A short film from Jerusalem

Blog, Video Production

Bismillah

I’m back now from Jerusalem. It was an amazing experience but it’s great to be back, with my wife, daughter and the whole family. It’s also great to be back because it means I can start editing a surprise personal project I was able to shoot whilst out there.

When I was first offered to go to Jerusalem to film and photograph I knew straight away I wanted to spend some of the time out there to create a short doc of some kind to ‘contribute’ to the dialogue on the Palestinian situation. I had no contacts in Israel/Palestine, barely any time and no ideas on what I could possibly create either, so the initial prospect of making my film became very bleak. Towards the end of the trip when most of my main duties had ended some time became available but I still hadn’t figured out what I would make. On a shopping walk in the souk, whilst looking for stuff for my little girl I walked by a small jewellery shop. Inside I caught a glimpse of a man putting away an old film SLR. Without thinking I bee lined for him, and asked him if I could take a picture of it. It was a Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. I’d never seen one in real life before. I explained to him that I took pictures too, and before long we were discussing photography and he told me he’d been a military journalist and war photographer for over 30 years!

That’s how I found the subject of my documentary. Completely by fate! Seriously can’t wait to release it, but I want to do justice to the film so it’ll take me a few days to polish it up and share it with the world! As soon as it’s edited I’ll post an accompanying blog too.

To keep up to date with it you can keep an eye on my vimeo page http://www.vimeo.com/jubair and also on twitter https://twitter.com/SafiyyahsDad where it’s very likely I’ll tweet about it too!

A lover in Jerusalem

Blog, News, Video Production

Bismillah

I’ve walked down ancient streets, under age-old archways and through bustling souks. I’ve stood upon Biblical and Quranic grounds, and stared up at perennial skies. I’ve looked into the eyes and hearts of hatred, and of love, in the faces of hosts and hostiles. And in this cauldron of culture, of civilisation, I’m somewhat lost, in lust and infatuation, of its promise of unpredictable adventure and romance.

Wow! Did I just say all that? Dramatic!

No really, it has been an amazing 2 weeks. The days have flown by in a whirlwind of sights, sounds, smiles,, embraces, and friendships that will never be broken inshAllah. I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve worked hard, played hard, and prayed hard too!

This place, this odd place, has a strange effect on you. On the one hand, you step into the holy precinct of Al Aqsa, and forget about the whole world. Peace, tranquility, a sense of spiritual connection thats easy to feel but hard to explain. And then you step out of the archaic boundaries, into the hustle, bustle and tension of modern Jerusalem. The current political situation stares you in the face with a grimace and you can’t help but feel a bit hopeless as a human being, in knowing that you can’t do much to ease the suffering and conflict of people, here or anywhere. Only stand back and watch.

I’ve sat with the intelligentsia, and found it baffling how anyone can remain emotionally indifferent to the anarchic crisis, or even the antiquitous (is that a word?) surroundings. I’ve been revelling in them, and reeling from daily news of ever increasing casualties. Truly a paradoxical and perplexing experience. And yet the strange thing is I’ve never felt more human. 

I suppose that’s what happens… you miss your family and long for their human presence… you see the pain and suffering on the news and feel its immediacy, being only yards from people being carried away on stretchers… and you walk through sanctified hallways where men from long long ago prophesied and prayed for future generations. It’s a cauldron of culture, of civilisation, and of confused compassion. Love thy enemy, hate they enemy.

I’ve fallen in love with this place. Quite madly. But like every place I visit, I’ve got to leave, no matter how long my face or low my heart. I feel confident though, I’m leaving with a mission to urge others to come; to show support, and love, and let our brethren here know that we have not forgotten them. 

