The difference I originally observed between people who are immersed in pop culture and those who have virtually no exposure to it is that the latter couldn't care less if you filmed them running naked through a park, whereas the former are deeply disturbed if anyone tries to capture their image without the proper paperwork and signage. What has our culture come to, I wonder? The more we learn about other people's stories, it seems, the more likely we are to want to hide our own. That, or become deadly famous overnight because we were so wonderful that no one could stop us.
In Mayan culture, as it was explained to me, there is a belief that cameras have a way of taking from their subjects: their ideas, their identity, or even their soul! Though the Mayan people I asked about this belief could never fully explain it to me, it became an unfortunate concentration for this first-time filmmaker. There was also rumour around that several years ago 'gringos' (mostly white travellers) would come down to photograph children in order to come back and take them from their Mayan families. Oh! So that is why everyone keeps hiding their kids from me!
While filming in Guatemala, these rumours floated through my head often and as a result I was extremely shy about bringing out my camera. I felt it was inevitable that I would receive sharp looks either from Gringos who felt I was going to misrepresent them in some vulgar Youtube videos or from Mayans who thought I was going to suck out their souls and steal their children.
So, it was a completely unique experience for me to travel “Over this mountain, down the valley and up the next” as Keith would say, to Baroneche, where many of the people we were meeting had not ever seen anything like the equipment I carried. The women who we were blessed with meeting: two Mayan Priestesses, their mother, grandmother and children, were extremely welcoming and did not fuss about my equipment in the least. In fact, after our chocolate ceremony was finished, I was able to show them how they looked reflected inside of the strange machine. They giggled and gawked with curiosity and joy, the same way their children had. That moment in particular reminded me of the purity in people, of all ages and cultures.
And as I washed the dishes from the generous meal we'd been served in the concrete sink out in front of this family's modest home, I felt this unity between us. It didn't matter that they lived in an entirely different physical location, or that there were entirely different things required of them; nor did it matter that they had never seen a movie in theatres before or that I'd never felt a real earthquake. In that moment I felt the connection we had made between cultures was real, lasting and uninhibited.
And all of that
caught on camera.
Hopefully it will make it into my first long form doc: April 30th 2011. :)