Chiapas og omegn (Mexico del 2/2)

Efter Campeche var vi på et kort visit i Villahermosa i Tabasco og brugte så resten af vores tid i Mexico i staten Chiapas.

Chiapas har meget at tilbyde – frodig jungle med en overflod af dyreliv og ruiner, dale og høje bjerge, en lang, smuk kystlinje samt en af de største koncentrationer af oprindelige folk i landet.

Vi nød de famøse ruiner ved Palenque, den kølige bjergluft og hippe caféer i San Cristóbal, den dybe Sumidero-kløft, den tilbagelænede strand ved Puerto Arista og at vågne op til fuglesang og frisk kaffe på den økovenlige kaffefarm Argovia.

Se skuddene herunder:

Villahermosa sunset from the top of our hotel.

Solnedgang i Villahermosa fra toppen af vores hotel.

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A flamingo at Yumka, a safari/interactive zoo close to the city.

En flamingo i Yumka; en safari/interaktiv zoo tæt på byen.

Pas på!

Pas på!

Piña colada party.

Piña colada party.

I really loved the Palenque ruins. Easily my favourite old things in Mexico.

Jeg var helt vild med ruinerne i Palenque. Uden tvivl mine favorit-ruiner i Mexico.

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The city of Palenque was also quite cozy with lots of great food, sunny weather and pretty views.

Selve byen Palenque var også ret så hyggelig med masser af god mad, solrigt vejr og pæne udsigter.

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San Cristóbal de Las Casas was a very pleasant city with lots of cool photo opps.

San Cristóbal de Las Casas var en meget behagelig by med stort potentiale for gode billeder.

And beautifully dressed, charming and small indigenous people.

Og smukt klædte, charmerende og meget små oprindelige folk.

VW Beetles are everywhere!

Der var VW bobler alle vegne!

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I really liked all the coloured houses.

Jeg kunne virkelig godt lide alle de farvede huse.

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This guy interviewed me as a part of his english class!

Den her fyr interviewede mig som en del af hans engelsk-kursus!

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Work work.

Arbejd arbejd arbejd. Mindst 30 mænd arbejdede på bygningen samtidigt.

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This sunset was magnificient.

Den her solnedgang var helt magnifique.

Sumidero Canyon was so breathtaking. We sailed through it and enjoyed every minute.

Sumidero-kløften var vild. Vi sejlede gennem den og nød hvert minut.

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Unfortunately I didn't understand what the spanish-speaking guide said about this, but it looked pretty unreal!

Uheldigvis forstod jeg ikke, hvad vores spansktalende guide sagde om det, men det så ret så uvirkeligt ud! Ikke helt så uvirkeligt som på det her billede, dog – jeg indrømmer, at jeg har ændret en lille smule på farverne 🙂

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Det her sted på floden er kendt som “juletræet” på grund af den grønne formation formet af nedrindende vand.

Definitely a must-do.

Helt klart et must-do.

In Puerto Arista the beach stretches as far as the eye can see - and as it is pretty off-season, we almost had it all to ourselves. This particular sunset called for a camera!

I Puerto Arista strækker stranden sig så langt øjet kan se – og fordi det var ret så off-season, havde vi nærmest det hele for os selv. Den her solnedgang kaldte på et kamera!

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Jeg havde ikke taget min tripod med mig, så jeg blev nødt til at freestyle med et bord og en stol fra en nærliggende restaurant for at få de her lange eksponeringer. Det var ikke perfekt, da opsætningen langsomt gled ned i det våde sand, men det klarede alligevel opgaven.

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Yoga time!

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First view of the

Første stop på “Kafferuten” (Ruta del café) tæt på Tapachula. Vi boede på den fantastiske kaffefarm Argovia og fik en masse uvurderligt materiale til dokumentaren.

Flying over the dense jungle with my drone was exhilarating!

At flyve over den tætte jungle med dronen var et vildt syn!

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The landscape was just stunning. This was our reward at sunrise after driving up a muddy, steep trail in complete darkness with only one working headlight (and a torchlight!)

Landskabet var utroligt. Den her vulkan var vores belønning ved solopgang efter at have kørt op af en mudret, lang, stejl sti i komplet mørke i en 4×4 med kun én forlygte (og en lommelygte!)

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Fedt med lidt natteskyderi!

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This is Irma and Tomasa (with kids) on their way back home after a long day of work picking coffee. We interviewed them for the movie - which you'll soon see and hear more about!

