Diaries from an intrepid filmmaker (4)

On unsustainable filmmaking

Today we started filming an old man who is a sculptor specialised in statues embodying spirits. Of course we had to start by selecting the tree, then request for the tree to be cut with the usual ceremony of cloth, palm tree wine, and egg.

Then once again the tree nearly fell on the camera. I'm starting to believe that they have never cut a tree before or Nindo (God) really doesn't approve of this documentary yet!


This is our balance sheet after a few days of shooting:

  • Number of trees sacrificed: 3
  • Number of eggs thrown at trees: 2
  • Number of gallons of aguardiente and palm wine: a lot
  • Number of chickens to be sacrificed: 2
  • Number of goats to be sacrificed: 1
  • Number of taxi drivers sacked: 2 (They keep forgetting to pick us up. Yesterday we had to walk three kilometres carrying equipment on our backs.)

This is what is not known as sustainable filmmaking! However:

  • Number of jobs created: 20

Our old sculptor suffers from really bad arthritis, and moving about was very painful for him. We kept asking him to re-walk the path several times despite working with two cameras. The challenge here is to film black skin against very harsh daytime light. Ideally we should be filming early morning and late afternoon but that would only give us a maximum of four hours a day. Most of our protagonists' activities take place all day long in the shade – but the shade only helps with our close ups, and the minute we want to go wider we are confronted with a burnt-out image.


The sculptor's studio is under a magnificent tree in the forest so we will be OK filming him there. At least from the lighting point of view, that is. He is well known for attracting snakes. And sure enough, one poked his head the minute he sat down. I think I rather avoid falling trees than sneaky snakes!

Read all of Noé's updates from the Bijagós so far.