18 hours. My subject Monde Kanyana and I stayed together most of the time, until I fell seriously ill and had to take an afternoon off.
I had to ride hell for leather for two days on my own to catch up with him again. Those two days, staying with nomad families, helping to herd their horses and livestock and live with them, I will never forget. It always goes to show, life is at its most memorable when you're way out of your comfort zone. And the hospitality of the people is simply breathtaking. I was still on antibiotics due to what we dubbed Mongol Belly so I felt 'safe' eating unidentifiable lumps of something or other handed to me in the dimly flickering light of the dung burner, washed down with Chenggis vodka and airag (fermented mare's milk – the national drink of Mongolia). All pile in for a group shot
The race went down without any serious incident for the two of us — not so for some of the other competitors. We chose our horses carefully and managed to stay on, not quite sure how. We rode through deserts, swamps, mountains, wolf and bear country. We saw foals that had been attacked the night before. The nomads we encountered had never seen a black person before, let alone someone who could ride with the best of them – so a lot of group photos were taken. Mongolians are world-reknowned for their horsemanship and will judge you by the way you can deal with their wild horses. If you can't, then you're in trouble. Well, Monde can. Monde and the gelding
As his reputation started to precede us, he was often asked to look at a particularly unridable horse as we pulled into a horse station. This was as much a way of testing him as it was out of curiosity to see how the Black Man would do it. At the penultimate station he was asked to see what he could do with this 2-year–old gelding that had never been ridden before, and that wouldn't let anyone ride it. Obviously he took the challenge and half an hour later he sat on that wild beauty, now tame as a little lamb. This unfortunately meant that we slipped two places as other competitors passed us.
When the zulu warrior at last barrelled down the final furlong I had a hard time keeping the camera steady, moved to tears and elation as I was. This race takes it out on you to be sure, and a lot of elemental emotions come boiling up and often catch you off-guard. Monde didn't win the race, but he did win the prize for best horsemanship, an accolade that was created especially for him.
So now it's back to the edit, to weave together all the storylines for our epic adventure film. Sit tight.
In the meantime, watch the trailer here. Repeatedly.
Having gone through a few months of post-production on my documentary All The Wild Horses, we realized we were still missing a story. And this year, this crucial story materialized.
Monde Kanyana (left in blue) from Kwazulu Natal in South Africa doesn't live a privileged life. In the small South African village where he grew up, he could not afford to attend school much. Instead he helped at home. He also helped a local farmer. This is where, as a boy, he fell in love with horses. And horses fell in love with him, and his incredible sixth sense for them. He became known in the wider region for his amazing talent. So this year, his whole community of towns people and horse owners clubbed together and paid for this trip of a lifetime. They are sending him to Mongolia to take part in the Mongol Derby, the longest horse race in the world. He has never been outside the country, or on a plane, let alone stayed in a hotel.
I will ride the whole race withn him and document his progress. It will be an interesting experience at the very least. Stand by for a report when I get back towards the end of August.
Whilst in Cannes to promote our film All The Wild Horses, I came across this film I co-wrote a couple of year back after ring through a family tragedy. So proud to see it here in Cannes in the market now. It won the Arizona Underground Film festival earlier this year, so here's hoping the film will find theatrical release world-wide. It's a hard sell, but one can dream...
AND... they tag it "Kafka meets Kubrick"!http://cineuropa.org/nw.aspx?t=newsdetail&l=en&did=238331http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V2LDBinUOoU
We are finally back from our shoot for All The Wild Horses in Outer Mongolia. An epic 1000 miles road trip through the wild steppes for the crew consisting of Michael Sanderson, Kevin Augello and Nomindari Ganbold, and a 500 miles horseback ride for me and a couple of Olympus cameras.
The shoot went surprisingly well, bearing in mind we were shooting on RED, on various other formats including GoPro, Contour, 5D and with a minicopter, from the back of dozens of semi-wild horses, and crucially, many hours away from civilization, electricity and medical support.
