Malik Bendjelloul's Speech: "The fun is the creation process itself."
This is a translation of a Swedish radio show called "Sommar i P1." It's a show where mainly Swedes talk about their life while playing music they like. One of the Swedes who participated in this radio show was Malik Bendjelloul. He's the director of the documentary film Searching for Sugar Man that won an Oscar, but he tragically passed away in 2014. He was 36 years old. The original program aired in 2013, is 54 minutes long, and you can find it here.
plays the radio program's signature tune
That was yet again that old battle-hit. If you have heard all of the summer programs since the beginning, you have already heard this signature melody 3315 times, which leads to the question what you really feel when you hear this music? Are you filled with romantic summer feelings? Do you get a tear in your eye when you remember a summer evening sometimes somewhere. When I was young and heard that signature tune on the car's radio in my dad's old Opel, it felt like it was the music that was the identity of the summer - at least as much as the sandy beach we were on our way to. Nice tunes can have that function - they increase the impression and become larger than themselves. That's why it's very regrettable that when I hear this tune, I react as probably a lot of you do: I don't react at all! I don't register it. I have heard this tune so many times that I don't hear it at all, which, undeniably, is rather a pity. It's a very beautiful tune.
I once interviewed a very eccentric Scottish pop musician with the name Bill Drummond. He tried to find a way to solve exactly this problem, the elderly human's eternal scourge, what do you do to experience things for real and unconditionally without the experiences being sorted into a swarm of references? "This sunset was quite nice but it's quite plain compared with the sunset I watched in the Maldives in the summer of 2001!" "This girl was indeed nice but I wonder if my third girlfriend in the end of the 90s wasn't maybe a straw sharper?"
Bill has researched a lot if it would be possible to recreate the feeling of innocence. His hunt had earlier taken extreme, not to say foolhardy proportions. Bill had been a member of the early 90's largest pop band: The KLF. In 1991, The KLF sold more singles than any other band in the entire world. But just as they had the breakthrough, they decided to split up the band. And not only that, a couple of years later, they took out the largest cash withdrawal ever in the history of British banks: one million pounds. Everything they had made from their music, and torched it all. He had realized that it was something that was wrong with the system. He had created to reach success, but the success itself didn't make him happy which he mistakenly had thought that it would. It was the creation itself that had been fun. But now, thanks to all the pressure to follow up the world's largest success, he had been self-conscious and didn't think the creation was as fun anymore. Torching one million pounds was a desperate measure to return to the beginning.
Today, Bill had regretted that he torched all his money, but the topic still fascinated him as much. What do you do to experience things for real? For example: what do you do to make music sound as good as it once did when you experienced it all for the first time? Bill claimed he had come up with the solution. Each Christmas he arranged a small lottery. He wrote down all letters of the alphabet on small notes he then put into a sack. Then he picked a note. The next year, he was forced to listen to artists that began with that letter. And what made it more dramatic, when the year was over, he never during the rest of his life got to listen to the artist again.
The first year, it was the letter B. By November, he began to realize that he never during his entire life got to listen to Bach or Beastie Boys. It was the last time he had listened to "Crazy in Love" with Beyoncé, or Beethoven's 5th, or "Heut ist mein tag" with Blümchen. Suddenly it felt like a tragedy, but a bitter-sweet such. He cried of rapture when he yet again understood what he had understood as a teenager: that "Strawberry fields forever" with The Beatles was the largest piece of art humanity had ever created. We love to romanticize the beginning, but forget that we actually begin with things all the time, and further, we end things all the time. Each day, things happen that will never happen again in our lives, but they pass unnoticed. We can't bring ourselves to see it as other than everyday things. Now I should play "Strawberry fields forever" so you yourself can hear that it's the best tune in the history of the world. But it can't be done because I've made a small lottery, and in this show you only get to listen to tunes that begin with the letter I.
plays "I am the walrus" with The Beatles
I write this summer show in South Africa. Just before The Oscars in February, several Hollywood agents told me that I immediately after The Oscars had to jump on the next project because the memory in the field is short and you are only hot for three months. "You've been given the keys to the emerald city." And if I now didn't use they keys to the emerald city from the Wizard of Oz, you understand the emerald city will change its lock, and in four months time the keys will not work anymore, and it would be regrettable. So, hurry hurry! Not a minute to lose! But, fortunately, the movie industry is running. It's a well-oiled machinery and it's just to jump in with your head first and everything will work out. Here exists agents that gives you manuscripts and producers that helps you to find money, and lawyers that helps you when you get scammed by the producers that would help you to find money. So, hurry hurry! Not a minute to lose!
