film production + social action



WEBlog Part II – 1 – Everything Appears OK

The Port of Palestina

I never went to film school. It’s definitely not a decision I’d ever say I regret per se, but I’ve certainly, on more than one occasion, found myself reflecting on the choice in the context of a lingering “what if?” I imagine that had I made a different decision after college and decided to invest three more years of my life getting a degree in production from a directing or producing program, I would have arrived on the first day of registration, opened the course offerings booklet and found in bold letters under required courses: How To Get You and Your Crew Into And Out of the Region of Purus in Peru. I imagine it would be a two semester course. Semester one: Getting In. Semester two: Getting Out.

You may remember the region of Purus where I lived last November. Referred to as the “Capital of Isolation,” the only way to access the region is via Peruvian Air Force cargo flights that depart from Lima every 15 days. The flights drop you in the “city” of Puerto Esperanza from where you can take an 8-hour boat ride down river to the village of Palestina on the Brazilian border. There are no roads in Purus. I had lived in Palestina in November and spent most of my time with an adorable ten-year old girl named Lidia and her family. The month was in the end a success, but was not without its fair share of challenges and setbacks. Most notably, the Solar Powered Internet system that had been the reason I had chosen the village of Palestina in the first place – offering me an opportunity to film students in one of the most remote parts of the world using the Internet for the first time – was not working. Upon my return to Lima in December, the Ministry of Education here had promised they would send one of their technicians out to Purus in February to repair the Internet and, for good measure, they promised to send a technician along with me when I returned for a second time in March.

The three months in between trips to Purus flew by and before I knew it, it was time to get things together and prepare for my return to Palestina. Things went delightfully smoothly. Both of my cinematographers, Cesar and Humberto, agreed to come along for two weeks each – Cesar the first two, Humberto the second two – and, with Humberto’s help I found a sound recordist from Buenos Aires who was willing to fly himself up to Lima and come along for the full month. The technician from the Ministry, Bari Gloria, returned from his own trip to Purus in mid-February and happily informed me that the Internet was left “OK.” (Peruvians very much like using the term “OK.” They don’t use it as we use it – back home, I interpret okay as “so-so.” So if you asked someone how they are and they responded, “OK,” you’d probably follow up with, “What’s wrong? A Peruvian “OK” is much more enthusiastic, in the vein of “Great!” or “Fantastic!”). A second technician, Roddy Guillen, a plump and friendly fellow who had accompanied me on an expedition to the mountains back in February was all set to come along with me as the on-site technician should anything go wrong. (I imagine that phrases such as “should anything go wrong” are not used in the textbooks that they give out in the Purus Class in fIlm school. They probably use the phrase “when things go wrong” instead.) To top it all off, I had received a small grant from the U.S. Embassy here to help me with the expenses and I had convinced One Laptop per Child to buy a pair of Solar Powered Batteries that would allow the Solar-Powered Internet System in Palestina to function 24 hours a day. “The Capital of Isolation” was about to have 24-hour wireless internet access and I would be there to film the consequences. Things were looking OK.

Reply