November 5.21: Casting Call

Do you ever feel like you’re living in a movie, like you’ve answered some sort of a kooky casting call to play the role that will lead you on the adventure of your own existence? Today, taking a little break from an epic SWS: Bukhara editing session with Behzod, Umida, Ravshan, Ruxhora and Baby Behtarin, we stumble upon an actual casting call… Not sure what these guys are auditioning for but they’ve definitely got the look down!!! They did tell us that they’re fans of Canada because they LOVE hockey!!!!

November 4.21: Wolverine

No, not the character from the Marvel Universe possessing razor sharp claws, the ability to heal any injury rapidly and a skeleton reinforced with an indestructible metal, but the tiny telecine machine that is working overtime today digitizing a dozen rolls of Super 8 containing all the raw footage for SWS: Bukhara. Okay, so this Wolverine won’t win any prizes for speed (scanning a single 50 foot roll runs about 40 minutes), but with a dusty, bone-chilling Steppe wind raging outside, the machine’s melodic chug-chug-chug makes a cheery accompaniment (along with an endless supply of tea, cookies and sunflower seeds) for a cozy afternoon in Room 3.

November 3.21: Your Moment Of Cat

One of my favourite neighbourhood characters here on Pochchokulkhodji Street is The Cat With No Name. A free spirit with a winning personality and a musical meow, The Cat can usually be found after lunch soaking up the sun on the little bench in the Guest House upstairs atrium. We exchange greetings. I sit down. The Cat settles on my lap and begins to purr. We both shut our eyes and the sounds of the daily life in the Old City drift over us: birdsong, quiet conversation between a mother and her daughter-in-law, Tajik music, a baby crying, a bee buzzing, drums and horns from a wedding parade a few blocks away, children playing, a saw cutting metal, footsteps approaching and fading away. In this small moment, we are all alive together: me and The Cat and you.

October 31.21: By The Horns

Up early early and off to the Sunday morning livestock bazaar on the outskirts of town… If you have never found yourself in the pre-dawn murky midst of hundreds of sheep (with and without horns), cows, horses, men and boys, well my friend, you are certainly missing out on a most unusual and invigorating experience. A busy bakery and a bustling marketplace seem positively tame in comparison! A boisterous USTO guest house family lunch featuring Umida’s delectable version of plov is a glorious way to cap off a stellar weekend… To kindred spirits, wherever we may find them!

October 30.2021: Take A (Second) Look

After a little visit with Gueorgui Pinkhassov and his Magnum Learn workshop participants, it’s time to get back on the horse and do some reshoots! Nuriddin and Ravshan document a meeting of the Olimjon Caravanserai Chess Club (“Does my breath smell like vodka”) while Muhammad goes for Take 2 with his powerhouse businesswomen Aunties. And the results are… FANTASTIC! We are back on track, people! It’s more Lady Power in the evening as visiting artists from St Petersburg Marguerita and Irina document their impromptu art show in the USTO Guest House courtyard featuring the paintings they’ve created over all over Bukhara during the past five days AND new friend Rushana, the 17-year-old future pediatrician, does some wild-style filming as Lyab-i-Hauz starts heating up on a Saturday night. We are on a roll!!!!

October 29.21: That’s Cold

The temperatures are starting to dip making for a fresh start to the day: Nuriddin films the old city waking up, with merchants and artisans setting up their wares in anticipation of their first customers. We wander the deserted courtyards of mosques and madrassas until it’s time for Bezhod’s film shoot at home of an elderly man whose only family are the dozens of doves that live in his courtyard. To hear Pavel tenderly call to the birds while they move in synchronous circles against a bright blue sky is truly magical. Also transportive is witnessing hundreds of men praying in unison at the historic Bolo Haouz Friday Mosque, with the most beautiful singing drifting through the autumn afternoon air. While Ravshan and Muhammad document local painters and sewers at work, those of us back at the Photo Gallery lab welcome students from The Knowledge Academy for a brief introduction to Super 8 and eco-processing. We talk about embracing the unpredictability of analog film–one of the reasons why we love it!–and our words are put to the test when one of the rolls processed today turns out FABULOUS and the other roll turns out… well, it doesn’t really turn out. The consensus is that the developer wasn’t hot enough, which has never been an issue before but every environment brings its own vibe to the mix, inviting us as filmmakers to tune in to the nuances of the moment and respond with respect and gratitude for new lessons learned. Are we daunted or defeated? Heck, no! We’re just warming up!!!!

October 28.21: The Holy and the Hedonist

A day that begins with a visit to the Mausoleum of Sufi Saint and spiritual teacher Bakhouddin Naqshbandi (“The heart – with the God, hands at work”), continues on to the Summer Palace (where dancing boys and harem girls washed in donkey’s milk once frolicked for the pleasure of the last Emir), on to the beautifully stark Chor-Bakr Necropolis (a labyrinth of charismatic bird men, tiled tombs, and strange creatures straight out of an anime fever dream), a tandoor meat feast chased with fresh pomegranate juice, and and winds up with an over the top Hollywood blockbuster at the Boxoro Kinoteatri, a Soviet-era cinema where there’s only five people in the theater but there’s plenty of activity once the film starts including extended cell phone calls, musical chairs, and ongoing conversation which may or may be about the convoluted plot of The Last Duel.