The Back Stories

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Beach time with little Adoniya and her mother Sini, member of the Xandari family.

Ask me the most meaningful part of my job around here in recent time and I’d hold up the Xandari films without a doubt. To call them films or videos is an acknowledgement of their formats and the creative process that goes into them. But to embrace all of them together with the words labour of love is simply the truth. (Watch them here).That we loved making them, loved dissecting the resorts to take a closer look at their DNA, their dreams. Above all, loved the Xandari family a little bit more. I’ll tell you why.

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The Japanese Women Who Married the ‘Enemy’

Atsuko, Emiko and Hiroko were among tens of thousands of Japanese women who married their former enemies after World War II. They landed in 1950s America knowing no one, speaking little English and often moving in with stunned in-laws.  PHOTO: BBC

Atsuko, Emiko and Hiroko were among tens of thousands of Japanese women who married their former enemies after World War II. They landed in 1950s America knowing no one, speaking little English and often moving in with stunned in-laws. PHOTO: BBC

What does it mean to leave your country, where you were somebody, and move miles to a continent you’d only heard of? A country where you’d be a ‘nobody’. Not knowing whether the decision to say ‘yes’ to a former enemy was right. Struggling for words that help start a conversation. Being told not to wear the one piece of cloth your identity hinges upon? And years of trying to fit in, juggling two distinct identities? Listen to the Japanese War brides as they tell their story on BBC this week. 

For 21-year-old Hiroko Tolbert, meeting her husband’s parents for the first time after she had travelled to America in 1951 was a chance to make a good impression. She picked her favourite kimono for the train journey to upstate New York, where she had heard everyone had beautiful clothes and beautiful homes.

But rather than being impressed, the family was horrified. “My in-laws wanted me to change. They wanted me in Western clothes. So did my husband. So I went upstairs and put on something else, and the kimono was put away for many years,” she says.

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Documentary: Shunte ki pao! (Are you listening), the life of a family of climate refugees in Bangladesh

Shunte ki pao (Are you listening) (c) Beginning Production

When introducing his documentary at the Paris International Documentary festival, Cinéma du Réel, director Kamar Ahmad Simon said to the audience: “Thank you for being here. I will be back at the end of the screening to discuss the film with you. I’d like to know your opinion and to answer any questions you may have, whether you liked the film or not, so I can go forward and progress.” If I had to sum up the response from the audience and jury it would be something like: “Please keep going. We’ll follow.”

Click here for the  trailer  of Shunte Ki Pao ! (Are you listening)

Rakhi and Soumen are a beautiful couple, they are young, in love and are the happy parents of little Rahul. You could say they have it all. That’s if their region of the coastal belts of Bangladesh had not been wiped out by the tidal in 2009. Rakhi and Soumen are climate refugees. A couple among  almost a million homeless, stranded under the open sky on an ancient dyke. They now live in a small village named Sutarkhali. Rakhi and Soumen were from the middle-class, today three years after the tidal, they buy fruits by the unit, fish for their meal and line-up on neverending queues for food aid. And life goes on.  Shunte Ki Pao ! (Are you listening) is not about disaster, it tells how people build a life afterwards. Continue reading

International Environmental Film Festival of Paris: Prize List and Small Gems

The 30th edition of the International Environmental Film Festival closed in Paris a few weeks ago. The selection of rare, beautiful and eye-opening films was a treat so I wanted to share some of the goodness with you.

Grand Prix: The Fruit hunters by Yung Chang

Inspired by Adam Leith Gollner’s book of the same name -that also inspired a post in these pages – Canadian director Yung Chang (Up the Yangtze) enters the world of fans of rare varieties of fruits.  As he follows fruit hunters’ travels and meet-ups, he finds the tree of an almost extinct mango, comes across actor Bill Pullman and interviews many of these unsung heroes of biodiversity. The aesthetics of the cinematography makes those fruits and those characters irresistible. Continue reading