The work here has been bone grindingly tiring, and the emotional roller coaster has left me feeling just a little bit nauseous. Going back with work in mind I know I’ve got a lot more learning and improving to do. Mental preparation, learning new languages and even my kit too. My gear needs upgrading, quite desperately. You can’t try and cover refugee camps, hospital visits, walking tours and violent protests with an ageing DSLR and a couple of radio mics. Its been the lightest kit I’ve ever used on a professional gig, and though it never let me down, I know I need to gear up a bit. Thinking about the A7s… or wait for the 7d mk2? No idea at the moment… I know I need to but I can hardly muster the energy to think about it. 

I’ll probably still have a few words to say yet, as our flight on Tuesday remains uncertain. Ben Gurion, Tel Aviv has been on and off with flights, because of the supposed danger of Hamas rockets, and tomorrow I visit the excavated tunnels beneath Al Aqsa, no doubt it’ll be interesting; but if I don’t let me end by saying salaam, shalom, peace and love from Jerusalem.

 

Clashes in Jerusalem

Blog, News

Bismillah

Clashes took place between protestors and Israeli police and military in Jerusalem, in the early hours of Friday morning (25th July).

Locals gathered for the auspicious night of the 27th of Ramadan at the Al Aqsa masjid (mosque). Tensions were exacerbated by Israeli guards preventing any men under 50 from entering. Despite the restrictions many young men were already within the holy precinct.

After evening prayer had finished, stones were thrown at guards and within a few hours large groups had gathered to shout chants and join in with stone throwing. Israeli police and military used stun/flash grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.

Some protestors were able to wrestle riot shields and other equipment away from guards.

Many had to be carried away on stretchers due to injuries sustained from rubber bullets.

The protests were in anger at the ongoing conflict in Gaza which has so far taken over 800 lives, 70% (at least) have been civilians.

Police and soldier presence remains high even after situation calmed.

Image (taken by myself, Jubair Khan 2014) shows a gathering of women chanting from the steps of the Dome of the Rock.

 

A human in Jerusalem

Blog, Video Production

Bismillah

I’m relieved. No more visits to camps, or hospitals or having to photograph and video vulnerable people. My visit to Jerusalem has not been a quiet one, or a holiday by any means. Since we arrived in Ben Gurion, Tel Aviv, over a week ago, its been a daily grind of visits, tours and filming aid work, but today for the first day I’m sat in the lobby of the Holy Land hotel, and I don’t have anywhere I need to be.

I’m also relieved because after a flustering visit to Ramallah camp yesterday, the second and more hectic of the visits, I discovered that there are amongst us good people who have a strong moral and ethical grounding and sensitivity towards the vulnerable. It’s strange to say that, or even hear it, considering I work in the NGO sector, and yet I am surprised by others and especially at my own lack of empathy sometimes.

After we got back in the evening, I was casually asked about my purpose as a photographer and filmmaker, about the purpose of documenting poverty. As is my nature I replied sarcastically, how I often do when I neither have the time nor the energy to engage a genuine intellectual response. Plus I’d already written my previous blog and I wasn’t feeling great about the subject anyway. My interlocutor was genuinely interested in my answer though, and before long their frustration (like my own frustrations shared in my previous blog) became clear. Thankfully the frustration was not directed at me, I was merely the vent. But a necessary vent, I’ve known far too well the effect of keeping these types of things inside.

They had observed how other members of the group who also visited the camps in Ramallah displayed a frightening level of disregard to the dignity of the beneficiaries, many taking ‘selfies’ with random poverty stricken street children in an attempt to chart their aid efforts.

The angry feelings were reconciled with the group leader and with great admiration and pleasure I saw how the group leader was not able to douse the passions of this individual who felt very strongly about what they had to say. I’m young and at the same time far too cynical, and even apathetic (only out of laziness, not out of an unwillingness to care) so it was a good reminder for me, a boost in my view of people, that in every 10, or 100, there might be someone who opposes what my colleague and mentor Quinn calls ‘NGO tourism’.

