Saturday, August 22, 2009

A few days away from cyberspace, but no time off.

I met Camilla for the first time last Sunday, but the last week’s been intense enough to really pick up the slack of a lifetime without knowing each other. She’s phenomenal on a whole bunch of levels, mainly for the work she’s doing (www.peepoople.com), but also for the way she holds her head high when the complacent powers that be of the water and sanitation world tell her that her product is degrading or not what’s needed. She has all the answers, they all make sense, and at least she’s doing something.

She’s also amazing because she knows how to work the crowd for the bag’s sake, and for ours. She’ll figure out who doesn’t like her product, then take them down, on camera. She’ll speak with whatever bigwwig looks important enough to benefit either her project, or ours. She has limitless energy and an abundance of sympathy for the people who’ll benefit most from what she’s doing. She’s the kind of character who can make you forget all the headaches that make shooting a drag, and look only at the possibility that what you’re doing can do good, maybe even as much good as what she’s doing.

DAY 1: We set up at the first seminar on sanitation of the day, and learned one sure thing about the people attending: they`re really good at organizing conferences, and talking, and talking… No wonder sanitation is the only one of the millenium goals that hasn`t budged at all; between the talking and the coffee breaks, there’s just no time.

Camilla was late, which was good since we caught her walking into the seminar. We made it through and got some good footage. We even made a couple of interesting contacts. Who knows…

Following Camilla was a bit like that for the rest of the week: attending seminars, meeting people and inviting them to her presentation on the Wednesday, handing out Peepoo bags to anyone who’d listen. And the presentation went pretty well too. There was her, Göran, who expanded Ikea`s empire into the US, and a Dutch ex-banker who`s now part of the consortium. They make a knockout team, and the proof is in the fact that, for once at the conference, everyone had good things to say about it, even if they had questions.

In the middle of all this, I`m trying to get the press office rep to give with the info already: How do I get my crew into the royal banquet to videotape the award ceremony of the Stockholm Water prize to Dr Pathak, a character we`ve been in touch with and following for some time?“ Oh you can`t do that. Royal protocol. Who can answer my question? Oh, they`re not here right now. Can`t help you.
Sigh.

So the person who could help me finally showed up, along with Dr Pathak`s VP and force of nature, Anita, who promptly, not only arranged for the crew to get access, but for us to be invited to the banquet as personal guests of Dr Pathak. We`d also be in the company (long distance company anyway), of his majesty prince Philip, who`d be presenting the award to Dr Pathak.

Pretty surreal.

So Thursday consisted of furiously shoppping for anything presentable enough for a royal banquet, that wouldn`t necessarily break the already broken bank, an interview with Jack Simm the toilet man, and a royal banquet. 

I have to hand it to the Swedes: they really know how to build a city hall. Pretty goddamn stunning place to look at, as the useless press agent, and a Dutch minister (long story) kept checking out Annika and the badly dressed me beside her, standing with the guests of honor two hours after being spotted lying on the ground of the conference center, standing in for turds that will later be added in by the animator. And all we could see in these guys eyes was “who in christ`s name are these two anyway?“ Be lying if I said I didn`t take some pleasure from the experience. At the banquet were 700 tuxedoed VIPs, and us. It was nice later, sitting at the Indian delegation’s table, drinking coffe and cognac, and watching the pleasure on Dr Pathak`s face as he basked in the glow of the nights` entertainments, and the attention lavished upon him. And I thought that this guy, who struggled for 40 years to do good for other people deserves every accolade. Like Camilla, his work makes what we`re doing seem a little more possible. And the fact that for once the award went to someone working in sanitation instead of water brought up my optimism for the film a notch.

Oh yeah, the evening ended with some guy wearing a flashlight on his head carrying a surfboard across the city hall lawn, with the Stockholm skyline behind him. If there was a wave to catch, he was the only one who could see it.

Then Friday we struck gold. Camilla in heated debate with a woman from Kenya, denouncing the bag, and Camilla defending it to the hilt. Quite an amazing turn. Then she went right up and introduced herself to Dr Pathak, providing a link we were going to ask her to make anyway. Then we got to see the aftermath of the conference: Tons and tons of books and paper being thrown out, left behind by the delegates because it`s more expensive and not necessarily greener to ship them back, or forward to the next conference. An unbelieveable waste from an inconceiveable source. What the hell are these people thinking? FUCK THE PRINTER! GET A WEBSITE!

Everything`s calmed down a touch since then. Camilla`s off until Sunday, and we`ve had a chance to step back and catch our breath and to start digitizing the colossal amount of footage we`ve shot. I’m happy but the editor in me is terrified.

But yeah, there`s Sunday, then Monday, then Tuesday I jump on a train to pick up my girl from the south! Then it`s right back up to Stockholm for one night in an airport hotel that`s set up in an old jumbo jet, then a flight to Nairobi. Trippy as hell. Kilimanjaro… I mean Kibera, here we come.

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