Det her er Irma og Tomasa (med børn) på vej hjem efter en lang dags arbejde med at samle kaffe. Vi interviewede dem til filmen – hvilken I snart vil se og høre mere om!

Yucatán-halvøen

Lige nu er jeg i Mexico på en fire-måneders tur med Victoria gennem Centralamerika for at lave en dokumentarfilm om skyggegroet kaffe.

Rejsen startede i Cancún og tog os med gennem Yucatán-halvøen, som bød på utallige tacos, smilende ansigter, lidt solbrændthed og masser af eventyrlige udsigter. Her er nogle af mine bedste billeder:

Up and away with Air Berlin from Copenhagen to Cancún.

Op og afsted med Air Berlin fra København til Cancún.

Somewhere over Germany I looked out the window and saw this. Jetpack?

Et sted over Tyskland kiggede jeg ud af vinduet og så det her …Jetpack?

First stop on the peninsula was the sleepy fishing village Puerto Morelos.

Første stop på halvøen var den sovende fiskerby Puerto Morelos.

From day one we were greeted by magnificent sunsets. A photographers paradise!

Lige fra første dag blev vi mødt af fantastiske solnedgange. En fotografs paradis!

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Puerto Morelos and the Caribbean from above.

Byen og Det Caribiske Hav set fra oven.

The city has this beautiful swamp in its backyard.

Puerto Morelos har denne smukke sump i sin baghave.

Even though most of Playa del Carmen mostly feels like Disneyland with a beach, you don't have to venture far off the main street to see authentic mexican life. This is not an example of that, though, but merely workers carrying away seaweed so the beach can look postcard ready for the tourists.

Selvom det meste af Playa del Carmen føles som Disneyland med en strand, behøver man ikke at gå langt fra hovedgaden for at få indblik i en autentisk, mexicansk hverdag. Det her er dog ikke et eksempel på netop det, men i stedet et billede af arbejdere der fjerner tang, så stranden kan se postkort-klar ud til turisterne.

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Not exactly a pre-historic site, but impressive none the less!

Ikke ligefrem en forhistorisk seværdighed, men alligevel ret så imponerende!

Another (impressive!)  show for the tourists: "Danza de los Voladores", four young men tied with ropes descending to the ground from a 30m vault accompanyed by music and dancing. Also known as the flying men.

Et andet (imponerende!) show for turisterne: “Danza de los Voladores”, fire unge mænd bundet fast med reb snurrer langsomt mod jorden fra en 30-meter høj stang, ledsaget af musik og dans.

Next stop on our way through the peninsula was Tulum, a well preserved maya site dramatically situated on the coast of the Caribbean sea.

Næste stop på vores vej gennem halvøen var Tulum; en velbevaret Maya-ruin dramatisk beliggende på kysten til Det Caribiske Hav.

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While visiting the ruins it's possible to take a dip in the ocean from the small but beautiful beach.

Mens man besøger ruinerne, er det muligt at tage et dyp i havet fra den lille og pæne strand

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To me, the ruins were mostly interesting because of their setting which was nothing short of magnificient.

For mig var ruinerne primært interessante på grund af deres beliggenhed, som var virkelig spektakulær.

The God of Winds Temple.

“God of Winds”-templet.

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The Ixmoja Pyramid in Cobà. 42 metres tall, towering over the thick jungle.

Ixmoja-pyramiden i Cobá. 42 meter høj, tårnende over den tykke jungle.

And every step was worth the climb!

Udsigten var klatreturen værd!

One of the goals at the Mayan ball court.

En af målene på Maya-boldbanen. Der er uenighed omkring, hvorvidt det var taberne eller vinderne af kampen, der blev ofret til guderne, men det er helt sikkert, at der rullede hoveder efter sidste fløjt.

Lake Cobà.

Cobá-søen.

The cenotes on the peninsula are spectacular. This is Tankach Ha - "ha" meaning water in Mayan.

Cenoterne på Yucatán-halvøen er utrolige. Det her er Tankach Ha – “ha” betyder vand på Maya-sprog.

And this is Cho Ha. It felt even more magical as we were the only people there!

Og det her er Choo Ha. Den føltes endnu mere magisk, fordi vi var de eneste to, der besøgte den!

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Crystal blue (and cold!) water.

Krystalblåt (og koldt!) vand. Cenoterne blev nogle gange brugt til ofringer af de forhistoriske mayaer.

Next stop: Mérida, the largest city of the Yucatán Peninsula.

Næste stop: Mérida, den største by på Yucatán-halvøen.