So instead I went on a safari. Most certainly a bad time to go on a safari, but if you are trying to unlock doors you didn't even think you needed to enter, then you will very quickly become confused. So I went and watched hippos instead. I have in the past few days seen an enormously amount of hippos. I thought by the way that hippos were rare, but that's the way it is with almost all of the rare animals. When you see a walrus, they lie there in thousands, roaring in a nasty-smelling pile. Animals don't get it with that less is more.
But I'm also in South Africa because I've begun to research a history that could become an exciting sequel to "Searching for Sugar Man." It took an enormously amount of time to make that movie: more than four years. And during long periods I thought it would actually never be finished. To not be depressed if the movie would capsize, I found another story I began to research. Also that movie took place in South Africa. And also that, I thought at least myself, was remarkable and fascinating.
The movie was about a man who lived in a wild-life sanctuary. A man by the name Lawrence Anthony. One day in March, 2003, he watched CNN in his home in eastern South Africa. He saw television images from the American invasion of Iraq. Among the images, images flickered by from the Baghdad Zoo that now lay in ruins. Grenades had blown up the animal cages, lions were lose on the streets, and the animals that remained in their cages were about to starve to death. Lawrence Anthony understood that all animals were soon going to die if not something was done immediately. He immediately bought an airplane ticket to Kuwait.
In Kuwait City, he rented a car and drove unarmed through the then world's largest war zone: the Iraqi desert. The cars he met on the way were all of them on their way in the other direction, and they screamed to him that he should immediately turn around. But he continued the 700 km long trip. He entered Baghdad, the war's epicenter, and found his way to the zoo. The lions were so dehydrated that he had to lay their tongues in buckets of water. They had no strength to do it on their own. When the zoo's animals were safe, he continued his expedition through the streets of Baghdad. He entered Saddam Hussein's private palace and saved a few abandoned ostriches, and a cheetah that Saddam had caged. Lawrence remained for six months and managed to save Baghdad's zoo. The animals survived and the zoo has yet again opened to the public. I thought this sounded like an interesting story and three years ago I went home to Lawrence to interview him. I didn't yet know that the history of the zoo wasn't what was the most fascinating with Lawrence.
plays "I hate you forever" with Domotic
Lawrence told me the story of the zoo. He told me how they had managed to save Saddam Hussein's Arabian Stallions from a thief market in Baghdad's suburbs, and how people in the zoo didn't care about the war on the streets. In there, they cooperated no matter nationality, so much that his best friend who had come there to help is today married with the Iraqi veterinarian. It sounded like a nice story. But when he had finished the story about Baghdad, he began to tell another story which would prove to be even more interesting.
Lawrence had for the past few years tried to help a group of ferocious elephants - elephants that had destroyed surrounding villages and would now be put to death if no one embraced them. So for the past few years, he had for months hanged out with these elephants. And it led to that his entire way of looking at life on our planet had changed. The more time he spent with the elephants, the more he experienced his own inferiority. The human brain may be developed, but all of our other senses are embarrassingly undeveloped: our hearing, our sight, our touch. Researchers have still not understood how, but everything indicates that elephant senses function in a way that sounds like science fiction. For example, one has begun to understand that elephants can communicate with each other over incomprehensible long distances. Maybe over entire continents. Lawrence argued that he occasionally felt this communication. It had felt like the elephants had tried to communicate with him. He didn't want to talk much about it - in part because it was difficult to put it into words, in part because he understood it sounded a bit too much new age fuzzy. I returned to Sweden and thought material existed for a good story.
