I have been writing this blog for the purpose of documenting the final project of my MA International Journalism at University College Falmouth, and as I’ve now finished the documentary, this blog also comes to an end. I will leave it online and hope that people like you will stumble upon it and watch my video, comment and learn a bit about the problems for some young people growing up in Nepal. This has been the first film that I have made and has been a great learning experience, I have made a few mistakes along the way, and I was pushed for time all the way, but I hope that this doesn’t show too much on the final piece! I know that the next time I attmpt something like this it will be much better for having had this experience. If you wish to see any more of my work, you can follow my other blog, or look on my vimeo page, or even my audioboo or follow @alexjourno on twitter (too much?). Also if there is anyone who has seen this, and is about to set out on doing their own debut film and would like to contact me, feel free to do so, and if I am free I’ll help you out, (especially if you’re from Falmouth). That’s it. Farewell, despedida, abschied & adieu x
After returning from Nepal on Friday evening, I had to wait until Monday before I could get in to the editing suites. When the day arrived, I got my rushes into the avid bin and watched them all through. I could tell that the circus rushes were “the money shot” that were going to be the most impressive and that I’d use those to start my film, and also for a dramatic ending.
After that I broke it down in scenes and put them into a logical sequence to create a narrative. I had to chose the pieces of dialogue that told the story the best, as didn’t want to narrate the piece and let the people within the film tell the story themselves. However on watching the film there were some areas which were unclear using this method, so I had to opt for a more traditional documentary style.
I also had to spend time working out where the translations I’d got fit in with the Nepali speech, and put in the subtitles. I noticed in some scenes that the white writing would meet a white piece of clothing or wall and be drowned out, so I put a grey translucent mask behind. I also created a few astons using the same tool.
Finally I added music and credits and burnt it. I was very pushed for time, and had I had more of it, I would’ve continued to edit it one or two pieces. But I’m quite happy with the end result, and have learnt a lot of lessons for the next film.
I’d conducted all of my interviews in Nepali so on Monday I sat with someone who helped me with translations. I also set up a meeting with the people at Esther Benjamin’s memorial foundation who had been on a circus raid in March, and who look after around 120 rescued children in Godawari, on the outskirts of Kathmandu.
So the next day I went there and spoke to the people who’d conducted the raid. After watching recently the sports documentary Senna I thought it would be a good idea to interview the raiders, use that interview as the commentary of this footage rather than narrating it myself. I got some brilliant insights into what happened, as well as further information on why trafficking happens in the first place.
Shailaja, the founder and Director of EBMF explained that it wasn’t as simple as poverty = trafficking. There are other factors too such as alcoholic parents and alike, but one of the biggest contributers were step parents. When a new relationship starts in some places the children from a previous relationship are a financial burden that the new partner is not willing to bear. Therefore choose to sell these children to traffickers and just get rid of them.
After the interviews I went to visit the children at the refuge, which was a 5 minute trip on the back of a motorcycle away. It’s a very simple set up.
Later on I spoke to an American psychologist who is visiting to assess the children. She remarked that she had been surprised at the simplicity of the accommodation, but it is quickly noticeable that the children are very happy there. Indeed for children in a comparable situation back in the US the kids would have been in a strict institution, whereas these ones had time to run and play and do what children do best.
When I got there with Bablu, the refuge manager, they greeted me with smiles and handshakes and all said “hello” very nicely, and all clearly had affection for him. One little boy took his motorcycle helmet and ran around with it on his head, while he showed me round.
As I said the digs were quite simple, blocks for the boys, blocks for the girls, a cook house, and a big playing field with a little grass roofed hut to one side, what more could you ask for? I spoke to one little chap of about 11 years old who already had good English. He told me he was happy there because they teach him to read and write, (how refreshing to find a child that appreciates their education.)
It was just a passing visit and unfortunately I wasn’t given permission to film, but I’m really glad that I went. I parted with the knowledge that thanks to EBMF these children were being given life opportunities that would be otherwise impossible.
On my last day in Bhairawa, I went with a translator to visit a slum school in nearby Butwal. I was interested to see this area because I believed that such a poor place, so close to the Indian border was a prime spot for trafficking, and I might find a few interesting stories there.
The school consisted of few basic classrooms, each with a teacher a blackboard and full to the brim with children who clearly having a fun. One class entusiastically sung a song in English for me that was stuck in my head for the next few days. (The tune was the same as row row row your boat, but was all about getting ready in the morning so it became brush brush your teeth, followed by comb comb comb your hair and so on). After looking around the school and getting some footage of the various activities going on I asked if I could speak to the head teacher. She claimed not to have heard of any child trafficking from the area, which while it’s good news if it’s true, I must admit that I’d hoped for a gruesome anecdote to add a bit of meat to my film. She did tell me though that there are cases of adult trafficking, people that are promised a nice life in Dubai, taken to a nice place in India while they’re processed, but then ultimately sold illegally with very few rights and a horrible life on arrival. This kind of trafficking is a legal grey area, as they’re using what seem to be legitimate agents for overseas domestic work in India.
I’d taken a lot of documentary footage with my JVC camera, using the small rifle microphone, and set up the interview balancing the camera on some books on the headmistress’ desk (as i didn’t have a tripod with me) and a clip on microphone. At the end I thought it might be a good idea to take some shot with my little Panasonic Lumix camera for blog purposes. I took the risk of giving this to one of the children, and she made a nice little video for me, and I was rather chuffed about that. But I’ve just looked on the computer to try to upload it here and all of my stuff from the school, and some nice pictures of Bhairawa market didn’t transfer properly and I already deleted them off the camera… Lesson learned.
In Bhairawa, due to the extreme heat at noon, the day starts at 5am. I rose at around 8 and went for a delicious breakfast of dalbhat, the mix of vegetables, rice, and sauce that I would find myself eating for every meal while I was down there . It’s delicious and after being shown how to eat the Nepali way with my hand the night before, I was happy to tuck in at every opportunity.
Shaun, an Ozzie circus volunteer who’d been assessing the possibility of setting up a permaculture site on some nearby land, was already on his way back to Kathmandu. While Noah, a long term volunteer from South Africa was already back out in the field working on something or other… I felt very lazy for having such a long lie-in.
Before leaving he’d arranged for a local to show me around to some things that I’d find useful for my film. I went to visit, what I understood was a homeless shelter, although it was nothing more than a few wooden beams and a grass roof. I stayed and talked to the occupants and took some film while I was there. It was interesting to see one side of the poverty in the area, the root cause of trafficking.
Later he offered to take me to some of the slums in nearby Butwal, but at 10:30 it was already starting to get hot so I decided to go some other time, and instead pay another visit to the mosaic workshop and speak properly to Sunita and the others.
Although her story is already well documented elsewhere I thought it was still worth talking to her again for my project. We sat in her office and I showed her how she should attach a clip on microphone. To her horror, I had to insist for best sound quality that we turn off the fan and close the windows, (on listening back to the interview it was definitely worth doing.) Although her English is good, I told her to answer in Nepali because I wanted as much detail as possible, and someone back at Kathmandu has helped with with the translation already, so i can attach subtitles when I get editing.
I was torn when interviewing her, because as a journalist I want as much detail as possible, but at the same time I didn’t want to cause her any distress making her recount (again) the things that she’s been through. I was relieved later when she told me that she keeps a lot of these thoughts inside her, and it makes her feel good to tell people about it.