Okay you would have to agree with me here, filming foreign cultures can be quite challenging, especially when you don’t know heads or tails about it. It gets more tough when the script given to you is in an alien language, and even more when the production crew has to translate every word and subtle motions that go with it for the actors who are talking with each other in their own separate languages! Phew!
Quite recently this is what he had to face in shooting ‘Eritrea’s Lost Guy’. We had to translate cultural messages into a cinematic language.
We are just wrapping up the production as I write this, but already we can see that this wedding video is unlike what we have ever done. It’s a re-creation of the actual event for others in the community to appreciate.
If I am right, this one doesn’t actually follow any genres, instead it delves into the way how Eritrean culture works – unique. At times it would be like watching a staged play, then some other time it would be like a silent film interspersed with monologues, set pieces and cultural soap box speeches.
The producer, Ahmedin, wanted us to capture an occurrence, which is not quite uncommon in many westernised refugee cultures. This video was about a happy wedding ceremony with main focus on the character of Omer, who has a diverse and tragic back story.
His not so pleasant upbringing contrasts with that of a typical ‘close knit’ Eritrean family and he ends up feeling isolated when the wedding ceremony begins. He wants to convey his feelings and talk to some of his closest family members, but cultural ideologies seem to block his path. The video is all about acceptance and understanding.
However, none of the crew could speak the highly complex language and we even had a tough time understanding cultural nuisances. So, we had to film the entire video chronologically. We shot it in our green screen studio just like a play.
With a complex and crowded wedding shoot with actors and Eritrean elders who couldn’t remember lines or speak in English, babies who needed nappy changes mid set-up and a mix of other things, it was a real challenging shoot.
We had to get every take OK’d by the producer before we could move on. The real challenge was moving the whole family in and out of shots every time as we were filming it chronologically. What added to the chaos was the fact that we were to shoot with an imaginary audience (to be added later in editing). It got even more chaotic when the family members kept disappearing in and out without any notice!
There was a monologue by the grandma which reinstated our belief in the fact that with correct emotions, words are left meaningless in any take.
In no way we could say the film is perfect, even the editing was done painstakingly and the acting was by no means professional; but the emotions running heavily throughout the film will make it worth anyone’s watch. The issue can be felt so close to their hearts and we can just hope that we did help them in some way to bring it out.