I am a writer, photographer, food/ prop stylist and film maker.
|Film Still: A Vietnamese Christmas|
I was opting over four chocolate eclairs or two custard tarts and my waist line at my local supermarket when I sensed the body language of a thief. He was a very tall skinny man, dressed in skinny jeans, a black puffy jacket and a black cap. He picked up five or six packets of smoked salmon, the entire selection of it ever so swiftly but not quickly. He was being smooth, he was trying to blend in but he had his eyes covering his surroundings as he moved to the stationary isle where there was a blind spot for the staff and the other customers. Except for me. I had continued to linger toward him in my green duffle coat with the hood covering my face and my basket in arm; also, trying not to be seen, by him. I, too, was trying to act normal as I spied with the sides of my eyes and the lucidity of my ears.
He reached to the top shelf when I stood beside him and he pretended to look at brown envelopes and a white piggy bank. I felt the awkwardness and a sense of danger. I will turn a blind eye now, I decided. I had a feeling of fear in the face of someone doing something wrong. I will let him steal, I said to myself and then debated: do I care? Should I care? Its a big supermarket monster, should I risk a scene; have the guy after me in the future or be violent towards me over a supermarket chain? No. Its not like its an independent shop like the ones I used to have whereupon I learned all the tricks of the thieving trade, (where I have no problems raising an alarm).
I heard him undo and redo his zip. Phew, I can turn around and continue to shop as the shelf I was stood at was clear of any baked goods. The smoked salmon was out of sight and he was still making out as if he were interested in envelopes and a piggy bank. I had let him steal the smoked salmon. He knew I knew and it was my power to release him, to let him go. I turned my back, took another blind eye and he dashed as quickly as he could out of the shop. I felt just like a thief.
I remained still and moved slowly as if to style out of something I did wrong. As if I had committed the act myself and walked slowly towards the staff at the check out, looking at powdered soup on the way, waited my turn in queue and informed the staff, feeling the fact that I am just the same as him by letting him get away with it.
I often face the fear of catching someone in a criminal act in my dreams. Often, I witness murders by strangers killing other strangers. It is painful, bloody and terrifying. I do not know either parties and throughout the hours of the night the drama of me being seen by the murderer and trying to escape from the murderer torments me as I toss and turn, cry and scream, sometimes waking in a terror of panic and agitation for I had been perpetually running and hiding for what seemed like a very long time.
The fore coming day is greeted with anxiety and apprehension. Often, I catch myself being in a terrible mood with someone (who may have been involved in the dream) as if they had done wrong by me as the dream was so vivid and lifelike.
But what with the thief and the murderer? Is the thief the murderer? The murderer is always a thief and everything below the food chain of badness. The thief didn’t do something so bad as kill someone but he made me face the same dilemmas as the murderer in my dreams. To face something I don’t like to face. He did something that wasn’t right and I had a choice to stop him or run away. To fight or to flee.
Why do I dream of murders so very frequently? What are my dreams trying to tell me? I figured it out. (For myself).
What if in dreams, my subconscious is saying something to me, especially if it is recurring. Who is being murdered and who is murdering? I don’t think there are actual murderers out there who are after me. Not even murderers, but anyone! No one is after me. I came to realise that there are many people in my subconscious, like the child me, the mother me, the father me, the friend me, the enemy me, the creative me and so on and one of them is murdering the other and the me that I recognise is really afraid or she turns a blind eye.
I often have extreme self doubt despite me appearing sometimes like I don’t. I know I cook a really good roast chicken with all the trimmings and I will blatantly put my hands up and say its the best so people will think I am confident. But cooking a perfect roast isn’t like having any self worth in creativity or within myself and I can often murder days and weeks and months and years of my life not doing something I love because of the fear of something like failure or the anxiety of perhaps being caught out. That I am actually not that good at anything.
The perfect example of this was clarified to me when I put two and two together. Today.
|Film Still: Christmas Dinner|
Last month, one thing lead to another and I was invited to participate in Kevin Macdonald (Director, Last King Of Scotland, One Day In September, Touching The Void) & Ridley Scott’s (Thelma & Louise, Alien, Blade Runner) project, Christmas In A Day. They had previously created the brilliant and utterly beautiful film, Life In A Day where people from all over the world had sent in footage of their life on a certain day and the film makers edited thousand of hours of film together to create a view of the world in a day in 90 minutes or so. It was moving, thrilling and beautiful in aesthetics and emotions.
Christmas In A Day is going to be the same thing, except, Christmas in Britain in a day. Anyone can submit footage, you, me, the next door neighbour, the accountant and so forth and it may or may not be included.
I was honoured to be invited to submit something and that somehow, my wish to make films again to the universe was heard by my spiritual Santa Claus. Here’s your chance he said and I took the chance and I filmed intensively over 5 days over Christmas. I had planned my themes: my Christmas alone, my family’s and dogs’ Christmas, and the most important thing, my mother’s Christmas.
I rarely spend time with my mother over Christmas as she spends it with a group of her friends. They get together on special occasions for over thirty years. It is because we don’t have our families in this country, they said, but we have created a new family, us, all twelve of now women in their sixties.
For the first time in about 20 years, I went to see what my mother gets up to at Christmas with her friends, with a camera and an eye for Kevin Macdonald & Ridley Scott.
It was incredible. One of the most emotionally intensive days I have had in a long time. They cooked together, ate together, sang and danced together and they told me stories of war and escape from Communist Vietnam. They cried in front of camera as I cried behind the camera, trying to pull focus at the same time when a friend of my mother told me the story of our first Christmas in London. It is a young memory I have which I thought everyone had forgotten but they remembered it and we felt like we had survived a hell of a lot back then. We were very poor. We had nothing and it was very moving.
All this was somehow deleted from my hard drive yesterday.
By my own murderous hands.
It had been over three weeks since I had shot the film but I had made myself busy with my cook book or I would make up any excuse not to look at my rushes because it was so intense. The film reflected so many hidden wounds and bared my memories and it saw my mother at her roots, her bare roots which are also mine. The Christmas was beautiful and joyous but also very painful. Most of all, I had so much fear of looking at it because I was so afraid that what I did isn’t/ wasn’t good enough. I had already had so many words with myself (the killing of time and self confidence), why didn’t you shoot it like this, why not like that, why did you do it this way, why didn’t you go the extra mile… and so on.
Finally I was ready to face the thief in the eye and decided to look through the rushes (before I hand it over to Scott Free) and it had vanished. Completely. There was just one copy and it was gone. I had unintentionally deleted one of the most important projects from my hard drive and from my life. It was my baby and I killed it.
The massive feeling of falling down a hole, loss, losing, death and pure OMG and disbelief that I had at my desk as I was looking at my Finder without the folder, Christmas In A Day, was immense. Search. Search again. Gone. It was as if I had just lost a life. It was as if I had just murdered someone. Me.
I wept and my body started to shake and I had no where to hide, no way to retrieve the loss. It was all gone. I called my closest friend and he assured me that it could be retrieved so I called Scott Free and told them what had happened and if there was something they could do and they said they have the software to get it all back.
And now I sit here, in a cafe, awaiting the diagnostics, loving the nerds and perhaps to be lucky enough to hopefully just wake up from a really bad dream.
|Film Still: My mother preparing rice paper for summer rolls|
UPDATE: Most of my rushes are rescued. Now lets hope its used in the film.