After "Searching for Sugar Man" had its premiere in the beginning of last year, I yet again wanted to meet Lawrence. But now I find out that Lawrence Anthony just a few days earlier had died - a sudden heart attack, 61 years old. So I canceled the project. Without Lawrence it would not become a movie. Terribly saddened, not just because of my movie, but above all for everyone who had the opportunity to meet this strange, inspiring man. A week later, I suddenly discovered a new article on the web. The heading was: "Miracle on South African wild reserve." I began to read the article and broke out in a cold sweat. The same moment as when Lawrence had died, the elephant herd had begun to wander towards his house. They wandered for more than twelve hours - a distance of more than 20 km. When they arrived, they walked around Lawrence's house: around, around, around. They had remained for more than two days. Lawrence was right! How fuzzy it had sounded, what he talked about was in one way or another correct. The other day, I interviewed Lawrence's widow who told me the elephants never again returned to the house. That was their last goodbye.
plays "I don't know" with Ruth Brown
"I don't know" is an excellent answer to a question. Maybe the most fascinating answer that exists. It's exactly what makes the story about Lawrence so strange. You don't know why - a miracle that is. But miracles don't exist, so in lack of them, it should be called "something that most certainly has an explanation but for now we can't really explain why." When no one knows why, the most trivial things become fascinating.
Another documentary idea I have begun to research is about the Moon. Have you seen that sometimes when you look at the Moon, it suddenly appears much larger than normal. You look over a roof or over a lake, and suddenly low on the sky you see an enormous Moon. You think that it might be because of how the light interrupts, or how the atmosphere increases it, or that it's closer or something. But you may think about it for all eternity, because no one knows what causes it. Already Aristoteles tried to explain how the Moon illusion works. There are several books on the subject. One book is an anthology where 24 researchers present 24 different theories about its cause. Some claim to know the answer, but then come another researcher who points out something that make that theory fall. You don't even know in which discipline the answer should be explained. Is it an optical phenomenon, or is it created in the brain? For thousands of years, people have tried to explain this little ridiculously phenomenon. It has really no meaning whether the Moon is large or small. Moreover it feels like it would be a child's play to explain, but everyone fails.
On the contrary, it's easier to prove that it's an illusion. If you take a photograph of the Moon when it's low on the sky and looks big, then wait a few hours until it's higher on the sky and looks normal, and then compare these two photographs, you will see that the Moons are of exactly the same size on both of the images. It is not larger! It's an illusion! Moreover, what makes it even more strange, many experience that if you look at the Moon upside down when it looks big, when you take your head between your legs and look at the Moon upside down, the illusion disappears. The Moon looks small again! Immanuel Kant realized already in 1781 that it was as well to surrender and tried nonchalantly to sweep the problem beneath the rug by writing: "Even though the good scientist can't help to see that the Moon is larger when it raises on the sky, he does not let himself be fooled by the Moon illusion." No, don't be fooled by the Moon illusion. Take it for what it is: a banal and completely useless small miracle.
plays "Into the clouds" by The sound of arrows
I wonder if I really will make a documentary movie about the Moon illusion? I originally thought it was a great idea. I would just travel around to different cities across the world and film enormous full Moons when they raise above the Tower Bridge in London or the Christ figure in Rio de Janeiro, the pyramids in Kairo. But then I realized that the Moon is only full once a month. I could only film one picture a month, and moreover, it might be cloudy that evening when it's full and then I have to wait one more month. I have simply not enough time. If life was ten times as long, I would happily go away and film full Moons. But since this is not the case, then full Moons doesn't feel as keen as before. It's strange, maybe even sad, that already as a 35 year old you make decisions based on the knowledge that you will not have the time to do everything you want to do in your life, and therefore, with some concern, have to decide what you should do. But it's most certainly useful. It's the same knowledge that makes you care about something for real. For example, the history behind this man.
plays "I wonder" by Rodriguez
Rodriguez is the main character in the documentary movie "Searching for Sugar Man" that I have directed. I found the history of Rodriguez seven years ago. I had for a few years worked on the television show Kobra on SVT and decided to take time off for six months to travel around with a camera in Africa and South America and search for good stories. I traveled through about ten countries and found six stories, and the history of Rodriguez was one of the six.
Rodriguez was an American singer who had released two albums in the beginning of the 70s. Both albums had failed and Rodriguez gave up and began working as a demolition worker. He lived penniless in Detroit's most shabby areas. But without his knowledge, his music found its way to South Africa where he slow and steady grew to become one of the most famous artists of all times.
