Posts Tagged ‘documentary flmmaking’

Word count

December 2, 2010

I’ve been counting a lot of words since I started to write for the Forum some five years ago. Usually up to 500, but never more then 600, words that were supposed to reflect – however loosely – on my life in town.

In recent years I have been endlessly counting words, in English and other foreign languages as well. The Forum column naturally intersected with my work and life: depending on what documentary film project kept me busy, I was logging words in Russian, Ukrainian, Spanish and Portuguese, as well as Hebrew, French, and occasionally Arabic too. It’s been a constant multilogue of cultural, geopolitical experiences that took me places, some times literally and often from behind my desk at my hometown, northwest of Boston.

Depending upon reliable Internet connections and decent time zone differences, I found myself writing from a small café in Paris, or from a hotel room in Buenos Aires. New York City was a constant source of inspiration, and many a time, the muse kicked in at airport terminals or on a plane. Random environments offered a distant backdrop to universal content that hopefully resonated with our local realities.

But it was an old woman in a rural village in the Ukrainian heartland that provided one of the least expected ties between my “day job,” the Forum writing and Carlisle. During the filming in a village so rural that even locals had a hard time locating it on the (pre-MapQuest days) map, trying to reach the remains of a house of a villager who sheltered three young Jewish sisters during WWII, we ended up crossing through an elderly woman’s backyard to avoid the flooded dirt roads. As we carefully made our way through the mud, between her flock of geese and her German Shepard dog, which barked violently while chasing us along the metal wire that ran across the barren yard. Smiling warmly at us and visibly emotional, the old woman spoke to us in Ukrainian. With no translator onsite and no common language to communicate, it came down to the minimal pleasantry exchange of Good Day and Thank You in Ukrainian on our end.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I sat down to log and edit this abandoned clip of footage from Ukraine that I understood what that woman was trying to tell me: “Thank you for filming the house,” and then added, “My dear cranes, my distant children . . . let me kiss you.” It was through the impromptu exchange of emails with my Forum editor Maya Liteplo who shared with me a personal, moving anecdote that I got to learn about rural Ukrainian dialects and the symbolism of the cranes in the Ukrainian folklore. The cranes that return to their homeland each spring are the souls of the soldiers who died in WWII. All of a sudden we happened to share a tender memory that had nothing to do either with the film or with the Forum – the recent loss of a father.

And I realized that this is a lot more than a shared zip code. This is really about connections to a place and its people that meshed into my own experiences. I’ve been counting more than 10,000 words over the last five years, and no matter where I was, they always came from the heart of Carlisle. Take my words for it.

569 words