A few months ago I had the privilege of meeting Vlad Sokhin, a documentary photographer here in Port Moresby. As a member of the PNG Photography Association, I was very happy to be part of the group that turned up to meet him and view some of his work. It was a very educational and also interesting to find out what documentary photography was about and of course meeting Vlad in person.
Here dwarfed by Vlad, I couldn’t imagine that in 2013 I would be standing in the shadow of this iconic person. Winner of over 10 prestigious awards.
Vlad showed us some videos he had taken in Portugal, and a number of countries in Africa and elsewhere. I was fascinated at what his lens conveyed in pictures many ordinary lives of extraordinary people. I left before we got to Vlad’s photographs on specific themes here in Papua New Guinea.
I wish Vlad all the best in his future photography endeavours here and abroad.
Vlad is working on a project here locally in Port Moresby and environs so I wish him the best in that project.
I was most privileged to be invited to World Premier Screening of the “The Novelist” by Jason Young, a British filmmaker and new kid on the block as far as black British filmmakers are concerned. This was Jason’s first ever feature-length film. A group of us gathered at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) to witness this debut public screening of Jason’s labour of love. This World Premier Screening was part of the 2009 Black Filmmakers (BFM) International Film Festival.
A few weeks before the debut public screening Alica Gbella one of the Festival organisers interviewed Jason.
Alice: ” Could you pitch your movie in a few sentences?”
Jason: “Ideally I would have liked to have made a swashbuckler on Julius Soubise (18th century swordsman ): titled ‘The Swordsman of Trelawny’. As that was not going to happen I thought I may as will write about the journey of a novelist who writes about the same subject matter”.
The weeks turned to days then to hours and suddenly there we were at the ICA waiting for the show to begin. We gathered in the reception area waiting to enter the theatre where the screening of “The Novelist” was to take place. Amongst those who gathered there were the actors, actresses, and crew of the film. I was the ‘unofficial’ photographer so was trying to identify who was who and take their photos.
It was almost 8.30pm when we were asked to enter the theatre. The seats were quickly taken and after the initial greetings and pleasantries with familiar faces and not so new ones, we all settled down for the screening. After a warm welcome and few remarks the screening began – yes, the World Premier Screening of “The Novelist”. My word, there was a hush as the bars of Simon’s beautiful opneing track came wafting through loud and clear. It was a electric. All eyes were on the screen firstly, because it was a film of a friend and secondly because it was a film by a black British filmmaker. The third was the theme of the film – an all too familiar story of the people struggling to make ends meet and have a life.
It could have been anywhere but this film had a British stamp on it – it was British and it was an all too familiar story found in many parts of Britain. I was held captive by the strong emotional undercurrents displayed in the film between the characters. Each to his/her own most of the time. I can see the differences between Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Britain of life in cities. In PNG we have the wantok system which involves extended family and family through marriage and other relationships. In Britain it is the individual by choice and by design sometimes. The other aspect of the film that haunted me was that all the characters were young people. So it would seem this is a film about young people and their struggles as independent human beings trying to make it in the big wild world around them.
“The Novelist” is a story of triumph over adversity and poverty of opportunity.
Embarking on this project sometimes had more anxious moments than exciting ones. Each obstacle overcome with a deep sense of commitment to succeed. Jason who was also the Director and Producer of the project played an amazing juggling game for a whole year from casting. When one aspect of the film seemed to be coming together there would be a significant hiccup that he had to straighten out. It seemed never-ending. But never one to give up he pushed on. Reward was sweet if not sweeter – a world premier screening of his first ever film. He has passed the initiation ceremony but the litmus test is yet to come.
The anticipation and preparation for the world premier screening was one interesting, exciting and life changing journey. This filmmaker braved the odds to produce his very first ever feature-length movie. It all started over a year ago. The development of the script was at times daunting and there were moments too familiar with any author – the dreaded writers’ block. But these moments were few and far between and in some cases blessings in disguise – as these ‘blocks’ created some fascinating ‘aha moments’.
The film took a year to reach this stage – a feature-length movie. Then came the momentous world premier screening at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) in London. By the way, the ICA is situated on the Mall – to the right is Whitehall and to the left is Buckingham Palace. Information on the ICA can be found on their website at: http://www.ica.org
After the completion of the script came the big task of advertising for actors and actresses and putting together a crew who believed in the project and believed in the filmmaker. Finding the locations etc etc – the journey was dotted with minor and major setbacks at times but small steps of progress nonetheless. It was, in my humble opinion, perseverence redefined! It was a steep learning curve in some places and a lot of strategic thinking and planning invested to reach completion.
From start to finish was four weeks – 3-week shoot and a 2-day re-shoot. Here is the link to the trailer.
Jason Young, a young Londoner has ventured into the world of film making and films. The Novelist is Jason’s first ever feature-length film. It has recently been short listed for the 11th bfm International Film Festival.
Jerry Downing is an aspiring writer who wants to publish his novel. His flatmate, Julia Wells, who is a closet writer herself, encourages him to get a full-time job to find his other half who will help him to get published. He dismisses her suggestion because of previous experiences in the workplace. When he bumps into his father, Nicholas Downing, who is on his way to the jobcentre to sign on the dole, Jerry changes his mind and decides to follow Julia’s advice in order to put an end to the cycle of unemployment in his family.
Whilst contemplating his next moves to find gainful employment, Jerry’s other flatmate, Kerry Cerberus, who has romantic feelings for him, begins reaching out to him socially. She is disappointed when her three attempts are unsuccessful thus turning her into an enemy.
Now, in employment in the publishing industry, Jerry finds an ally in his line manager, Karen Glinda. Simultaneously, Kerry begins to have a hard time at work and takes it out on Jerry in a series of misunderstandings that forces her to interfere in his personal life. He confides in Karen about his dilemma and his struggles, and she provides him with an attractive alternative that will increase his chances of publishing his novel. He is uncertain at first, but when he is served notice by his landlord Jerry decides to move out of the flat he shared with Kerry and Julia and take up Karen’s offer of accommodation so that he can complete his novel. Simultaneously, Kerry is sacked from her job and realises her worse fear of being unemployed as Jerry once was. Karen’s tutoring pays off, and Jerry’s novel is finally accepted for publication. But there is one more thing left for him to do.
A confident and self-assured Jerry returns to his old flat to remove the rest of his stuff. He sees Julia who informs him that he has inspired her to realise her childhood ambition of writing stories. He then seeks Kerry out to apologise to her for his behaviour towards her and to ask her forgiveness. She feels an emotional release and goes on to fulfil her ambition to become an accounts manager.
Free to live as a newly published novelist, Jerry and Karen face the future together.