Action. All is silent as the crowds surrounding the scene stare silently. They are still, allowing movement to transcend into the scene. The two leading characters begin the rhythm of action reaction, playing off each other’s fantasy. Rudy, playing the mature father, has a disarming charm that was once used more rebelliously. This rebellious nature now sits opposite incarnated in his son. Leo is a character of youthful trends just as most of us were, though has abilities yet unflourished. In his stare stirs a quiet stubbornness in opposition to the mellow laid back demeanour of his father. Cut.
The short film is titled ‘Apostle’s Manoeuvre’ which I found referred to the phrase ‘To rob Peter to pay Paul; that is, to borrow money off one man to pay another.’ Apostle refers to a missionary, an advocate of a certain cause. They are filming at the Rialto Bingo Club in Coventry which consists of an unusual yellow room with a few bingo tables and machines. Strangely most of the hall has been hollowed out, holes are craters where tables once fastened.
Noise resumes as the actors and crew discuss various perceptions. There are two cameraman, two lighting directors, two sound engineers and various other continuity and production staff to ensure smooth operation. “Ok lets go again” calls Brian the director, pursuing the cycle of re-enactment and repetitions of scenes that become hypnotic in a rhythmic dance of paradynamic shifts, creating memories of motion, sound and footprints.
Camera rolling, sound, clapper board, scene 3 take 4.. Action.
I stand back from the scene waiting for the decisive moment that a photographer encaptures. I see a film set as three spheres, an isolated existence, surrounded by a fortress of crude machinery escalating high and covering the floor with cables of spaghetti, lights and lenses. Surreal equipment with cameras with detached steering wheels and tentacle like apparatus reaching ceilings. Three point lighting, sound equipment with dead animal fur imitation covers. The first of the three spheres is the played scene with the actors, the new existence which is created by the filmmakers. The second sphere is the filmmakers with their machines. The third is the voyeurs, extras and assistants clouding the others watching how the scenes are orchestrated. Its almost like a organic cell of our body, each with a crucial role in a larger system of rules and function.
The clapper board snaps before every scene like a switch of existences, breaking one reality for another. The new scene, this new reality has the capability to re-enact each moment to become perfect. Each take pushes for a greater significance. Brian shouts ‘cut’ signalling the end of the shot, bringing us back to reality.
The actor is curious. The players hide their anxiety of performing a life not their own, clouded in desire and pretence one step closer to true escapism. Action and scenes roll one after another. Brian cuts the scene again, relaxed and confident, confides with the actors to refine nuances. The director is like a psychiatrist, working with people to get the most out of their persona. The director pursues a journey for our vision based on his own, in order to create a certain suspension of disbelief, a certain truth.
Beth and Amiee play characters distracted by the outside world, on mobiles and flirting yet perform their characters menial tasks with mouth and tongue in cheek. They are exuberant actors, bursting with admirable excess energy that only performers harbour. A condition that any artist desires and learns to live with.
Tired faces of concentration, repetition and performance allude in ore of a film set, breaking walls of reality, dancing with morals, extracting pinnacle moments. Soon the final ‘it’s a rap’ will echo across all spheres. A sharp uncomfortable snap thrusting us back into our own realities like the transition from the cinema theatre to the sobering auditorium, or being awoken from a deep numbing dream. I am informed that this bingo club has already closed for business, possibly making this filming one of its last stories to tell. It will soon become yet another empty vessel of the economy, where memories echo in the hollow spaces, where noise once sung yet forever captured in film for the briefest of moments.
We started early and walked into the Kibera slum. I felt nervous as I was told it is very dangerous for a white person with expensive gear in my case a camera. Collins, one of the teachers carried my rucksack with my camera in for security as the social worker led the way with the children.
Kibera is made of of small homes made from sheets of disused metal and goes on for miles in winding dry muddy paths where litter and waste is often seen. The slum itself has a moat of rubbish and waste which is never collected. It seems like a fence, to either keep them in, or keep people out. We walk along a disused rail line, well i presume its disused though i’ll wait and see.
The first child’s home is a very small room with a chair and a bed where him, his mum and his cousin stay. I am given my bag so I film him pretending to get ready for school and doing his homework for the video. Rainbow suggests I don’t waste any time and keep the filming short not to promote my presence in the local scene.
We quickly move on passed hundreds of other homes with people selling whatever they can outside. There is an array of shoes, and often charcoal like substance in small buckets, which I assume is for fuel. I realise Kibera is a sight that not many people will ever see. Or would want to I guess, and feel very humbled and in a way privileged to experience such a way of life to contrast to my own.
Back at the school, I am to interview the five children. Its not going to be easy as there are construction sounds all around although I want to film them in th playground for context. Mary is the first, she is 11 years, very smiley and pleasant. She quickly tells her story of how her father disappeared and how she has been moved around east Africa quite a lot until she found sponsorship here.
The interviews continue as it becomes obvious that they are orphans, either through the parents going by choice or disease. Either way they speak quite coherently in English and almost objectively which i’m surprised by. Is it that the camera is making them hide there emotions or is it that this is a common way of life here.
I spend my evenings at the guest house, as it is too dangerous to wonder at night. I have been warned that Kenya changes at night into a much more dangerous place. Again, i’m not willing to take the risk on my own, so I make entertainment with the intermittent wi-fi to contact home. I couldn’t help think about the life of a business or alone traveller. Must be a lonely affair. I know that travelling as with everything in life is better when shared with a common heart.