Monday, November 13, 2006

Kinshasa, here I come.

10 Nov, 2006

The final election results are being released any day now. (Scheduled a week from now, 20th of Nov.) Congolese expect something to happen or for there to be some trouble. I’m not a political commentator so I’m not going to wage into the web of possibilities. But the bottom line is when most people with the means are leaving Kinshasa and the Congo for their ‘other’ lives in Belgium, France, South Africa and wherever else they find themselves in acceptable temporary ‘exile’ I am flying to Kinshasa to shoot a music video/commercial for one of the biggest musical stars of the DRC, Werason.
It can be said that when some people run out of a burning building and others run into it, they do it for the same reason or more specifically out of the same human mechanism. In this case my decision is that I am not ruled by fear, certainly not a nameless and unfounded fear. We shall see. My hosts and employers have made it clear that it is a less than desirable time to have to make this commercial and that we will have to be ready for anything and every eventuality.
Wow. I don’t know how often in life I am in a situation so focused and aware of what must be one of the fundamental laws of nature, namely that anything that can happen will happen.
Of course, our modern (western) lives seem to be predicated on the much more insubstantial premise that we have somehow managed to bring a large proportion (99%) of all probabilities into obeisance and can proceed with almost no chance of anything unexpected or unplanned happening! Ha ha!

I bought Richard Dwarkin’s book “The God Delusion” to read on my journey. We’ll see how that turns out.

I sat next to a South African security expert who was en route to prepare for Mbeki’s planned visit during the announcement of the results. Hey, if Mbeki’s coming then it must be ok I thought. I tried to fish for some ‘intel’ from this guy who did concede that they are not aware of any potential blow up, however he did say that he was there to prepare for any ‘eventuality’. We’ll see.

When I got to Kin I was met by the usual ‘protocol’ guys employed by the Agency to usher me through customs and baggage collection. However this time my passport was whipped out of my hand I was sent post haste into the baggage collection hall without even seeing a customs official. Used to a large amount of variation by now I went with the flow and sat on the very inactive luggage conveyar belt while I waited. After about 30 min I wondered what might be happening. Then Gill, the guy who usually meets me arrived and burst into long reams of French when he knows I understand very little. It seems that the more I say “I don’t understand much French” in French the more he assumes that I must understand something if I can say that much. Must be my accent or something. Anyway, I heard ‘visa’ and ‘pas bon’ and had to assume there was some trouble with my visa. At the end of the day it transpired that the lady who organized my ticket in JHB and visa had erroneously give my travel dates and that I my visa was only for an entry in two days time! If this was South Africa I surely would have been sent packing, back where I came from. This is the Congo so Gill and his assistants ensured that my passport was duly stamped with the appropriate entry stamp (reflecting my arrival as being two days later) and I was in!

We drove a different route to back to the City and I couldn’t really pick up any energy or vibe that would indicate that Kinshasa was on the brink of any kind of explosion of populist or military insurrection.

Back at the Agency it was business as usual. It’s great to see everybody again. I heard from one of the Agency guys that the three Maltina ads we shot last month have tested very well and everybody is thrilled by how they have turned out!

We work all afternoon and then I head off with Kris to his house in the hills, (Ma Campaigne) I wish I could take a photo of the view from up there but it’s almost impossible to find a vantage point. If you thought JHB was security mad, here every single house is surrounded by 3 meter walls, turning the roads into canyons from where you can’t see a thing! Walls, barbed wire, spikes and if you have airs you hire a private security company to hang around outside your house like one or two dudes in the street we live in.

It’s Friday night and everybody is planning to go out and party. Apart from going clubbing the first time I was here, I’ve avoided it ever since. (another story) But when we get home the heavens open and I experience a real Kinshasa thunderstorm that puts a monsoon to shame. Within minutes the drains can’t cope and the house, including my bedroom is flooded! Luckily the rain stopped 15 minutes later and we mopped and cleaned up. I ended up sleeping on the couch.

