Dec 07, 2007 in Production Journal
We lived and worked in Juchitan, Oaxaca, for a year with the support of a Fulbright. Juchitan is a very interesting and magical place. Check out some of our shorts:
This journal accompanies the short
Taladxi en la Séptima
We finally whipped out the big camera (a Sony DSR-130 Camcorder), the tripod, and our sound gear and started shooting again. It’s not like we are rusty or anything . . . we did the final ‘martini shot’, for our Kentucky Theatre documentary on the 20th of July. A martini shot, is the last shot of the day on a film set, and the final one is always bittersweet for documentarians. It is a wonderful moment when you know you have enough footage to tell your story and the shooting is finally wrapped. However, we had just spent months with Fred and Raymond, who are the stars of “The Kentucky Theatre” and were privy to their day-to-day routines and obsessions. When you take the time to shoot a person, in such an intimate and intense way, you really get to know them and enjoy being a part of their life. The martini shot brought an end to the live connection with Fred and Raymond.
We jumped right back into the field by shooting an event called, “Pelota de Esponja” or in Zapoteco, which is the indigenous and most commonly used language of the region, “Taladxi”. We were accompanied by our neighbor, Herman, who has appointed himself as our Production Assistant and my son Max, who guarded the tripod, when not in use, and ate corn on the cob with chile and lime juice.
Sponge Ball is just like baseball, but the players use their fists to hit the ball, which is as hard as a racquetball. The Sponge Ball field is often near a graveyard so ‘the dead can watch’. It was the final between the “Septima” (the seventh district which is the most populated and notorious for crime and wild life) and a team from “Cheguigu” (famous for strolling musicians).
The crowd consisted of almost a thousand men who had arrived by foot, horseback, bicycle, and tricycle. The appointed Presidente of Juchitán made a brief appearance and left in a shiny truck with a couple of rough women. The leftist press has recently reported that the Presidente is alleged to have had a political rival assassinated. The rival had been drinking at a popular cantina called, “Lola’s” and had his head bashed in with a brick while staggering home. The locals claim the murder was about ‘amor’ and not about politics. We were introduced to the Presidente who spoke to us in English, having gone to school at The John Hopkins University in Baltimore.
I could feel this was a dangerous place to be shooting and I trust my intuition a lot. It is not easy to work in front of a thousand drunk and rowdy men (thank god I was properly clothed), but sometimes you have to dive in and hope for the best. As well as being a producer, I am also a sound recordist, and I get to wield a big boom pole. Having studied karate for many years I know how to use a stick as a weapon and I always feel more confident when carrying the boom pole.
One forthcoming man, who was wearing a Che Guevara tee shirt told me I needed to be careful because, “there are a lot of dangerous people here . . . they can find out where you live, slice you up with a knife, and steal your expensive equipment”. He then told me to “take it e-see” in English.
It was hotter than you can imagine and some players were barefoot. A piglet briefly interrupted the game by scampering on field. Ari and I try to make sure we have the game covered with visuals and sound. Ideally, the audio should tell a good radio story. However, a live baseball game is not easy to shoot with one camera and one sound set up. You are constrained spatially by the playing field as well as the fans.
The heat and a six-hour drive to Oaxaca City, to renew Ari’s visa, pull us away. It feels good to be back out in the field.