In actions there should be a clear and pure intention. In theology this is very important, but even for the overall wellbeing of humanity, if we as people do not try to preserve the sanctity of why we do things and how we do things we risk selling our souls for ‘likes’ and ‘shares’ on Facebook and twitter. Don’t get me wrong, I use twitter myself (follow me at https://twitter.com/SafiyyahsDad) but I seriously believe there is a severe psychological effect of prostituting our good deeds, on us and our friends.

This renewed faith in people came at a timely point in this trip. With 5 days left, it feels very close to the end. I spent the last few days worrying I had not made any kind of spiritual or even psycho/social progression. Most of my time here has been spent working, documenting, photographing, videoing, charging batteries, backing up memory cards, checking footage and sound etc. There was no time for reflection or contemplation in this ancient land. But after that conversation with a good and caring person, and having a moment or two to myself, I now feel a combined sense of spiritual presence and also hope. I’m looking out at the Dome of the Rock actually. It’s a stunning sight. Looking at that too gives me the exact same feeling.

Leaving this place will be difficult but I do feel I’ll leave here a better person than when I came. InshAllah.

Photo: Jubair Khan 2014, please credit if used.

A filmmaker in Jerusalem

Blog, Video Production

Bismillah

I’m a fraud. I walk amongst the ill, injured and oppressed and capture their pain on my camera… then I return back to technology, luxury, opulence and ‘spirituality’…

Today I spent an afternoon with the team who brought me to Jerusalem, visiting patients from Gaza, filming the distribution of aid. Lack of planning (on my part) left me quite frantic and without a fellow crew member I was overloaded with pressure and responsibility. In these situations, walking through busy hospital wards you really need a good amount of preparation and assistance, of which there was little or none. Thankfully our fixer had identified interviewees but other than the usual set of questions most NGO filmmakers ask beneficiaries, I was on my own and a tiny bit panicking. After the first slightly botched interview I had to gather myself and all my chi, energy, focus and play both the interviewer, producer and camera op. Being a low budget filmmaker I’m quite used to that but recent trips abroad a few times by bigger NGOs have spoiled me so it was a case of regaining that zeal young doc makers have.

Thanks also to Zayd, the head of the charity, I regained my balance and we went from room after room of ill Gazans, who had little or no access to medication in their native Gaza. Instead they’ve had to travel to Jerusalem, leaving behind family in a dangerous and uncertain situation. A few were there having suffered horrific injuries from the current war. Many of them were in a state of limbo, living in the hospital waiting for the conflict to end so they could return home.

You never get used to seeing people in difficulty. During the maelstrom of covering as many rooms and interviews as possible in the shortest amount of time I wasn’t so effected, till of course we had a few moments here and there to sit. And each time I sat, with the only intention really of resting my legs and arms, I was hit by a wave of remorse, of my helplessness and also my obtrusive presence. I was like a vulture. Though the team who brought me did an amazing job, a unique one at that (they’ve been linking donors directly with the beneficiaries during the aid distribution, for an unprecedented amount of transparency) I felt quite disturbed by my own belligerent trampling through peoples’ emotions.

Ethics are important in life. As is telling the truth. It’s the line in between, in my field, that I struggled to navigate today. You can’t exploit people. But then again, you need people to share their stories, and I hate to say it, so us desensitised westerners will open our hearts and wallets!

Maybe I’m still just a bit rattled by the way I operated today. I’ve since returned to the hotel to type this up in the hopes of somehow processing my thoughts and feelings. Bourgeois I know…

Tomorrow we go to Ramallah, to visit the mukhayam. Mukhayam… a word I’m hearing too often these days. Camps…

Image taken by myself, Jubair Khan, and rights with Zaimah, 2014.

A pedestrian in Jerusalem

Blog

Bismillah

It’s the first time in a long time that I’ve not been to a mosque for Friday prayer. After last night’s small and adolescent skirmish between excited young worshippers and police, a ban had been placed on anyone under 50 from praying inside the holy precinct. This meant I had to pray at the hotel behind Shaykh Hasan.