The Mérida Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals in all of the Americas. Stunning with the afternoon sun on it.

Méridas katedral, en af de ældste i hele Nord- og Sydamerika.

Sunday night dancing at the square.

Søndag aften danses der på torvet.

A very lively city with lots to see and do. The restaurant "Apoala" is particularly recommended.

En meget livlig by med meget at se og lave. Restauranten “Apoala” kan især anbefales.

From Mérida we took a day trip to Celestún on the Gulf of Mexico to see...

Fra Mérida tog vi en dagstur til Celestún ved Den Mexicanske Golf for at se…

Flamingos! The wetland reserve surrounding the city is the winter home to vast flocks of the birds.

Flamingoer! Området rundt om byen agerer vinterhjem til store fugleflokke.

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Back in Mérida, greeted by lovely pastels.

Tilbage i Mérida, budt velkommen af fine pasteller.

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Last stop on the peninsula: Campeche. Here a miniature version of the walled city shows the Independence Square and the cathedral church of La Concepcion.

Sidste stop på halvøen: Campeche. Her viser en miniature byen og “La Concepcion”-katedralen.

And here's the real thing!

Her er så den rigtige version!

The city is filled with colonial architecture.

Byen er fyldt med kolonial arkitektur.

And colored houses.

Og farvede huse.

...And sunsets. Of course. Next stop from the peninsula was Villahermosa in the state of Tabasco, but I'll save that until next time!

…Og solnedgange. Selvfølgelig. Næste stop fra halvøen var Villahermosa i staten Tabasco, men det gemmer jeg til næste gang!

Behind the scenes on “A Meal Like No Other”

"A Meal Like No Other" starring Hervé Toure

“A Meal Like No Other” starring Hervé Toure

“A Meal Like No Other” is a short film about a man (portrayed by Hervé Toure) eating a three-course meal consisting of his favorite foods. But it is also an exploration of love, pain, pleasure and what it all means when we are about to lose it.

To me, one of its strengths is its narrative structure where the complete story isn’t told until the very end. I strongly suggest you watch it before reading on, as spoilers will follow.

Watch it here:

Summary

In A Meal Like No Other, the first course is an appetizer consisting of a delicious chicken soup. The first sip brings him directly back to his childhood where his mother used to make the soup on cold days. Our protagonist is filled with warmth and happy memories.

The main course is a cheeseburger with french fries and coke. This meal is devoured and eaten fiercely – which isn’t so strange considering he might not have eaten a good cheeseburger, or a cheeseburger at all, in years.

This meal really is like no other as it is his last meal. After a teary scene where he eats the dessert – a brownie with vanilla ice cream – a prison guard comes to escort him to the death chamber. The movie ends with his feet, tied together by chains, dragging on the cold floor, walking slowly towards his final destination.

Backstory

I got the idea for the movie after I started reading about the death penalty in the United States and racism in the judicial system.

Even though racial minorities comprise half of all murder victims nationwide, a far greater proportion (77%) of the victims in death sentences are white. For example, in Alabama 60% of black death row prisoners were convicted of killing a white person, although cases involving black defendants and white murder victims represent only 6% of the murders. 1

Although difficult to present in just a paragraph, the racial disparities are frighteningly real. And that quickly lead me to the case of McCleskey v. Kemp.

McCleskey v. Kemp
The final pieces of the film came together when I stumbled over the case of McCleskey v. Kemp.

Although the meal he had for his last meal wasn’t exactly the same as Hervé’s in the film (McCleskey denied his last meal), his case gave me a solid base to work on the character and would serve as a starting point for Hervé Toure’s performance.

Warren McCleskey received the death sentence for allegedly having killed a police officer while robbing a store in Georgia in 1978. McCleskey was African-American, the police officer white. McCleskey appealed his sentence with background in a comprehensive study, the Baldus study:

“Baldus, a law professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, studied twenty-five hundred murder cases in Georgia. Baldus’ study concluded that all individuals convicted of murdering whites were far more likely to receive the death penalty, thus establishing that the application of the death penalty in Georgia was linked with the race of the victim. One of his models concluded that, even after taking account of 39 nonracial variables, defendants charged with killing white victims were 4.3 times as likely to receive a death sentence as defendants charged with killing blacks.” 2

The study was dismissed by the court. The ruling said: “even if Baldus’ statistical data were accepted at face value, the defense failed to show evidence of conscious, deliberate bias by law officials associated with the case”. 3

McCleskey has later been called “one of the worst Supreme Court decisions since World War II” 4 and has helped “immunize the criminal justice system from judicial scrutiny for racial bias”. 5

Today, progress has been made in the matter (North Carolina’s Racial Justice Act finally acknowledges that there is a huge bias in who gets the death penalty), but you don’t have to watch American news closely to know that there are still issues unresolved.

