Thursday, May 22, 2014

film of tomorrow

"The film of tomorrow appears to me as even more personal than an individual and autobiographical novel, like a confession, or a diary. The young filmmakers will express themselves in the first person and will relate what has happened to them: it may be the story of their first love or their most recent; of their political awakening; the story of a trip, a sickness, their military service, their marriage, their last vacation...and it will be enjoyable because it will be true and new. The film of tomorrow will be by artists for whom shooting a film constitutes a wonderful and thrilling adventure. The film of tomorrow will resemble the person who made it...the film of tomorrow will be an act of love." -Francois Truffaut

Monday, March 8, 2010

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

the last four weeks

matisyahu is still one of my greatest influences to this day...from an acoustic set at the night of unity

chicago, taking the train everywhere

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Where do I even start?
Its kind of hard when I have no idea where I even left off. So much has happened. We have been filming sunrise to sunset six days a week, occasionally ending the day with some kind of night adventure like shrimp fishing the rivers...finding the glow in their eyes and spearing them. The water, knee deep and murky, made it easy for us to miss that lone alligator in the branches, attacking upon mutual surprise. It was damn scary and yet hilarious all at the same time as we watched Edward run off into the woods with a stick in his hand fighting off the gator.
Oh, but before that even happened, we were in San Jose: We had two successful skate demos in which we really made it clear to the kids that people care about what they are interested in and what they are doing with their lives. I hope they left feeling empowered. It sounds corny I know, but the art and creativity and passion can enable them to take control of their lives through skateboarding. To be leaders and heroes. They created effective co-op projects to better the community and then the community voted on the two best projects to determine who would receive the skateboards. Did you know that there are more PHD’s in skateboarding than any other professional sport?...just a thought. We ended our San Jose excursion with this amazing shot of a beautiful woman working her market front, selling bags and shots of turtle eggs to locals. It was then we realized we had completed this journey with both the people and the eggs. We had documented this coexistence by experiencing it along their side. We sat a local cafĂ© and took a deep breath and just smiled at each other for a while. There were not words for the experience. We spent the last week in Ostional capturing visuals of the town since the journey was complete…or so our youth misguided us. The journey is just that: continous by nature. As we interview Martin, he speaks to nature in his life: it is everything to him, “it’s the world.” After, he talked about how he liked our style and how much more professional we were than any other film crew he had seen pass through Ostional. He said we were much more professional than the Koreans because we got releases signed and always asked people if we could film them before doing so. As a young student of film, I took a lot of pride in that comment. It was so interesting to see all these people with cameras come out of nowhere for the ephemeral arribada, filming and photographing people harvesting, and not just the turtles themselves...sticking these objects in peoples faces they will never know or see again. By that point we had talked to almost everyone personally and could film anyone we wanted doing their thing without having to ask again. Although, I don’t think I will ever get over Sandra’s “Jon, you are a bad boy” in English, whenever he would sneak up in an attempt to capture her in this natural essence (simply the cinema verite we were going for all along).
In the last week, we organized a dive with turtles. It was the dreamiest five minutes of my life. A turtle floated by with the drift of the current and I started to swim slowly behind her. She stopped in her path, looked back at me and we just looked at each other for a while, face to face, inches away. Her seeing me see her. It swam around me curiously for awhile and it was as if we were just dancing in this pool as kids again.
Then before we knew it, we found ourselves strolling around the town, spending our last day screaming our heads off as Ostional beat the neighboring futbol team. Lounging about, joking, Christian (the translator and a good friend from San Jose) and I thought it would be a good idea to see how many granizados we could eat…almost equivalent to a sno-cone but not worth translating since they are so much better. By sunset, I was carrying the last bag of the new harvest alongside one of those familiar faces, who says my name every time I pass even though I don’t know his. We walked side by side into the sea with large sacks of eggs on our backs. He looked over and remarked in is usual calm demeanor, “you leave tomorrow?”
And then after a heavy nod, ”but you’re coming back one day right?”
I glanced over at his eyes and said, “I will always come back to Ostional.”
And we simultaneously threw the 50 plus pound bags over our heads and plunged our bodies into the sea, just two more sharks swimming in the dirty water. By night, Andrew (the biologist from Australia) and I, were dancing salsa with two local girls, totally embarrassing ourselves, but smiling as the locals cracked jokes and laughed us on.
As I sat on the log in front of the sea the next morning, the local boys did their usual routine of, “the waves suck…so do you want to surf?” You can say anything and they respond with, “so lets go surf.” Gerry and I gave in to the restlessness and impassioned spirits of youth and we set off for one final surf. And that’s when a series of these just incredibly heartfelt goodbyes began. Perhaps the experience was more meaningful for myself than it will ever be for the people of Ostional. However, the sincerity in the exchange of a few similar words seemed to exemplify a mutual feeling between friends. I could no longer hide my emotion with the phrase, “I don’t even want to talk about it, I haven’t left yet.” It was time. As I packed my bags, one person after another came to the cabinas to share a word or two. That day in November we spoke at the town hall meeting changed everything. Its where the moment with Carlos Mario reinvented itself. Will the documentary about the town itself ever show this story?
As I sat in the chair at the kitchen table mimicking spanish words in reply, “you are good people too,” I realized that no matter where you go or what you are trying to do, these connections always make the experience what it is. The environment becomes one of those mirrors that we don't always choose to look in. I can lose everything: all this incredibly beautiful footage. And if nothing changes about the harvest, for the turtles or for the community, I think people will still feel a little bit more inspired about the world itself. These conversations remind me what makes memory so amazing.
As we drove away, they stood on the patio of the cabinas and waved us off, these faces impassioned and full of hope. They stood outside of the soda’s, sat on the stools in front of the pulperia, and watched us watching them.
Will there ever be a final image?