In the middle of the 90s, two South African fans began to find out how Rodriguez had died. In South Africa, Rodriguez was considered to be as famous and as dead as Jim Morrison. By deciphering lyrics on the cover of the albums, they managed in the end to find him in Detroit where they, to their enormous surprise, found him alive! Rodriguez lives by now in a house without electricity and believes that the South Africans joke when they tell him of his status as a superstar. But in the end, he's convinced to fly down to South Africa. On the airport in Cape Town, he's met by limousines, paparazzis, a red carpet, and body guards. He enters the stage on a sold out football stadium, but has to wait for ten minutes before he can drown out the audience. For them it's like seeing Jim Morrison resurrect. He begins to sing but realizes he doesn't really remember the song lyrics. But it makes no difference because hundreds of people in the audience know each letter and sing the songs for him.
I heard this story for the first time from a man named Stephen Segerman in his record store on a backstreet in Cape Town. Stephen was one of the two South African fans who found Rodriguez alive. A couple of years later, I met Rodriguez for the first time. Already before I traveled to his hometown in Detroit, I got a lot of warnings: Rodriguez didn't like to be interviewed and he was terribly shy of people. It was extremely unlikely that he would want to participate in a documentary. It was even uncertain if he wanted to meet. Several attempts had been made before by documentary film makers who had tried to reach him, but it had always ended with a total failure. It could take a week or a year, but it had ended with disappointment and teeth grinding. So I was terrified when I finally got to meet him and became completely surprised. None of the warnings were real. Rodriguez was exactly the opposite! He was funny and charming, more talkative than most other, swinging swiftly around among associations, always with a warm smile on his lips. Rodriguez wasn't tricky. Why had everyone told he would be tricky? This would become a child's play. Unfortunately, it took a while, several years in fact, before I yet again saw this sunny side of Rodriguez.
plays "It started out so nice" by Rodriguez
Slowly the talk turned into the unavoidable subject: Why had I come to Detroit? It felt like we both tried to postpone it as long as it was possible. We both knew that the budding friendship would fail. But to face the truth, I was a documentary film maker - I had traveled across half of the globe to meet Rodriguez. I wasn't just a random stranger that he took a coffee with. So in the end, the subject came up, and as with a stroke of a wizard, Rodriguez changed. His gaze became evasive and he became uncomfortable. He explained that he had spent his life trying to communicate with music, with sound. He didn't know film. It wasn't his home ground. He felt uncomfortable and lost in the world of the images. "I'm audio - not visual," he said.
At the same time, which made him so much more complex, he got in touch every day. He didn't seem to want us to go home - he just didn't want us to film him. I think somewhere me and the photographer, Camilla Skagerström, sudden appearance had started a flood of complicated feelings inside of him. His unwillingness was about a need for independence. He wanted to express himself - not express himself through others. He had his entire life devoted himself to minimize his own needs just to be free and independent. He had made enormous sacrifices to get this freedom. To give a promise of a cooperation was to give away a part of this freedom. To make a movie would be to expose oneself to other peoples waffle. His attitude had for 40 years been to rather refrain than to end up with situations he didn't feel comfortable with.
But at the same time, and in here lay the complexity in him, he wanted to play music. He was a musician. For his entire life, he had wandered around the streets of Detroit with a guitar on his back. No one had ever asked him to play on the guitar because no one knew he was a musician. But the dream lived on. He began to near age 70 and his health had begun to crumple. When he talked to his daughters, I heard him talk several times about how he wanted out and play as soon as possible because, as he said: "Who knows about tomorrow?" After a week, I went home from Detroit.
