As I prepare to return to Yemen tomorrow i try to bear in mind that I explore politics through people and try take an audience into a complex political world outside of their own familiar backyard by finding attractive articulate characters.
As always, my mates back in Hull being my target audience. Taking them to a place like the Republic of Yemen appears a lot harder than my previous films – Iraq, Palestine, Japan, Hull, seemed so easy, they had at least heard of these places, but the Yemen, where exactly is that?
To me my films are all are like children, taking so many years to find, source, film and edit… in their own way they become a very personal exploration of myself as manifested through others.
I had originally wanted to make more overtly propagandist films in the naive belief that I could change the world just so long as I shouted loud enough, but thanks to my ‘FREE’ National Film and Television School education I was soon able to discover a more subtle honest film style, one that would actually engage with the audience rather than just shout at them – I found that allowing people to tell us of their lives and their struggles, their victories and their losses, was a far more respectful (to the character and to the viewer) way of discussing political ideas than any simplistic one-dimensional tub-thumping.
To quote an old school-friend “I find the worlds biggest scuzzbuckets and make ‘Human Stories’ about them”, I see them more as people fighting against the odds, people who haven’t been completely beaten down by the system, whose lives seem to consist of one battle after another… And, as we know, television likes a ‘Bad-Boy’, especially one that is in touch with his feminine side, and if he is also in love, and is able to talk openly about his life then all the better, no matter how extreme or radical his views.
I feel my new guy in Yemen fits this criteria, he is a breath of fresh air, at least to me he is, in this highly uniform traditional society he certainly stands out and give me oxygen even if he does get scared at the mass demonstrations (the armed forces have opened fire on some of them), though I feel his fear is for me not for himself.
On my return to the hotel room I see news reports saying that Yemen has been put on the high alert dangerous places to visit list by our government – along with Libya, Somalia and Ivory Coast. Maybe if (like Cameron in Egypt last month) I was here with a gaggle of British arms traders the UK Foreign Office wouldn’t be quite so concerned.