Shaykh Hasan provided us with a moving and relevant bit of advice and with that I went on a short walk in the area just outside our hotel.

People went about their normal daily lives, even with a heavy police presence. The air had somewhat returned to normal. I went with one of the guys from our group to buy a pair of flip-flops. Our group leader expertly haggled with a local laundry owner. An old… no… ancient barber came out and greeted us. His english was better than our Arabic. The normality was slightly unnerving. But I’m told that this is life in Jerusalem.

I suppose by letting myself be distracted by the excitement of ‘resistance’ I risk missing the wonder of this place. And yet I feel it’s the overwhelming weight of knowing whats happening to people a short distance away that bears on my mind.

I believe very strongly that we’re placed in situations in our lives, all expertly choreographed to test us, and make us better people. The fact that I was asked to come on this trip at all, my expenses being covered, and being allowed to take part in the religious rites, I know I’m blessed and should be thankful. I wonder though, about how being in a situation where during part of the day I sit reflecting and worshipping and the other part of the day I follow, hear and witness the result of the evil thats happening, I wonder how this will effect me as a young man.

I should hope I return a better father to my daughter, a better husband to my wife, and a better son and relative to my family. I should also hope that I get closer inclined to the process of refining my spirit. And tell the truth no matter how hard it might be. Most of all I think I should return and be a man who can still hope. How could I not, walking and seeing the way people carry on, living under occupation.

Stun grenades used against pilgrims

Blog, News

UPDATE: 3 Brits rumoured to be detained. 1 of them beaten.

The calm in the air was shattered early this morning when pilgrims, after being turned away from the sacred precinct, were fired upon by police, on the streets of Muslim Quarter, Old City in Jerusalem.

Guards at the precinct began allowing only elderly pilgrims into the holy site. I’ve been told that some of the younger pilgrims provoked guards and police, so they responded by using stun grenades and possibly rubber bullets.

Friday prayers are coming up and there are further rumours that many political groups will be attending, so attendance at the prayer is now not advised, especially for foreign pilgrims. British pilgrims were amongst those being directly fired upon.

A visitor in Jerusalem

Blog, Video Production

Bismillah

First impression

Sitting here in my hotel room, overlooking the courtyard of the Dome of the Rock and the boundaries of the Sacred Precinct, I can’t help but feel a bit perplexed as to why the air is so calm here in the Holy Land, Jerusalem. I’ve been told that the angels spread their wings over Al Quds; maybe it’s that, or maybe it’s the Iron Dome mobile all weather air defence system… either way, you’d never know what was happening 50 miles away. No one speaks about what’s happening.

When you walk into the compounds of the Al Aqsa Masjid you get a similar sense of stillness you find in Madina, in Saudi. Other than the occasional Hebrew news on cafe TVs, nothing disturbs the finely tuned tranquil state in the Old City.

Don’t get me wrong, since I’ve been here I’ve heard enough tales of tragedy and tyranny to bring me near tears, and though I’m no way near close enough to comment on the Palestinian experience, I have witnessed a taste of the checkpoints, border stops and stares from men with machine guns and Hebrew tattoos.

And yet I’m quite sure about and equally confused by the state of peace this city resides in.

The Journey out here

I only got a few hours of sleep before my journey began. The usual pre-flight nerves, coupled with the additional fear of being turned back. Since the onslaught began a week ago, the situation had only deteriorated further. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that too much; and working for an NGO which was and is currently operating in the besieged areas, I was worried that that might be highlighted as a point of concern for the Israeli border authorities. Anyway, I was packed and ready and knew I could sleep later.

With great difficulty I departed from my wife. My daughter was still asleep so I kissed her with a secret hope she might stir and wake, but I guess it was a blessing that she stayed fast asleep or that might have made an already difficult departure unbearable. My younger brothers did me a big favour and dropped me to the airport.