I had still not interviewed Rodriguez one single second. But on all other levels, he had been enormously nice and accommodating. I asked him, for example, if he wanted to meet me in Stockholm. I had thought it was a small possibility that he wanted that. But he said yes! The other meeting consisted of Rodriguez living in my apartment on Kungsholmen for a week. Still without any interviews being made. But I began to understand that no matter how the documentary maker in me screamed of despair - things happened all the time that would be fantastic to catch on film. At the same time it existed some remarkable in Rodriguez attitude. He wasn't unclear. He had explained he was sound - not image. And if you think about it, you realize that he was in fact correct. If you once have formulated everything you wanted to say in a few pop tunes, what's more to add? The perfect can only be added in the arts. Why would a normal deadly dude with all his lacks and defects go there and represent the art? You will nevertheless say it better than what you already did! Especially if you once formulated it as good as this.
plays "I slip away" with Rodriguez
During the four years I edited the movie, I had only one fifteen minute interview where Rodriguez reluctantly answered questions I could use. From this I would edit the main character in my movie. But after I returned to Detroit and I once again had tried to force Rodriguez in front of the camera, and he after one and a half minute asked to stop, I gave up. Rodriguez was who he was. Let him be who he was. Finally, I edited the movie with that fifteen minute interview, and even though he didn't answer the questions, the lack of answers itself was maybe an even more illustrative answer to the question of who Rodriguez was.
But then something strange happened. In the last summer, I went back to USA to make a last scene with another of the movie's characters. On the way back, I thought I would make a turn around Detroit just to say "Hello." When Rodriguez had for real understood that I had not come to Detroit to film him, he suddenly transformed. Suddenly he yet again became the man I first met the first time we met. He brought me to concerts, to art exhibitions, we ran around a summer hot Detroit for a week with Rodriguez as a self-appointed tourist guide. The last day, he suddenly asked if I really didn't want to film anything? If I had come the entire way from Stockholm, it would be appropriate to complete the filming if a hole existed somewhere. There were of course a lot of holes, so I said I would love to do that if there isn't any trouble. And we took off to a footbridge and I ran up on that footbridge with the camera and asked him to walk away on the road. He began to walk, and after ten seconds, he shouted: "Listen Malik, isn't that enough?" I shouted back that I hadn't have had the time to adjust the camera, so just another minute. But Rodriguez answered: "Sorry my director, that's it!" We both had forgotten for a few moments that Rodriguez is sound - not image.
plays "I think of you" with Rodriguez
When Searching for Sugar Man was 90 percent complete, after I had been sitting and editing the movie for three years, the movie's main financier suddenly said the movie was shit! It didn't meet the demands on the movies that will be put up on the movie screen, and could possibly be edited down to a one hour television show. I was very surprised because, a few months earlier, the same financier had said the movie was great. The difference was minimal between what had once been great and was now shit. I suggested that I could go home and press "ctrl + z" on the computer 98 times and thus recreate the exact version that earlier had been considered to be good. But no, that would never be possible. The only way to save the movie was to make a one hour television documentary. What the movie lacked was the larger existential questions that is demanded from a movie that will be shown on the big screen. I tried to explain that it didn't contain anything else than the larger existential questions: it's about human fate. It's about existential questions of almost biblical proportions! But no! No existential questions could be discovered by the financier - even with a loupe. "Sorry no, there will be no money."
Quality is an excellent reason to take into account if you don't want to discuss anymore. It's obviously very difficult for the director of the movie to explain that the movie is great because he obviously thinks that - it's after all he who has made the damn movie. Furthermore, the shit-argument means a difficult psychological problem. Quality is each creators Achilles heal. You learn to understand and accept it's very difficult in the documentary movie industry - that you can't always get support. There simply isn't enough money. But the shit arguments cut you in the stomach and hurts you in a nasty way. Furthermore, I had during the years got multiple evidence from the financiers that the movie would get money. That's why I dared to use all of my own money in my savings account, and also began to borrow money. It's of course very stupid to do so, but as I had understood it all, there had been a promise to get all of those money. So I was really in the shit and realized that this was the project's death sentence. The movie editing was almost finished, but there were holes in it where everything that would cost money would be: 3D animations, and sequences that would be filmed with Super 8 camera, and original music. Hundreds of thousands of kronor would be needed to complete the movie. So I put the movie in my drawer.
But one day something strange happened, something that in the beginning and had nothing what so ever to do with things, but as in a very strange way became crucial. Everything was about a swimming pool. An old colleague called one day and asked if I wanted to do a job for him - a relatively easy documentary job for the web where I would follow a fashion blogger for a week in Los Angeles. I didn't want anything else than to go away from my misery and said yes without blinking! At the same time, I realized that Los Angeles was in California and a journey to California was one of the things I had given up hope of being able to afford to do. It was one of the reasons the movie would not be finished.