Take Two

10 nov
take two day one

I’m off to Kinshasa again.
Yesterday was my last day of my Yoga challenge, 5 days of yoga for 8 weeks!
My last class last night was also my 2nd worst class since I returned to practicing Yoga this year. My worst class being my first class three months ago when I wanted to run screaming out of the yoga class but didn’t. I exaggerate somewhat. I mean, why stay in a place that you want to leave with every fiber in your body and nobody is making you stay? Except yourself that is. Well, that’s it, isn’t it. And it wasn’t every fiber in my body that was screaming for me to get out of the hot yoga room. It was just the more vociferous fibers, my digestive tract, some of my temperature sensors were a bit freaked out by the unfamiliar temperature. Mainly it was my brain and it’s notions of what constitutes a good experience and what doesn’t that was freaking out. As it turned out, my being (that part of me that isn’t my mind) was more than capable of staying in the room, suffering no damage. In fact now that I’ve finished 8 weeks of 5 day yoga my being has experienced some very powerful moments of just being.
I tried to figure out why it was my second worst class but I couldn’t. It might have been an extension of my day which was uncannily similar to the last ‘pre-departure for Kinshasa day’. Except this time I wasn’t taking any medication and can’t attribute my rising panic and extreme physical discomfort to an adverse reaction to my malaria medicine. And as much as I can suggest various reasons, none may be true other than the fact that I just felt horrible all day. This basic fact, that I felt terrible with no reason or discernable cause, is almost harder to bear than the actual discomfort of the day.

Anyway, here I go again.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Chicken or the Egg?

Day 10

After the brief night in the flop house (see "A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN KINSHASA") the Agency moved me into an apartment called Zeka. Very clean and simple, little kitchen, lounge and seperate room and bathroom. I woke up this morning to find an egg in the frigge. Yes, an egg. No, I don't have a clue as to how it got there. I looked for the chicken, but not a feather in sight. Just the egg. In the fridge.

Right, moving on.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A Perfect Shoot

Day 8

Yesterday was our contingency day but because the second shoot day went so well we had a break which felt great! The Agency has asked me if I'd be willing to shoot another commercial on Sunday, the day before I go!!! The rest of the team is up for it and I figure why not, we are here after all. IT does mean that we only have 2 days to prepare. Tomorrow and Saturday! Hmmmm. It's for a local artist, Felix Wasekwa and we went to his house to watch him and his posse rehearse. We are going to have to do something with those girls!

the Last shoot day was inside a beauty salon that we revamped. It was the most controllabe of all the shoot days and in many ways the most enjoyable. We worked very hard and I definately feel that this one will be my favourite.

Sun, glorious sun

Day 7

After the great day we had yesterday I expected today to start on a high. It was overcast when we drove to set only to find nobody else there. It felt like we would never get going. When Omar eventually got to set at 9am, two hours after call time I was pacing up and down like a caged tiger.
The catch 22 of being here is this: I might as well keep a calm head and breathe because shouting achieves less here than anywhere else in the world and what is, is more so than anywhere else. But as I sit there keeping calm and watching the hours slip by I wonder if anything will happen at all and at the end of the day I am responsible to deliver the commercials.
So I alternate, periods of calm punctuated by little explosions. At least the explosions are a deliberate, conscious strategy and not some automatic behavior.

Funny enough, the day turns out to be most perfect to date, with blue, blue skies and great sunlight and we manage to shoot today and tomorrow’s shots in one afternoon. When the sun eventually set, Merlin, my cameraman, and I turned to each other with a bewildered look in our eyes not quite sure if we had in fact managed to pull off the impossible. Of course, it could have ended up the way we’d planned it, with shitty weather and nothing in the can after two days.

I realized that evening how fantastic it is to have people you can trust working with you. Manuela, the art director, Merlin and I have really worked well and had fun so far. Fun seems to be the essential ingredient.

Our first shoot day was a day full of surprises!

Day 6.

It was overcast and raining when I woke at 6am. We first went to the office as the organization was a little slower than we had planned. When we arrived at the botanical gardens where we were going to shoot it was still overcast but had stopped raining. Amazingly we shot our first shot at 10am, only an hour later than I had planned and we went on to have a fantastic day with great energy and shot all but 2 of our shots!

Elvis and his mobile soundsystem

The camera team

A light stand in Kinshasa

A light stand in Kinshasa, originally uploaded by Llewelyn.

Merlin's home made kineflo's and lighstand on the Maltina shoot.