Around a year ago I first met Aram Ardalan who has become a very good friend. He’s a fellow film maker, and right from our first meeting we have talked about Iran, where Adi grew up. Here are a few words about the process of creating the Journeys.
Without a doubt one of the most time consuming aspects of the project so far is the amount of planning each Journeys has taken. I have been particularly blessed with what Joseph Campbell describes as “threshold guardians” people who seem to have materialised out of nowhere, acted as a major catalyst, and then, sunk back into the shadows – but leaving an enduring friendship.
Most of all has been the help of Tim Joppien, who I could only describe as the logistical director of the project. He’s a man with limitless energy and a mad fire for what can be achieved through culture. He is also not afraid of attempting to do what can’t be done. Simply put, he sets out with an attitude of this can be down, its just a question of a) how much time can be put in b) accepting the challenge of what looks impossible on paper.
Yet of course, nothing comes out of nothing, and we would both be simply working into the void, with out these mysterious spirits that have emerged to guide us on our way. Each journey has had a key player .
1) China – Archie Hamilton
2) East Africa – Mark Deihler
3) Russia – Victor VR
And it continues now, with both Journeys #4 & #5 which are both in deep preparation – and again there are people catalysts in Bastian Fisher and Aram Ardalan. At the moment I am hoping that Journeys #5 (more on Journeys #4 as I set off next week!) will be Iran, with Adi.
Like every country, there are logistical challenges with regards to Visa’s and so on. We are lucky enough that the project is rolling quite nicely now, and we are finding more and more support. Not in the business way of cash exchange, but in the “I believe in what you are doing and want to help” type of way. Yes, the project has enriched me in the belief that there is no value greater than the currency of exchange and of human connection – and continues to do so.
One area which I have heard is hard to get for Iran is a film permit – especially as a British film maker. However, I have a faith that we will find a way. Why?
Well, in a serially fragmenting world, there has been positive news about the lifting of sanctions in Iran. I have heard that it has been met with a great feeling of joy and optimism in the country. I believe that this shift – in perception of Iran, and of Iran outwards – will play a key role in the immediate future. There has been so much tension between the Islamic and Western world, and so much bad news. But the lifting of sanctions in Iran – something which for so long was at dead end – has given me great hope that with the right attitudes, there still lies a transformative chapter in relations ahead.
The Journeys project is based on the idea of trying to see things with one’s own eyes. I believe that, while in the news there is so much tension and terror reported, there exists another world – where people are generous, kind and open with one another. In all my travels so far, it is the deep kindness of the people I have come across which has left its mark.
I have no intention of simplifying complexity, and I have no interest to be naive. But I am developing a sturdy idealism – a belief that our problems can be worked at, communicated, solved. It feels like there is a great pessimism hanging over things at the moment, and beyond that, a vulturous cynicism. I always feel that cynicism is a cowards position – because ultimately its easier to give into the dark and to defeat. Positivity requires energy, whereas negativity is a default position. We all have the capacity to give in. The question is whether we chose to or not. Whether we have the guts to actually challenge our own malaise.
I believe that the role of culture has a leading role to play, and I believe in its intrinsic power. Why? Because every act of culture takes energy, takes engagement, takes doing something procreative.
And with respect to the politics, people are so dam disenfranchised with the self serving and the addiction to power. Yes, politics is the art through which nations function, but it alone cannot fly the flag. It is too often tainted with the darkest colours of history. It needs its tandem partner, and for me, that is culture.
Anyway. I have no idea whether I will get into Iran at this stage. We are in conversation with the embassy, and there is dialogue. But I do believe that I will get there at some stage, and I believe it will be a wonderful, positive and engaged experience.
As Europe builds up its borders again, I hope that others can continue to be broken down…