McCleskey was executed in Georgia’s electric chair September 28, 1991. 6

A few random facts about the meal itself

  • As I didn’t have access to a kitchen on the location, both the soup, burger and french fries were served cold.
  • Hervé was “pleasantly surprised” about the soup and really liked the burger – the cold fries not so much, though. But then who really likes cold fries?
  • The coke was the worst as it turned out he didn’t even like sodas in the first place. Oh well – unfortunately I didn’t realize it until after we had finished shooting the scene, and thankfully I don’t think it showed at all.
  • The burger scene was shot in one take – from the first bite to the last. I simply couldn’t stop him! (Nor would I)

Location

With the room I really wanted to emphasize a feeling of open space. With the white floor, walls and ceiling all melting together, I tried to convey that he’s both in his own eternal mind, free of all worries and yet extremely constrained, as he can’t move at all. Each step in any direction will only take him deeper into the nothingness around him.

When first conceptualizing the film, I thought I would have to use a simple white backdrop and then move the table and camera around for the different angles. After searching, though, I found the perfect spot: a small studio called “EyeLight” with a round arch horizon. I could try to explain it, but I’ll rather show the pictures to demonstrate it (courtesy of EyeLight):

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The round arch horizon shot straight on.

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Full view of the studio.

For the shots where Hervé’s back is shown I simply moved him to the other side of the table, and the for the rest of the shots, the table and him could just stay put.

With the lights (a few bulbs on each side bouncing on the walls and ceiling) not having to be moved and no location switching, we could really concentrate on getting each and every single shot executed perfectly.

We also tried to shoot it chronologically so Hervé’s emotions could escalate naturally instead of jumping between nostalgic, hungry and sad every second.

Hervé Toure was outstanding from start to finish. Professional all the way through and really got into his character.

Working with dedicated actors is always incredibly enjoyable and Hervé certainly was no different!

Music and sound

From the beginning, I knew that A Meal Like No Other would be a music driven short film. It wasn’t until I found the final musical piece that I knew how big an impact it would have, though.

I tried all sorts of music but quickly moved to classical. I really wanted it to feel as bare and vulnerable as the rest of the film, so I ended up searching for piano only pieces. I also felt like this would suit the “restaurant” mood conveyed through the drop in music at the beginning and the waiter serving the courses perfectly.

After listening to a lot of beautiful music, I ended up choosing “The Six Pieces for Piano, Op. 118” by Johannes Brahms, found on musopen.org.

Completed in 1893, the composition was the second to last published during Brahms’ lifetime. I am glad it wasn’t the last; I think the complete historical context would almost have made the overall film too intense.

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From the start I envisioned the chains dragging along the floor in the end as a very powerful last scene and knew that the sound of it would make it even more intense. I also recorded some environmental sounds like footsteps, chewing, drinking and putting things on the table just to give the room some tone and to draw the viewer deeper into the film.

Camera, lens and storyboard

Almost the whole film was shot on the beautiful Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM while some of the wider shots were shot with a Tamron SP 24-70mm f/2.8 DI VC USD. I bought the 100mm macro lens specifically for the purpose of this film and I am so glad I did.

It performed well over my expectations and really made the super tight shots enjoyable both to shoot and to watch. At f/2.8, it’s tack sharp, although with a very small focus plane – which made it possible to switch focus from the left eye to the right and back seamlessly. Its image stabilization system made it easy to keep it steady even handheld, which was great as I really wanted a handheld yet smooth look for the film.

For the shots with me in the frame (I played the waiter and guard), my trusted helper Victoria Handskemager assisted with the camera.

Here’s a storyboard sketch I drew prior to shooting. I think that the overall look ended up being pretty close:

A storyboard sketch showing some of my envisioned shots.

A storyboard sketch showing some of my envisioned shots.

Conclusion

I am really pleased with “A Meal Like No Other”. Hervé was amazing, the room was perfect and the music made it all come together.

I set out to explore what it would feel like to eat your last meal in this world while commenting on a flawed system and a sentence too grave for anyone to be punished with. A task big at first, but with the right tools and tricks I feel like I achieved what I set out to do.

Videoproduktion af http://www.eyelight.dk

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