Meeting the group in the airport eased my nerves a lot. A mixed bunch, uncles and aunties, youngsters, ‘mipsters’ (muslim hipsters) and the occasional newly wed couple. I wished I could have brought my family too but this was work, so I couldn’t afford the distraction. Sounds horrible I know. The burden of worrying about your loved ones in a foreign place, with the added responsibility of work would have been way too much for me, for 2 weeks. I was happy looking at the eager faces of the families before me though. With high spirits everyone greeted each other and we boarded.

I spent the flight sat next to Shaykh Hasan Ali. A man whom has had my respect and admiration for many years. Though his beard has greyed, and if you looked at him you could see years of wisdom on his face, he’s incredibly humble, and the time with him on the journey only warmed my fondness of him. A truism of a description, but he’s an incredibly human person. We didn’t talk too much, but it wasn’t uncomfortable or awkward. Mostly he sat working his way through his tasbih (rosary beads).  I forced myself to sleep (though I never can on flights) in preparation for the ordeal to come at Tel Aviv.

The queue for passport control didn’t take too long, and the lady at the counter was fairly pleasant. I’m choosing my words carefully, obviously. With a few short questions about the purpose of my visit, my passport was held and I was told to wait with a select group of our party, in a side room. Confused, despite having been warned about this, we spent hours waiting and then one by one, and maybe randomly, we were pulled in for questioning. When eventually it was my turn, I felt a tiny bit of sickness, I knew my travels for work would be a problem… but they weren’t…

‘Where have you been? Have you ever been to Iran, Iraq, Pakistan or Afghanistan? Do you know anyone from Iran, Iraq, Pakistan or Afghanistan? Where will you be staying? How long will you be staying?’

Calmly (and quite charmingly) I answered the questions. I hid nothing. And with a thank you I was given my passport and permission to stay in the state of Israel.

Everything else until the moment I fell in my bed was a blur.

And then I woke up to an unusual sound and quite a powerful sight.

The sound of the adhaan had begun echoing out, droning and buzzing from the ageing loudspeakers, and I had one of those epiphanous moments where I realised where I was. The sound of the adhaan has an ancient quality, and seeing the unchanged walls of the boundaries of the Dome of the Rock, with the golden dome gleaming so proudly, I was kind of transported back in time a thousand years. The visits through the winding Old City alleys really solidified this feeling. It wasn’t nostalgia, it really felt like being in a different time. And like I already mentioned, a real feeling of peace, something you could only measure metaphysically.

Sights and stories

Since being here we’ve visited Hebron, Jericho and a number of religious sights. I was quite moved by the sacred shrines and the legends surrounding them, but it was the complicated drama of the situation of the Palestinians and their relationship with the settlers that has so far stuck with me most. In Hebron in the markets, the old souk-like alleys, overhead hung sweeping nets giving shoppers below shade. But the real reason they were hung there is because they offered a typically Palestinian impromptu-air defence system, protecting the merchants and their patrons from projectiles and general rubbish thrown and dropped by the Israeli settlers who live above.

As I walked through the market I felt a conflicting sense of gratitude to the shop keepers for their warm reception, and also disgust and sadness at the sight above my head.

I was also told by brother Ramzi, our Palestinian host, that in many parts of Hebron and the surrounding West Bank area, settlements had caused Palestinian families to be evicted from their homes, homes which had been with them for generations. When they were first forced to leave, most of the families took their house keys with them, which they still have to this day, in the hopes that they might somehow be able to return. So the key, the humble house key is actually an important symbol of hope in the West Bank, here in the occupied territories.