No one was injured in the process of shooting this film, that is, no member of the crew. Other riders did get injured, some quite badly, anything from serious dehydration, severely torn ligaments, to broken collarbones, ribs, punctured lungs and spine fractures. So all in all, we got away lightly. With just one pulled muscle, a freak fever, and a serious aversion to vodka and mutton between us we ended up with something like twelve hours of footage, which I'm just starting log into story lines now as I'm writing a script for the edit.
Big sky country
Next up is a representative trailer of all the main story lines and everything else we managed to capture, to raise funding for the extensive post-production. This should be completed within the next 3 weeks, and then it's on to cutting the actual film into a 90-minute feature film. And not to mention such small matters as writing the new draft of The Apple
, which will go into production next year, to be shot in NYC and Romania. Exciting times, these.
So, I managed to get myself on the slowest (and smallest) long-haul flight I've ever been on, which was Turkish Airlines taking the scenic route to a whole new level, via Istanbul, Kazakhstan and on to Mongolia.
It would have been beautiful to see something when we flew over these vast and sparsely populated countries, alas, I was installed in a very tight middle seat and it was night for some of the time. Well, hopefully better luck on the way back.
Seeing the name of the airport finally in real-life was pretty special — Chinggis Khan Airport, the place I've been dreaming about for a loooong time now. And here we are. And it's raining, really damp, massive puddles and mud everywhere, but not too cold otherwise, in fact it's probably exactly like London up until last week.
Going into town in a cab where neither of us speaks a word of the other one's language is one of those things that make you realize that you've just pitched up in a really alien place. Mongolia does though, strangely enough, remind me quite a bit of Bhutan. Similar (buddhist) mentality, kinda cool, happening, relaxed yet deeply rooted in ancient traditions at the same time. Only here in Mongolia the idea of architecture is a bit newer than any other place I've ever visited. Even the capital Ulaanbataar was just a large city made up of tents until not too long again. The name in fact means something like 'main camp'. So that is why the Soviet Russians could run riot here with concrete and more concrete, and the outcome is one pretty unattractive, yet vibrant and happening place. I hope we'll get to explore to little and I'm almost certain it's one of those places you just fall in love with for the people that live here. But I'm already off to the country tomorrow to prep the shoot and test the Olympus kit. So far, very impressed with the little OM-D. Very good for concealed crowd filming I gotta say. Unfortunately the card reader doesn't want to connect with my lappy, so no OM-D photos on here for now until I've found a solution.
Oh, and I found a t-shirt that says Mongolia, motherland of the wild horses. Which I thought was as good a crew T as any, so I bought three.
Watch this space to see the crew all dressed up.
It's two days until I'm flying out to Mongolia, with the co-production crew meeting me there a few days later. The great news is that Olympus have come through with their sponsorship, and a slick little OM-D was handed to me yesterday. I was really keen to test it for this trip as it has incredible 5-axis anti-shake, better than almost any competitor even in the prosumer market.
First tests this morning revealed that yes, even after 3 hours sleep and a shaky caffeinated start to the day, the footage came out as smooth as a baby's bottom, not bad for a tiny micro-third camera. Pimped it with a Rode mic and 64Gb card and now feel a little more ready to document this epic adventure they call the Mongol Derby. So, thank you Olympus!
No, that's not a gun in my pocket, it's just my nappy
I have also taken ownership of The World's Largest Granny Underpants with sewn-in "padding" — nappy for you and me — so my bottom should also stay silky smooth. I know, I know, too much information...
Honestly though, the sleep deprivation and stress of the last few weeks — make that months — should stand me in good stead for what's to come. I am a fully-functional homo sapiens on 4 hours a night at the moment, so to all you snoring fellow riders, vodka-swigging herders, yapping dogs, howling wolves, brutally early mornings, I say that shit don't impress me much.
On the up-side, hoping they won't be arrested on the way in for spying, the crew of New Earth Films/MsFilms are going to bring a minicopter for aerials and some kit that would make even Peter Jackson soil his — no doubt — granny-size pants.
And we're nearly ready with the crowd-funding site, watch this space if you want to become an IMDB-acredited film professional the quick & easy way, by bribing me with your dosh. It's not what you know, it's who you know, and baby, you know me...