Nationality: India

Wild Whispers: New Mexico by Sabina England and Chaucer Cameron

Poet: , | Nationality: , , | Filmmaker:


Watch on YouTube.

Last week we shared a film from the series of 12 that were created for the Wild Whispers project. Each video was made in response to a poem by Chaucer Cameron in the UK. The poem went through a number of ‘blind translations’ in a film-making chain across the world, each video uniquely expressing the poem’s transformation through languages.

This film in the series is by Sabina England, whose brilliant Deaf Brown Gurl appeared on Moving Poems back in 2015. She says this about her Wild Whispers film:

When I first read the poem, it made me think of Native Americans and how much their ancestors had greatly suffered through history. As a Deaf Bihari/South Asian American, I wanted to highlight the themes of suffering and refuge of the poem by showcasing Native American culture(s) and show that despite centuries of cultural genocide, settler colonialism and violence, Native people and their cultures still thrive and resist to this day. I also wanted to draw a parallel between the sufferings of Native Americans with refugees from all over, including Syria, Myanmar, Central African Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, etc. As an immigrant in the USA, I wanted to honour Native Americans by showcasing the beauty of the Navajo language and Pueblo cultures in New Mexico.

Lastly, Plains Indian (Native American) Sign Language was a major influence on American Sign Language, which I used to perform the poem with Navajo voice over.

Wild Whispers: New Mexico
Country and place of production: New Mexico, USA.
Languages: Navajo, American Sign Language and English.
Filmmaker and editor: Sabina England.
Translators: Meryl Van Der Bergh (Dutch to English translation), World Translation Center (Navajo), Sabina England (American Sign Language and improved English prose).

The Dream by Tishani Doshi

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

This 2013 film from Motionpoems, directed by Babe Elliott Baker, adapts Tishani Doshi‘s poem “The Dream” from her collection Everything Begins Elsewhere. For the full credits, see Baker’s website.

“The Dream” was featured on PBS NewsHour in 2016, and Doshi talked about how she came to write the text.

In 2008 she was commissioned to write a series of poems about migration and movement. One of them, “The Dream,” is directly based on her impressions when she first moved to North Carolina.

“I loved that there were all these houses that had front porches and there were no gates. The houses themselves seemed so welcoming. Unlike India, there were no gates around the American houses— they were all just so open. In India there is a boundary around everything.”

But the poem is also about what immigrants do to create a sense of home in a new place.

“You want to hold onto something old, but you want to create something new. You want to make the new place feel like home, even though you’re not in your home. There’s a constant tension between the past and the present.”

While this background is certainly interesting, I wish they’d acknowledged in the discussion how the film suggests other interpretations as well. (And it’s a tribute to the poet that her text has this quality of openness.) I’m not sure why I didn’t share the film back when it first came out, but to me it really speaks to our present moment of pandemic gardening and surveillance-state oppression. As someone who dabbles in ecopoetry myself, I’m fascinated by what might be called postmodern pastoralism, which is totally not a phrase I just made up (thanks, Google!) so this week that’s what we’ll be looking at: how videopoets and poetry filmmakers imagine nature and the pastoral in a world of accelerating ecological impoverishment and deprivation.

Girls Are Coming Out of the Woods by Tishani Doshi

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Indian poet and fiction writer Tishani Doshi dances the title poem from her third collection in this film by Gareth M Davies. The music was composed by Luca Nardon.

I’ve featured a lot of unique dance poetry videos here over the years, but this is certainly one of the most powerful — perhaps because the poet herself is the dancer and choreographer. This doesn’t feel like an interpretation of the poem so much as the poem itself in a different form.

Skirt by Rochelle Potkar

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Why is this our most silent, daily question, ‘what to wear?’
And is it for ourselves or someone else that we ask this?

A thought-provoking poetry film from Indian writer Rochelle Potkar and UK-based Irish director Philippa Collie Cousins. It was produced for the Visible Poetry Project, which notes:

It was writing poetry and being a published poet at 14 that spurred [Cousins] on to be a visual artist: “The best poets explain our lives back to us in the rhythm and song of our own language. I was a very lonely child befriended by poems and stories. It was a combination that made me a very happy and successful adult. Being commissioned to send a poem out in to the world in a 3 dimensional film form is very exciting to me. I cannot wait to collaborate with my poet and think up a tapestry of images that will do them visual justice. What a treat! My aim is to reach an audience who benefit as I did from the magical medicine of poetry.”

The Walk by Bharath Divakar

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Bangalore-based spoken word poet Bharath Divakar meditates on the meaning of slam culture in this film by Krishna Prasad Raveendran, who notes:

The film tries to capture the thought process of a poet as he/she walks up on stage. The film was shot and edited for Airplane Poetry Movement, a project to give spoken word poets in India a platform to showcase their work and get discovered […] Shot on Sony A6300 (The portions of the walk) The rest of the clips were curated. Filmed and Edited by Krishna Prasad Raveendran

dear padmarajan by Nitin Nath

Poet: | Nationality: | Filmmaker:

Nitin Nath is the poet and performer in this musical short directed by Sumesh Lal with music rearranged and produced by Govind Menon. Like yesterday’s video, this poetry film was released as a trailer for a feature-length movie. But there’s an additional connection with the world of film here: the poem is a tribute to the great Malayalam director P. Padmarajan.

India’s first spoken word musical, ‘dear padmarajan’ is a prologue to the independent English feature film ‘Humans of Someone’, slated for release this March 2016.

‘Humans of Someone’ tells the story of a man who gets obsessed with a filmmaker whose films become inextricably entwined with his own life. WATCH THIS exclusive introduction to warm up to the neighbourhood of the film.

The prologue is our heart-sized ode to the dramatic genius of P. Padmarajan, one of the greatest storytellers we’ve ever known.

To support the film, follow facebook.com/humansofsomeone

Click through to YouTube for the unusually complete credits, which include a list of the Padmarajan films mentioned plus other references in the poem.

Journey Home by Rabindranath Tagore

Poet: | Nationality: , | Filmmaker:

This is flight, a videopoem by Lisa Seidenberg A.K.A. Miss Muffett. Tagore’s poem is displayed in silent-movie-style intertitles with footage of the refugee crisis from Hungary, Greece, and Austria over a soundtrack of Russian choral music — an effective, high-contrast juxtaposition, I thought.