Aims and objectives

So these are my sprawled initial experiences and feelings. I’m here on this trip to document, photograph and video the various excursions, talks by the Shaykh and also charitable distribution of food organised by my host. But even before I came with these vocational objectives I knew I wanted to somehow use some of my time and skills to contribute to the Palestinian-Israeli dialogue for peace. After being here for a few days I’m not sure I’m any closer to knowing exactly what I want to say. Is it futile? I’m sure it’s not, I’m sure if I’m able to say something with a clear intention and honest voice it will have some good and lasting impact, however small. I guess I’m still only a visitor here in Jerusalem, so I’ll have to spend more time meeting locals, doing the job I’ve been brought out here to do the best I can, and figure out what I’m going to say when I finally start rolling the camera for my Palestine piece.

Follow me on twitter https://twitter.com/SafiyyahsDad

To find out how you can get involved and support those suffering in Palestine visit http://www.muslimaid.org or https://zaimah.org

Picture: An Israeli soldier standing guard with a fully loaded fully automatic weapon. A young woman walks past. Please credit if used. Jubair Khan 2014

Prepping for Jerusalem

Blog, Video Production

Al Buruj Press are taking a group tour to the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem for the last 10 days of Ramadan, and it’s an honour and a privilege I’ve been asked to come along and film the auspicious pilgrimage.

I won’t lie, I’m a bit nervous, what with the stories I’ve heard of pilgrims being  detained for hours on end and also the tension that has plagued the region since the unrest in Gaza. But as Al Buruj Press has reiterated, our mission is a spiritual one, where we must do our best not to be distracted by things outside of our control. It’s a bit analogous to our life on Earth I guess, we have an objective and we don’t let ourselves get bogged down in dunya (worldly matters).

Personally, I’m looking to use the time to disconnect from the things I’ve been stressing over for the last few months. Career strategy. Office politics. International crises and filming gear headaches! Those last two will be a bit problematic I suppose, as I’ll be lugging cameras around and debates about middle eastern problems will be inevitable, with us being in the heart of the occupied territories…

Anyway!

Preparation takes two forms for this trip.

Gear: I have to make sure I’m equipped to film the journey but not overloaded with gear. It’s a long time to be working away from home and non-stop (2 weeks) and I’m sure we’ll be on our feet a lot of the time so I can’t afford to pack too much and stress myself with kit, especially as we’ll also be fasting. Another reason to keep a small footprint is the likely hassle we’ll get about carrying audio/visual equipment in sensitive areas… But at the same time keeping some essential kit handy for getting decent sound is crucial, so that I don’t miss any important historical and/or spiritual nuggets, from any of the speakers and tour guides.

Spirituality: To get the most from this trip a bit of forethought about my schedule would be prudent. Packing the right books, clothes even, will make a big difference to my mind-state whilst out in the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’. For spiritual garms I’m taking light cotton tunics, for maximum comfort during lectures and prayers! And for reading I’m thinking of taking Al Ghazali’s Beginning of Guidance though I’ve already read it once. It’s the ideal book to help recalibrate my moral compass with a healthy emphasis on time-management. I’ve been slacking lately in these areas so undoubtedly it will do me some good. Other than that maybe a small book on the exegesis of some chapters of the Quran? 2 weeks might fly by and I won’t get a chance to read it… dead weight? Or maybe I’ll need all the reading material I can carry. Oh! And some good musk!

Filming gear will be as light as I’ve ever been on a professional gig:

  • DSLR with only 1 lens (trusty Tamron 17-50 f2.8 VC)
  • Handicam
  • SD cards
  • Wireless mics and audio recorder
  • Macbook
  • External HD
  • Chargers and adapters

That’s it for gear, pretty much… No tripods, lights, reflectors, no additional mics, just 1 lens… Almost like holiday gear…

Which reminds me, I’m looking forward to putting together a postcard film; a montage of the architecture, sounds and colours of ancient Jerusalem. I still need to edit the one I did in Istanbul, and one for Khartoum too. Hopefully after Ramadan I can sit and just do some therapy editing!

Next blog from the Holy Land inshAllah!

