Autumn has arrived here in Seoul a bit late – the leaves aren’t yet turned, though in the last days a hint of cold arrived. Perhaps, as was this past summer, autumn will be truncated – a more direct shift to the oblique light and harder temperatures of this hemisphere’s winter. In my life the change is also signaled other ways: the body seems a bit more cranky, prone to morning pains. On the left side of my torso a bulge near the groin suggests another hernia operation, slap in a piece of plastic meshing to do what the muscle wall no longer can. Maybe next week. And, as drifted by in previous years, autumn, at this age, induces autumnal thoughts – pondering if this may or may not be one’s last. Other changes carry the same tonal shift: singular again. And again, no longer employed, back upon the tight-rope of fiscal insecurity. In my case, it is something needed, and already I feel the juices of creative urges running – somehow my soul works better without a safety net. Two weeks ago, shoved into a self-made corner, managed to shoot a new film – 60-80 minutes long I imagine, shot in less than 3 days on tsunami ravaged island near Sendai, Japan. Devastatingly simple, I think it should be strong. With help from Moe Toema, young woman who took my workshop in Tokyo and speaks English well thanks to 3 years in Australia.
We arrived in the morning, meeting up with a man who works with a non-profit organization. He took us on a little drive around the island, introduced us to some people. I did a handful of shots of the place, got a sense of things. We stayed overnight in a kind of B&B guest home, slightly damaged by the quake – things out of line – but on high-ground and untouched by tsunami. Excellent fresh seafood dinner. Next day we went to shoot some people, not interviews but coaxing them to talk about their experience during the earthquake and then tsunami. For the most part it worked well, with Moe figuring out how to keep them going without talking herself – lots of nods and smiles. Lighting and set-ups were catch as catch can: I wanted blank backgrounds and in haste found what I needed; lighting was whatever was there. Got six of these, ranging from 6 minutes to 15 minutes long. Moe suggests what is said was interesting, so I think there’s a short feature in it. I figure to round up some Japanese poems or haiku’s about earthquakes and tsunamis, find some old graphics or paintings around the same, and get it all done by the end of November.
The man above, a fisherman, was swept away by the tsunami, and managed to grab hold of something for dear life, and survived. Shooting him was its own little adventure – a little ferry ride to another island to which he’d moved, Moe’s deadline to get back to Tokyo in time to make a medical appointment, and the crush of time. When we got to his house Moe told me we had five minutes before we had to go back to catch the return ferry in time to make her train. We walked in, I sized up a place to set him, shot for 7 minutes and as we were leaving to walk back the man said he had a little pickup truck and he’d drive us. I shot from the back while he drove and Moe worried I’d fall out as we bounced along the ravaged once-road. I had fun, it all reminding me of long ago days of shooting while sitting unharnessed on the hood of a pickup truck (opening shot of Last Chants for a Slow Dance) and other such things. We made the ferry with about 30 seconds to spare. The whole wham-bam two and a half day shoot seems to have rejuvenated my creative spirits.
While I was in Japan, another kind of tsunami seems to have risen – an echo of the Tunisian, and then Egyptian and then Libyan uprisings: our own Occupy Wall Street. Triggered by the mix of social networking tools, an economy in a deep swoon, and the utter arrogance and disconnected manner of our ruling elite – financiers, politicians and their courtiers all – a small minority of people have decided to speak and act out. They occupied a small privately managed park near Wall Street, camping out. At the outset it was a pitifully small number – a few hundred. The press and local authorities initially simply ignored them as if they were unworthy of notice. They stayed. Slowly through the internet news was spread. The mainstream press – including such allegedly “liberal” papers at the New York Times – then reported, but in a petulant and snide manner – both in articles and on their opinion pages. Right-wing media began to ventilate. And yet OWS grew, and branches began to sprout around the country – in Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and even in places where such protest was virtually unknown: Tampa, South Carolina, Denver. Again the numbers were small, but despite hostile press and politicians, they kept growing. Their tactics seemed to confuse the “authorities” who fumbled with evicting such camps, surrounding them with heavy police forces, and most recently attacking them. As if they could learn nothing from the recent history of our Arabic friends, with each effort at suppression by authorities and the media, the participants grew, and a reading of polls showed that a majority (53 to 70% depending on which poll) of Americans were supportive. This, in contrast to the Tea Party of last year, which the press gave wide coverage, and where the police were invisible despite the many gun-carrying TP people, provided a clear lesson in how America is presently run. In turn OWS and its off-shoots enlarged again, and finally the mainstream press began to report in something other than a negative manner, and started to pick up on issues raised by OWS. Clearly it had grown too big to ignore.
Confronted with a national uprising rooted in the real problems which beset the country, and which declines to enter into the binary Republican/Democrat so-called two-party system, the governmental authorities – acting at the behest of their corporate masters – are showing their impatience, and in the last few weeks have begun to carry out heavy-handed policing actions such as the entrapment on the Brooklyn Bridge and now in the forced closure of Occupy camps across the country. The most visible case of such tactics was demonstrated in Oakland, where police used tear-gas, stun grenades, and seriously injured an Iraq war vet. By such mis-steps do the government and the corporations it supports, show their hand transparently. Like Mubarak, like Gaddafi, their recourse is to force when they are unable any longer to dissuade with fraudulent politics.
There is no question that those who rule America will behave exactly like those who ruled Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, when push comes to shove. They will not leave willingly, nor admit their errors, nor concede any power. They will if necessary deploy the military and declare martial law and institute a police-state. They have already done many things towards this end. Under Bush there were “free speech” areas cordoned off, where the Constitution allegedly applied – though “free speech” is a Constitutional right and should be allowed anywhere in the USA. By such means are “rights” diminished – such as habeus corpus, which the Patriot Act deleted in many cases. Step by step our corporate masters, acting under the guise of the government, are reducing America to a version of the USSR: a defunct economy, a bloated military, and rampant corruption among the elite – socialism for the rich, and “capitalism” for the poor.
I encourage everyone to fully support the Occupy movement: with your body, with your voice, with whatever support you can give.