In the desert, a few hours from Los Angeles, was Palm Springs, and in Palm Springs lived Rodriguez's old record producer from the 70s: a gentleman with the name Steve Rowland. One of the black holes in the movie was a scene where Steve Rowland would show a few old photographs of Rodriguez. So before I flew to Los Angeles, I asked if I could go one day earlier or remain one day later to film this scene. But from various reasons, it wasn't possible. So I traveled to Los Angeles and ran around with a camera and filmed those things fashion bloggers do all day long and was super happy to finally have a job. But I realized at the same time that all of it was a bit frustrating. It wouldn't be possible to sneak off to Palm Springs. My job was to each day film everything that happened. Palm Springs was far away out in the desert and I couldn't sneak away in the middle of the night when the fashion blogger slept - it would take too long time and I didn't even have a driver's license. But then, suddenly, the fashion blogger's friend asked if they couldn't go on a trip together. "Can't we travel to Palm Springs?" Of all places on Earth. Palm Springs is a place for plastic operated seniors with dentures. It's not obvious that you want to go there voluntarily. But it was exactly where they wanted to go!
In the car on the way to Palm Springs, I understand that the situation is even more frustrating. I was still in service and my job was to film what happened on the trip. End of story. I couldn't just disappear during my job to do another job. You just don't do that. In Palm Springs, the fashion blogger and her friend left the car and I followed them with my camera, and they would just enter a luxury hotel when they looked at me with a troublesome look. The fashion blogger explained they would like to sneak in and lay by the hotel's pool and relax for an hour. But because they weren't guests to the hotel, they would like to be discrete and it was difficult to be discrete with a film camera. So could I possibly find something else to do for an hour? Eat lunch or something? Then we would continue, so just for an hour. "It's 12 o'clock now so we continue by 1." As soon as they disappeared, I began to shake. How large is the probability to have an hour to kill in Palm Springs? With shaking hands, I grabbed the mobile and looked if Steve's number was in there. The question now was if Steve was still alive, and if that's the case, if he had the time to meet in ten minutes?
plays "In between days" by The Cure
The Cure is a band Steve Rowland was involved in discovering in the end of the 70s. I didn't even know if Steve was alive. I had met him once three years ago and already then he was a very old man. Furthermore, he used to live in London during the summer season, and regardless if he was alive or not, he used to be extremely difficult to get hold of. I used to leave four messages before he, a few days later, called back.
On the other side of the mobile, I hear a drowsy voice: "Hello?" I present myself and asks if Steve possibly remembers me. "Rodriguez, documentary, do you remember?" "Malik! How are you? How is it in Helsinki?" I didn't bother to tell him that I wasn't from Helsinki and never in my entire life had been to Helsinki, and said that Helsinki was great but I isn't exactly there. "I happened to be dropped off on a parking lot in a suburb to Palm Springs by a famous Swedish fashion blogger." And if we by chance could get a coffee? "That would be nice." The best thing would be if I could come by at once. Because in one hour, the famous Swedish fashion blogger would move on, and then there wouldn't be any coffee. Steve asked in which part of Palm Springs I was. Palm Springs is quite big. I hadn't thought about that. Where was I? I was somewhere in a sleepy suburb. No one to ask, no roadsigns, no street names. I looked behind me and saw a sign: "I'm at a hotel. La Paloma." "Really?" Steve said. "I live on La Paloma drive. Do you see the beige house to the left of you? That's where I live." One hour later, 13 hour sharp, I stood yet again on the same parking lot. Already at 12:20, the coffee had been finished, 12:30 we had begun filming, and 12:57 had I said goodbye to Steve with a perfect little scene recorded. This was some kind of turning point. It felt like there was someone out there in space who actually wanted the movie to be finished! I didn't dare to tell the famous fashion blogger about the eventful lunch break. So this is my confession. She's by the way named Elin Kling, and as another strange encounter, she will make a "Sommar i P1" tomorrow.
plays "Ivory tower" by Giorgio Moroder
When I was seven, I thought it was the world's best tune coming from the world's best movie: "The Neveredning story." With the reasoning from this summer program's beginning, you can wonder if I wish I still could hear that this is the world's best tune. But I'm actually not sure about it. Seven year olds tend to, by some reason, almost always have a bad taste. It's an unexplainable phenomenon that also awaits an explanation. But this tune begins with the letter I, and it's a hell to find tunes that begin with the letter I, so you have to be happy with what you get!