Keep posted by following me on twitter: https://twitter.com/SafiyyahsDad

And to check out visits and courses of a similar nature visit the Al Buruj Press website: http://www.alburujpress.com/

When you’ve seen things

Blog, Video Production

Bismillah

I know this particular post will come off as a bit melancholic, perhaps even brash in places, despite my best efforts to edit and compose myself. I’m trying with great effort to simultaneously be as honest as possible but at the same time uphold a certain dignified image for my blogger-filmmaker-persona.

Since coming back from my film-making expedition for work, the Syrian border in Turkey, since being a bit more in tune with the unfolding of international crises, I’ve not quite been myself. Granted it’s only been a couple of weeks since I landed safely in Heathrow, and granted too that work has been absolutely hectic. Even so I notice a creeping sensation in my fingers and bones that the guy who stepped off that plane was not the same guy who stepped on.

Increasingly I feel cut off from people. The more I check death tolls on the news the more sickly and nauseated  I feel. Where possible in social situations I do my best to fade out of sight and disappear as quickly as possible. It’s Ramadan and in the evenings, no matter how devout, everyone gathers for tarawi prayers. As much as it is a spiritual occasion, it’s also a great time to catch up with people and exchange stories about how difficult or easy fasting has been going. Despite the lighthearted merriment of the time, I look forward to getting away lest I should bump into someone and have to explain uncomfortably about my time away for work.

The thing of it is is that I could quite easily just evade questions with polite if slightly curt answers, and yet it’s just the ‘Salaam, how you doing bro?’ that I dread.

I’m no soldier. Nor do I have aspirations of being one. And the things I actually saw with my own eyes when I was away for work, they were quite tame really. So I’m not traumatised. I haven’t come back with PTSD. At least I don’t think so. But the people I met, and their stories that I heard… those linger in my mind and when I fail to distract myself, the memories of their faces come back. It’s quite a fascinating phenomena actually. I’ve never felt like this before. Though I doubt many of them will really remember me (having your face stuck behind a camera does that to people) I still feel inextricably a component or a part of their suffering. Not their actual suffering, but the effort to share it, rather. Like a limb or at least a digit to a greater body.

In the same way, I’ve had a stirring in me, a feeling of fondness and admiration for the journalists who risk their lives, who sacrifice their time and mental health to make sure the oppressed are not forgotten. When such important and significant things are taking place in the world, they are there to document it honestly. If they don’t then the rest of us will be spoon fed lies by those who find it in their interests to hurt and harm people. So maybe it’s when I meet ‘civilians’ (and don’t get me wrong, I am as civilian as it gets) when I meet civilians I feel an urge to avoid idle chat, to make sure if I expend any of my breath it’s for the cause of kids like Mona, and Wiyam, and Mustafa, who had their parents ripped from them unjustly. No… I don’t think it’s anything so noble.

I think what it is, is I’m still trying to work through my mind the things I saw, and I don’t know what I’d want to say if someone asked me ‘so how was it?’. I’ve been in the situation a few times. One time I said ‘yeah it was good’. Once I said ‘it was an eye opener’. Each answer more frustrating to myself than the last because I know that the experience can’t be summarised into a few casual words, and I can’t make the person I’m speaking to feel exactly what I felt when I met those children.

But that’s what my film is for. I articulate myself in my main medium of expression, and that’s film making. I’m not under any pretenses that I’m a genius or masterful film-maker, I know everyday I learn and improve; but the films I made with my colleagues are really the only way I’ll really be able to share a taste of the experience.

And I think with that, I look forward to the next visit. To the next field trip; to collect the images and sounds, of those in need. So that when people ask me ‘how was it?’ I point them towards a link and tell them to watch that. And with it I might make some tangible difference in the world. I should hope my vocation be so magnanimous…

I think that this is part of the sacrifice, no matter how small, of being a journalist, or documentary or film maker, of these issues. That you do your best to deal with the aftermath of seeing and hearing things most people will never see or hear.

The film: http://vimeo.com/100161862

Follow me on Twitter 🙂 https://twitter.com/SafiyyahsDad