As usual, the first of May saw new columns by Erica Goss and Marc Neys in their respective columns in Connotation Press and Awkword Paper Cut, and as usual, both were well worth checking out. What was more unusual is that each columnist chose to focus on a documentary-stye poetry video. In her “Third Form” column, Goss interviewed the makers of a fascinating Pakistani film (which I included on Moving Poems several months ago), Danatum Passu, by Shehrbano Saiyid and Zoheb Veljee. I was especially struck by the fact that it all started by chance, which is how so much good art gets made, I think. And the technological challenges of filming and recording in the remote Hunza valley makes for an entertaining and inspiring story. Here’s a snippet:
“No one has ever recorded the people of the Hunza – at least their music – before,” Zoheb said. The video tells the story of a poem written by Hunza poet Shahid Akhtar, transformed into a song, and sung by the children of Passu and nearby small towns. “Danatum Passu” loosely translates to “Passu’s Open Field.”
The poet, Shahid Akhtar, writes in Wakhi, a language derived from ancient Persian. He worked in obscurity until now, and has never before been published. Zoheb and Shehrbano discovered him via a tip from a local cab driver. “There are few land lines and limited cell connectivity where Shahid lives,” Zoheb said. “I had to wait for him for hours after I arrived, drinking tea with his relatives.” Akhtar’s song, “Danatum Passu,” is the theme of the video, and carries a message of the danger of losing one’s culture. “It has a strong impact when children sing it,” Zoheb said.
“Danatum Passu” is part of a longer documentary that Shehrbano is working on about spirituality and music in this part of the world. “Theirs is a singing community: music and religion are wound together. The children gain confidence through music and performing. They have exposure to music through early religious training,” she said. “The story is about the musicians of Gojal, the socio-economic challenges they face in their daily lives, and in bringing their talent to a wider global audience. The documentary focuses on children – two in particular – with a love for music, and shows Zoheb’s process of discovering and recording music, poetry and artists. He is the thread that binds together the musicians, the unity and diversity of music across Gojal.” The documentary uses music to demonstrate the area’s people and their “deep sense of pride for their land and heritage,” especially in the face of repeated natural disasters; for example, the 2010 landslide that hit the Gojal village of Atabad.
Do read the rest.
Meanwhile, in his “Swoon’s View” column, Neys describes another documentary about kids, these ones in Britain: We Are Poets, by Alex Ramseyer-Bache and Daniel Lucchesi.
In the age of Facebook and digital communication, a remarkable group of British teenagers have chosen to define themselves through one of the most ancient, and potent, forms of culture out there – the spoken poem. WE ARE POETS intimately follows the lives and words of the UK’s multi-ethnic noughties generation as the Leeds Young Authors poetry team prepare for a transformational journey of a lifetime, from the red bricked back streets of inner city North England, to a stage in front of the White House at Brave New Voices – the world’s most prestigious poetry slam competition. Anyone tempted to dismiss today’s youth as politically apathetic better pay heed – here is electrifying evidence to the contrary.
Lucchesi and Ramseyer-Bache did a good job creating a narrative line in the film (the Leeds Young Authors performance in the competition creating the needed tension) but they kept the structure loose enough to give the characters and scenes time to develop and breathe.
The whole film is heartfelt and every performance is raw and attractive. If you don’t have any interest in spoken poetry, you should really try to see this film because it might open you up to a whole new view on this form of poetry. You’ll get sucked into it each time someone stands in front of the mic and belts out another beautiful stanza.