Friday, August 12, 2011

A new shoot, a new blog

I just returned from New Orleans and St. Bernard, my first trip since last August. Almost a full year. And I haven't recovered. Yeah, there was the insufferable heat. ( I'll never forget what that felt like, heat index in the three digits, every day, the minute the sun the hoisted itself into the sky until well after nightfall) Mama Sue is not well at all, and what tore me up was that she seemed not to care. Sue, whose irreverent, Southern humor has warmed and astonished, shocked and delighted me for the past five years, is succumbing to something very dark, where conversing is beside the point. Where tending a garden is irrelevant.

Sue is a large part of my film, whose title, Mama Sue's Garden, alludes to her changing, fantasy garden. It was never all "real," but intermingled silk flowers, glass stems, cherubs and shards recovered from Katrina with palms and climbing vines. It was a curiosity shop-garden and a world.

I've long ago crossed the line that some friends say I should never have crossed. I've stepped from behind the camera to hold hands and join forces with the people I"ve been shooting. I"d love to start a conversation among other doc filmmakers about this. Are most documentarians full of " scruples" about this? Anyway, I'm all about blurred boundaries. I can hold a camera one minute and talk about revitalizing the soil with buckwheat and sunflowers (can you imagine that shot if that happens?!) the next. So I've crossed over into a garden rally-er. They've got the land. (For more details, scroll back through this blog) They've got a name -- Garden of H.O.P.E. Sue suggested the name, attached for a while to a scrappy group of volunteers, which she says stands for Helping Other People with Everything.

But this blog has become too -- um, all over the place. My few readers must be exhausted. St. Bernard, filmmaking, Mama Sue's Garden, Nicaragua, the flu, Prospect Park, Spanish lessons and Alan, my brother who has autism and some other disabilities. So I decided, why not make some partitions and start another blog, one devoted just to Alan, and his just started music sessions while this one will chronicle the progress towards completing a documentary where the end is really still an unknown.

Alan, who doesn't speak, who seems to inhabit another reality, has, at 60, started music *therapy.* I put it in asterisks, as I don't like the oxymoron-ish feel of that. How can music be anything BUT therapy? Alan drums like a jazzer, his music therapist said. What a wonderful thing to be -- a jazzer. Anyway, he does sound like a seasoned jazz drummer, taking the baton and crashing it down on the cymbal like an almost in-control madman. Does it four or five times and then stops, a wistful, far away look coming over him. So, the blog will be called

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