Our journey began with a six day sea voyage from Cape Town. Amongst us on the ship there was a private detective, a doctor who’s brother wrote Bollywood scripts and a South African who was convinced we were heading to Saint Helena to remake Nosferatu. Being surrounded by the ocean, the constant bobbing of the waves, the curvature of the horizon; a quality of time crept up over us, an existential plodding. Before we left Cape Town we found a cinema (the Labia) showing Tarkovsky’s Solaris, and the image of Kelvin’s patch of land floating on an undulating conscious plasma hung in my mind. Where were we going again? Drinking rum with John, a Frenchman with a disarming cackle, we argued politics. This earned us the nickname the Bolsheviks, “Here come the Bolsheviks”, he would say at breakfast. It turned out that John was once a member of the Communist Party himself, though now a hotel owner and businessman. He would sit and drink rum and smoke cigars on the starboard side of the ship.
I read on Facebook an article from a friend’s brother who directs music videos. He spoke of his admiration for filmmakers who do not work commercially. I have a perverse admiration of filmmakers who only work commercially. We are working on a film for the National Trust here. It is low pay but for a worthy cause, and it allows us to survey the Island for our own means. I don’t understand pay particularly; I can only imagine that at some point you begin to be paid. I can’t see the work changing much. We travel with Mike and Kyle to Mundan’s and gently descend on rusty ladders to the rocks where ancient cannons from Napoleon’s days lay scattered, as though some giant had been doing the I Ching. Mike and Kyle are in charge of the ‘post box walks’ of Saint Helena. They walk the Island, Monday to Friday, ensuring that rubbish and potential dangers are cleared away. Mike listens to Vangelis on his walks, he likes Rachel’s theme from Blade Runner specifically. He told us about a place he likes to trek up to, to watch the RMS depart. He usually takes some fruit, an orange if he can get hold of one, and sits there watching the boat leaving, listening to Vangelis, peeling his orange. I’d like this to be a part of our film, but I doubt we could ever afford to use Vangelis.
We went on the radio here to talk about our project, the necessity to remember, I closed my eyes for a few moments and remembered. I forget what I am working on, and then remember, these children, they must have been in such confusion and terror, landing on this bizarre rock. If I am standing on an edge of smoke and cloud then they were falling off it. I said something like “through remembering these dead, this history, there is some sense of resolution”. I believe it to be so. This is the bizarre nature of karma, or the interrelatedness of things, that these same children who were so abandoned can be discovered and remembered and held in our being so many years later, on this little strange rock — beautiful in so many ways — at the edges of the forgotten. Is it a luxury to remember? Or a necessity? Our radio host Tammy picked four songs for our show, each with slave in the title. It all ended, this chat about the unimaginable treatment of human beings, with her playing I’m a slave 4u by Britney Spears.
‘On the subject of creating a film on a remote island’ first appeared in three parts in Failed States issue no.1: island, published September 2017. Photographs by Joseph Curran, PT Film
Joseph Curran is currently working on his first feature documentary on the faraway island of Saint Helena; he’s in well over his head, but nothings come crashing down yet.
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