A little bit more about swimming pools. It's quite uncommon that a swimming pool affects a movie's destiny as it indirectly did that day. Even more uncommon is it when two independent swimming pools two days in a row affect a movie's destiny. But already the next day, it was time yet again. The fashion blogger would do a fashion photography in a swimming pool in a villa in Beverly Hills. The fashion photographer had explicitly forbidden me to film and he asked me to respect his job: "It disturbs if people are filming when you are taking photos." I asked him in return to respect my job, and my job was to film everything the fashion blogger did - no matter the cost. And in the end, I managed to convince the photographer that I could film the fashion photography from a discrete distance in the background.
I began to film and realized you can't film a fashion photography from a discrete place in the background. Almost nothing happens as it is, and from a discrete place in the background, even less happens. So I began to take some freedoms. When the photographer looked away, I ran to the side of the pool and tried to film in an as exciting way as possible. I hanged down the camera from the side of the pool and tried to take close-ups of the splashing fashion blogger. But soon the photographer realized what I was doing and told me firmly that I was in the way and made it so he couldn't focus on his job. I excused myself, but as soon as he disappeared into the house to get a new objective, I rushed down again. I had not had a job for so terrible long time and was desperate to show that I didn't only fail with everything I did, but was a perfect match to film swimming pools. Down by the side of the swimming pool, I realized that I could follow the swimming fashion blogger close-up if I crouched backwards with the camera above the water. In the corner of the eye I saw how the fashion photographer was on his way out again. I got in a hurry and made a miscalculation of the side of the swimming pool. And splash...
Meanwhile I sank to the bottom, I recalled a similar event when I was fourteen and interned in the postal office in Ängleholm. I spent 15 minutes pushing a button trying to find out what the button on the bottom of the postal office desk was designed to do. I had pretended that I didn't know anything when the postal office five minutes later was stormed by two SWAT teams with weapons drawn. When the one who is the source of irritation suddenly becomes a real source of irritation.
plays "I saw you blink" by Stornoway
But my unexpected dive into the pool also meant something else that was impossible to forecast. So as it strangely often is, something bad, something that really is bad, such as falling into a pool with a film camera, can in the long-term mean something good! Yes, even something really good! Another of my movie's difficult-to-solve-problems was that a couple of years earlier, before the money ran out, I had begun using a Super 8 camera. Super 8 gives you a nice 70s feeling that I had thought to use to illustrate Rodriguez early life in Detroit. But Super 8 film costs money, and unfortunately had only, I and the photographer Skagerström, the time to film half when the money ran out. But when I stood in a corner with a hairdryer and tried to dry my clothes, I discovered to my horrors that my mobile was still in my pants's pocket. The entire screen was filled with strange dollar signs that reminded me that I was in an economical crisis. To buy a new mobile phone was the last thing I hoped that I would have use my first salary in three years for.
But you have to have a mobile. So I bought a new, and one day when I sat and looked at the apps in my new mobile, I saw that it existed a small program that called itself "old camera." An app that said it could reconstruct how Super 8 film looks like. A little toy thing that costs seven kronor. I downloaded the app and realized my new mobile, unlike the old water damaged one, had a HD camera. Even though it looked small, the camera filmed with an almost full resolution quality. So I tested to add images from my mobile camera to the movie. You could see that it was fake-filmed with a toy app, but it didn't matter much since it was only an emergency solution until the film would be finished for real when the money in the end would arrive.