“He told me the story of the dog Hachiko. A dog waited every day for his master at the station. The master died, and the dog didn't know it, and he continued to wait all his life. People were moved and brought him food. After his death a statue was erected in his honor, in front of which sushi and rice cakes are still placed so that the faithful soul of Hachiko will never go hungry.” –chris marker

People are constantly asking me: how did you do this? How do you make a documentary or start a project like this? Look, its not easy. But if you dream and are passionate about a project, then you have to go for it. 100 percent...practically sacrificial. You can ask me anything else but that. If you are interested in continuing the journey, these words don’t even begin to do it justice. You can stay up to date with the images and the film by checking out

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Embedded with disquieting meaning, the ordinary life engenders the actuality of how ordinary this actually is to the people of Costa Rica. We harvest eggs and talk about technique and practice, solitude over conservation as locals yell, "follow the gringo," and we walk and we walk and we walk. They laugh and love that I am carrying these huge sacks of turtle eggs with them. One of the Korean filmmaker asks Jon,"Why does he do that."
"I think he just wants to know what it feels like to really be a part of the town."
"Ahh, an artist must suffer for his work."

Of course we had already spent two days of filming and observing the whole process as outsiders with our memory boxes. Looking in.

"We witness so much sadness and injustice...but maybe part of the solution is simply that, to witness it. Because once you have been a witness to something, you can testify to it. I'm surely not saying that it's the entire solution, but it is definitely the first step." -shannon

I had a moment during an interview with Carlos Mario in which I started to tear up and I think it was then when I felt something so much more...real. Like I started to see things more clearly in the world. I said, "I would like to say something aside from this interview. I think, and your efforts only confirm this belief, that when I come back in a year, Ostional will be a more unified place because of you." And he said, "no, it will be a better place because of what you guys are doing with the video, and from people really seeing this place." It feels all a bit corny but somehow I still have tears in my eyes as I type this. I don't know what it is about this whole experience, but something continues to change inside of me. it will take weeks after finally leaving to understand this.

“The real challenge for a filmmaker is to take a story that seems banal, and tell it in such a way that it becomes exemplary.”

-Jean-Xavier de Lestrade

Monday, November 23, 2009

making art and science

i can't help but to aspire to be a voice behind the pages that people can relate to and connect with no matter how hard i try to just capture these people like a fly captures people when it sits at their tables or on their walls. i love films and books in which i connect as much with the voice of the author as i do the characters...or maybe it's really just the opposite: a desire to learn from people different from myself; to see the world with their eyes. and now, as we go on, this week seems to be filled with meeting people at their houses...and with attempts at understanding who they are as members of the community, small parts of a larger collective (hopefully sometime before the arribada de las tortugas). we spoke at their town meeting saturday briefly and then listened as a hundred or so passionate voices proclaimed their legitimate fears of displacement from this community as the government has a pending law that some feel may clear the way for larger developments. a strange paradox of protection. i don't know where i stand yet on turtle eggs, but i foresee such sad faces if this becomes actuality. i have already seen some of the coldest faces, dark with hunger, in my life...and therefore, it seems that apathy is not a choice, that is their duty to live loudly. and despite the complications, i can't help but feel the lack of affectation in their desire and needs when they speak so passionately and ardently. i don't think it is my responsibility to change anyone or anything, and i'm not trying to make a political statement or take a stance, but to remain silent would be condoning these acts, even if you are not sure how to go about helping the situation. indifference may be hurting the turtles and the people more than any individual or fishing company. so i figure the least i can do is have their voices be heard, even if there is nothing i can do to directly help the community other than leave a small donation and a few skateboards. essentially, tourists and turtles have a virtually identical impact on the community of ostional: they arrive out of the blue, bestow untold riches upon the town, and then return to their glorious lives in other parts of the world…thereby leaving the people of ostional no choice but to wishfully burn the days until their beneficiaries return.

but by nightfall, the conflict breaks down into little villages of turtles, with their groups of nests lying still in the small shadows of a quarter moon. turtles gather in larger numbers as the arribada approaches. and then the arribada, retracing the paths of other animals now extinct, begins with the groupings of turtles by daylight: mere coincidence, or a sense of history? hopefully they don't know it too well or else they might nestle solely by nightfall again, but this time all at once and continually throughout the month, recognizing posterity. ahh, if only we all spoke the same language.

on a side note, another ICADS volunteer came to continue the work with the library. we are setting up a reading program at the school, since it is a neutral building which will hopefully encourage kids to come. the government building (MINAE) has always discouraged families to support the library and in part, i can't help but to support that...or at least understand it. this place is like a memory box: people can't let go of anything once felt. and aside from the project, i'm just happy that what i wrote about Ostional four years go is actually inspiring people to go to ostional and continue the project. they need some permanence, but in the meantime a volunteer every semester seems to be enough, in terms of the meaning for the spanish word: enough. both the park ranger and head researcher agreed that it was a great idea that the MINAE donation we brought went to new books for the library. a new skateboard from element as a reward will only help the cause. but it's not the intention.

crew has returned.

another week...