Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Lost in Translation"

Once again I am on planes – more planes then I have been on in months. The last weeks have been spent flying around promoting FLYING for different openings and festivals and teaching. I flew to London to do press for the UK launch later in the year, Zurich to see my boyfriend, Locarno for the Film Festival, Copenhagen for the Danish launch and TV premiere, Sbiu, Romania to teach documentary directing for a week for an ARTE Balkan initiative, and finally to Edinburgh Film festival where FLYING premiered in the UK. My bones are rattling and my skin is sagging from lack of exercise, my eyes are bleary from early morning calls – like this morning rising at 4 am to fly from Edinburgh to London, where I caught the plane I am currently on heading for “home” – New York City.

It has all been good – excellent receptions everywhere and the film seems to really be touching a cord around the world – but I long for home, like a sailor out to sea for a year dreaming of his solid bed and dry sheets. I dream of a world that does not change: I dream of walking my dog Ptah, early in the morning by the river. I dream of taking my laundry to the Korean Laundromat around the corner and talking to its owner Mike. I dream of staring out the window of my loft at the hole that used to be the world trade center while I talk on the phone to my girlfriend Paula and drink my morning coffee. I dream of cooking steamed vegetables and rice – with nothing oily, butter or creamy on it (which you can never get in restaurants because they think it will drive away customers.)

There are strange things I think about when I fly: like how it came to be that the airline has stolen the language of boats? “Welcome aboard to our cabin!”; “Your Captain’s name is Joe.”; “We’ll be cruising at an altitude of…”; “if you look out the starboard window you’ll see the statue of liberty.” Someone must have thought this up to dissuade the mind from realizing that it was without tethers, suspended in the vast sky. It’s funny that the sky never inspired it’s own language; that in order to go forward, we have to go backward. I decide that I want to invent some new language for my favorite place in the world — but I am afraid my mind on three hours sleep and two airport security checks is scrambled.

There were some lovely things that happened along the way this trip: Yesterday I met the wonderful British film direct Mike Leigh (“Secrets and Lies”) at the Edinburgh festival — except I didn’t recognize him. I walked into the press room and this 50’ish friendly looking man was standing there, calling out, “Why that’s Jennifer Fox!” in a funny British accent. I had no idea how he knew me. I must be honest, I didn’t recognize him as I have never seen pictures of him before, but only admired his films. Then he said, “I saw your picture on the cover of the Guardian newspaper! I saved the article and read about the film on the train here!” It was only then that the press person, Nancy, introduced us: “Jennifer this is Mike Leigh.” My mind (as I have already mentioned) was a bit slow as I did my best to mash though my index of names, when it dawned on me – MIKE LEIGH! SECRETS AND LIES! And a million other films! Jees Louis! Of course, I suddenly became a bumbling idiot and couldn’t think of what to talk to him about: And I said stupid things like, “…oh is it hard to get funding in London now?!” UGH! Well it just goes to show you that one is never beyond awe!

Denmark also was very satisfying. After so many years working on FLYING there in the development and editing, it was finally time for its launch. I flew in to do press for the TV launch last week and got to visit with my dear friends whom I have come to adore. Mette Mailand – the tall beautiful Danish woman who co-produced the film set up a series of press interviews at Easy Film, our co-production company. To my surprise each interview ran nearly two hours and required photos. To be honest, doing press in different countries is always a revelation because each culture has it’s own style of interviewing and a completely different journalistic tone. The Brits, for example, don’t feel they are being serious unless they are critical; the Americans never tell you what they think when they interview you; and now I had my experience of three female Danish Journalists, each one were quite open how much they loved the film from the get go and proceeded to have long personal interviews about the film, where they wanted to know loads about me, but where they also shared their own related experiences. It was really refreshing to have interviews – which were actually two–way dialogues about life. Then to my shock and surprise, all three Danish papers proceeded to publish full page cover articles with photos about the film beginning Sunday, the day we had a theatrical launch in the cinema to kick off the TV premiere the following day!

Despite all my complaining about traveling, Denmark feels like a second home to me and holds dear friends there like the very “tall thin man”, Niels Pagh Anderson, who edited the film, and has become a real buddy. When I see Niels, my heart wells up and I pray I can find another film project to work on together again. After a full day of interviews, Niels invites me to dinner and treats me to his ‘oh so male’ classic dish of grilled lamb and spinach. We share dinner with our other dear friend who showed me my first Danish film, got me hooked on the Danish work, and later was instrumental in getting FLYING made — Jakob Hogel and his wife Arine. Earlier, I have drinks with the feisty, Television Commissioning Editor who supported FLYING: Mette Hoffman Meyer. (I want to mention that she is tall and beautiful and blond, but each person I meet with in the country qualifies as beautiful and tall and blond – how did the Danes get their gene pool? And why didn’t I get any of it?!) The next day, I visit my inspiration Arne Bro, who runs the Danish Film School, and his wife Lotte, at their newly renovated home in the “country” outside of Copenhagen. In the midst of a summer downpour and flash flooding (is it raining everywhere?), we enjoy a rare, leisurely lunch in which they advise me to slow down and talk me into to changing my ticket to Romania by 8 hours (and even book me a new plane ticket) so I won’t travel through the night before teaching in the morning there. These are real friends! In the evening, I go to the home of Karoline Leth, producer and mother of three children, one of whom, Emma, has a birthday party that night, where I am treated to the classic Danish ritual of group singing and toasting! On Sunday, I see my Danish producer, Claus Ladegaard, his wife Mette and their two children in the morning – as FLYING is showing in the cinema. After introducing the film, we race to their house for a family visit before heading back to the theater to do a “ Q + A” with Niels and sound editor, Peter Shultz. The screening is powerful and at the end the audience testifies, as happens so often with this film, by sharing their own stories of female life in a modern world. I am moved and surprised at the power of FLYING to reach people everywhere. Finally, I head back to my hotel room to pass out for a few hours, before getting on that next plane.

Now it sounds like I spent a week in Denmark, but in fact it was a total of three days! I was pressed on both sides by work and the teaching in Romania (another long story) was waiting for me. It is the speed of my life that I struggle with. Sometimes having the people I love spread across the globe, makes me feel like a person in fragments. The idea of living an international life is something I aspire to in theory – and I dare say even succeed at doing – but the human body is slow and frail and sometimes I think even though I’ve pressed my flesh forward, hurtling through space in this tin tube we call plane, my soul lags behind somewhere in the previous country or two. And of course, as I contemplate these things, I am “caught in the act”, zooming air born towards New York City and nearly about to land, I know my life will not change in the next months. New York will only be my home – or perhaps better called a refuel stop for laundry, meetings, dog relief — for 4 days now before I have to head off to Chicago to do press for the theatrical opening later in the month, then to Colorado for the Telluride Film festival, and to Los Angels for the theatrical premiere of the FLYING there…As you can see, flying is not just a film, but a way of life! I think I better figure out how to get used to it! Meanwhile, I am still pondering how they keep these things up in the air…. More thoughts to follow…

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