Sunday, July 02, 2006

how penguins helped me overcome my monster

last time I wrote about my fears, my own monster if you will (using
Hero Book vocab) about my fear of editing. I doubted my own ability,
I doubted myself. And then one morning, about two weeks ago, my
friend Jacqui and I drove to watch the sunrise over Penguin Beach. As
I sat on a rock, overlooking the mountains and the ocean, with
adorable penguins (seriously) chilling beside me, I decided that the
time of fear had come to a close and that I would push through it. In
the words of my friend Beatty, I would not let my monster get the
better of me.

And so I did push through. I put most of the hero book related
footage on the computer, transcribed all of it, organized the clips
into appropriate bins, came up with a basic outline for a hero book
film story, and started doing chapters (funny how I still ask myself
if I am being productive enough, I am my hardest critic it's true).
Basically, I am intertwining four stories from kids at MadAboutArt
(including Beatty) to bring their hero books alive- so I have
interviews with them, their hero books, and most excitingly just in
parts of life where they are talking about hero books (ie when beatty
told me a few days before her mother's funeral that her shame suicide
monster was starting to creep to try to get the better of her).

And it has been an amazing- but challenging- experience to edit and
put the story together, because I can feel that there is something
there in the footage, I can feel a powerful, personal story develop.
My roomates who are film students here in Cape Town (someone in their
school just won an oscar) had interesting comments. They were first
surprised that I was not part of a crew, but doing everything on my
own. Then, they wondered how it felt to get emotionally involved with
the people I'm filming (i guess typical filmmakers don't do this as
much, but that's exactly what I want to be doing so that the audience
also feels a connection, that they too are getting to know Beatty and
her family and her story). but perhaps my favorite quote was from one
white girl who, after seeing only one minute of basically raw footage
said, "South Africa needs a documentary like this."

I am excited to see how the story unfolds.

As I have been editing, I have also been building my own life here in
Cape Town. I have met some amazing women who have become my Cape Town
tour guides. My friend Jacqui does spoken word poetry and used to work
for the tourist industry so knows a lot of what's going on. Most
excitingly, she knows a lot of people in my neighborhood and in her
going-away party (it was all girls per her request), I was blown away
by these beautiful, confident, talented, creative, educated African
women. Just the day before I went to see an exhibit on 18 women who
moved South Africa, only to learn that actually the strikes and
marches that brought down apartheid were started by the women, and
then the men followed. So in the past month I have also loved seeing
another side of South Africa- the complicated tapestry that makes up
this society (wow, I just used tapestry metaphor)- one with more of a
middle ground I would say. And it has been a true privilege for me- I
have sat in on some amazing conversations on race and South Africa.
And it feels great to be surrounded by people of color and to not
register the difference or that it is an unusual happening here in
South Africa or even in the US (though I'm sure they notice my
whiteness). But perhaps a great compliment I received yesterday while
driving to a poetry reading was from Jacqui who said, "You know
Maital, you are one cool white chick."

So, the past month has been balanced between work and play. I am
amazed by what a great time I am having and especially how at home I
feel here. It feels great. And even in moments of intensity- and
they can happen at any time- like when I got my eye brows waxed right
before I came to write this email and the woman who did my brows
opened up to me and told me about her sister who has AIDS but is not
open, and also how she and the other women fought against apartheid,
running from police and jail and keeping strong- that even as I hold
back my tears as she quietly wipes hers away- that I still am so happy
to be in that moment, to be talking about it, listening, learning.
Apartheid is still so fresh, so raw here, the trauma still there that
people talk about it...something that I wish and will push for more of
in the US, because only if we talk about it, even if it's
uncomfortable, can we recognize the pain and injustice, and move
forward. As I have been amazed here- even with apartheid and the
blacks being exploited and used- when they gained power they did not
start a civil war and kill white people (which they could have done
easily seeing how they are so outnumbered)- but they wanted to make a
fair society for everyone. now, as you can tell from previous emails,
South Africa is far from reaching its goal, but at least people are
working together, acknowledging each other, and trying to move


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