This is part two in a series. Part one can be viewed here.
So as I noted yesterday, after our long trek into the countryside, the first order of business was to meet with the President of Andovolalina, the village we were staying in, to explain what we were up to and get his blessing. Before I go on, I want to share a bit about the President.
He’s 50 years old, with 10 children and – if I remember correctly – 30 or so grandchildren. I tell him I’m 50 too. We share a bonding moment. He ends up being one of our biggest allies/advocates over the next few days, explaining our strange behavior to the villagers who wonder why these “vazaha” or foreigners are walking around taking pictures of their ordinary daily tasks, their homes, their kids. He tells them we are taking pictures because we really like Andovolalina. Which is true. Of course there are other reasons too.
Here’s his family – part of it, anyway:
And here he is clowning around a few days later when we’re filming:
Sam and I spend a lot of time the first couple of days scribbling on paper – rewriting the script now that we have a better idea of the context of the village. Anne and I spend the morning walking around taking “b-roll” video and photographs that might come in handy later, to help convey to outside audiences what life is like in Jerome’s village. Filler stuff for the video, since we won’t be able to come back if we need a particular scene.
washing clothes in the river. the well is broken.
I believe this is a piece of sugar cane he’s peeling with a very sharp tool.
Finally we decide it’s time to pay Jerome a visit to introduce ourselves and explain what we’re up to. It almost ends up in disaster.
When we arrive at his house, there are a group of kids his age carrying bags and looking like they are preparing for a trip. We meet Jerome’s mother and realize that all these teens – Jerome included – are minutes away from embarking on the walk we just did, but in reverse – to Mahanoro, for a field trip of sorts. It seems that, since the previous visit where Jerome had done so well on the aptitude test and there had been an agreement on making a video, others who hadn’t met Sam had talked her out of the whole thing.
In crisis mode, Sam explains to Jerome’s mom and his uncle again what we are up to. Initially they are not convinced. She calls in Jerome’s uncle, who listens patiently. Jerome cries a little. He’s not sure; he wants to do both. His friends are waiting… Eventually everyone agrees it’s best he stay, and we breathe a sigh of relief.
Except now the pressure is on to make sure we can make it worthwhile for him.
So now it’s time to start filming. We choose our locations strategically, to get the best light, the best time of day, reveal a little about the character of the village. We visit Jerome’s school. Jerome’s teacher is part of our group that made the hike from Mahanoro. He’s going to speak on the video. We realize Jerome’s mom is a key part of the video, and talk about how we plan to capture that piece. We don’t want to tell her what to say – we just want her to explain the situation in the village.
We worry that Jerome will end up being a poor actor, probably because he looks so much younger than his 16 years.
filming the village scene, where we first meet Jerome
Jerome’s mom, after the interview. Our light ran out of batteries during the key part of the interview. Jerome’s little brother was getting restless, so I slipped him a lollipop. As we were filming, he began restlessly clicking it on his teeth, even though I was doing everything to gesture him to stop!
Sam watches his scene. We want to review everything, but we’re also conscious that once the batteries run out, there’s no way to recharge them…
No matter where we’re filming, everyone is curious. Lots of people ended up on the video without realizing it. Even the youngest kids are quiet and well-behaved when we ask them not to make noise. We’re lucky to have great weather the whole time…
After Jerome’s mom does her interview, we realize we should get some filler scenes where she is working, doing typical things – so we can alternate scenes a bit while she’s speaking. We go to find her, to ask her if she can stage something for us – and as we come around the corner we find exactly what we’re looking for, already taking place!
With the weather cooperating, we manage to get all of our shooting done, and we make it known that with the extra time we have available, we will take as many free family portraits as we can until it gets dark. The next morning will be an early one, and to be honest, I was still a bit sore from the walk in!
Here are some of the portraits Anne took.
this is Jerome’s family
This couple owned the empty house we stayed in. They live up on the hill overlooking the village, and when we came up to the house for a photo, he proudly pointed out his outhouse – the only one in the village.
Jerome’s mom and sister
As a postscript to this post, I’ll mention that the actual editing of the video ended up taking months. We wanted to get it just right, but were constrained by the fact that the footage we had was all we could work with – so no major changes. You can, of course, see the video on the Onja crowdfunding page at http://tiny.cc/onja.
All photos in this post were taken by Anne. In part three, I’ll talk a little about our leisure time in the village, and some of the surprises we experienced!