Another of the movie's bottlenecks was the half finished animations. Some scenes would be computer animated 3D sequences that cost absurdly amounts to make. I had noticed that the animators used photographs when they worked. They didn't paint the figures by freehand - they traced the photographs they then animated. The last bit of how you animate I knew nothing at all about. But the first bit, to trace, shouldn't be so difficult! So I went and bought a printer on Clas Ohlson [Swedish Walmart] for 500 kronor, and printed a few still images from the movie. Then I went to ICA [grocery store] and bought greaseproof paper and begun, like in kindergarten, trace the movie images. Then I inserted the traced drawings where the animations would be in the movie. I didn't dare to tell the movie's producer, Simon Chinn, what I was doing. It was a completely useless project to trace images on greaseproof paper when no one had a need for traced images on greaseproof paper - it was 3D animations the movie lacked. But we both agreed that the movie primarily needed money before we even could begin to think how it would look like.
So one day Simon thought we should send the movie to the Sundance festival - the documentary industry's most important festival in Utah, USA. You submit movies almost half a year in advance, so our hope was that the movie would have time to finish in January when the festival would begin. But unfortunately, the production had not moved one inch. It was still filled with unserious amateurish solutions when we in November got the answer that the movie was accepted to Sundance. We understood that there wasn't a chance to complete the movie and decided to pull out of the festival. But the day before we submitted the mail that we would have to cancel, a new mail arrived from Sundance: They had decided that the movie would be Sundance's opening movie! We explained that it wasn't possible - that it unfortunately wouldn't be finished. But Sundance explained that it was the movie in its current condition that would be the festival's opening movie. We panicked, but realized we couldn't really say no. Already the next week we had to begin the post-production of the movie. Nothing more in the movie could be changed.
A couple of days before the premiere, a large American film distributor, Sony Pictures Classics, called. I sat by my dining table in my small apartment - the same dining table as on which the film was edited. They sat, to enlighten the balance of power, in a limousine with Woody Allen. They demanded to buy the movie before the premiere. After the premiere, they would maybe no longer be interested. In the afternoon of the same day as the world's premiere, nineteen people in exactly the same gray winter coats streamed into my hotel room at Sundance. The last of all was Sony's boss, Tom Bernard, and said as opening line that he would fix chairs on the bench of the nominees at the next Oscars if we signed the contract. He told Rodriguez, who also was there in Sundance, that he had already sent the movie to Bob Dyllan and would make sure Rodriguez would play as opening act to Dyllan before the year was over. I realized I had to point out that the movie wasn't finished - it could not be shown in cinemas as it looked right now. The animations were just traced on greaseproof paper, and the Super 8 sequences were filmed with a toy app for one dollar on my mobile phone! I breathed and squeaked: "It would be great if I could have the opportunity to..." 38 serious eyes turned against me. The pens dropped ink. This was the wrong moment to come with disturbing information. I nervously looked down at the table and stuttered: "It would be great if I could have the opportunity to work with you." I have still not told Sony the movie isn't finished. If Sony says they want it, you close your eyes and jump!
plays "I want you" by Bob Dyllan
Rodriguez never got to play as opening act to Dyllan. On the contrary, he opened the jazz festival in Montreux, not as an opening act, but as the main act together with Leonard Cohen. Last month, he was elected Honorary Doctorate at the Wayne State University in Detroit. I met Rodriguez eldest daughter a few weeks ago and she told me she had talked with her mother on the phone. She had been present at the grand doctorate ceremony, and she told that it was her life's proudest moment. She saw Rodriguez stand there in his doctorate hat and thought back on their life and that it wasn't that long ago they had to stamp to kill cockroaches on the floor of the living room in Detroit. How magical a life can appear. But she will soon get more reasons to feel proud. The other day on a scene in Montreux, Rodriguez told that the French President had been in touch with an invitation to the Élysée Palace later this year. Rodriguez shall be appointed to an Honorary Legionnaire. Ingmar Bergman once wrote that the proudest moment of his life was when he was appointed to an Honorary Legionnaire and got a police escort through the streets of Paris. Soon it will be Rodriguez's turn. In October, he's booked to play on the Madison Square Garden in New York. But the tickets to the concert sold out so fast they had to book an entire football stadium the day after: Barclays Center in Brooklyn with room for 20,000 spectators. But thereafter he has said no to more concert offers. He has more important things to do.
In November, he will go into a studio, just exactly that beige house in Palm Springs where Steve Rowland lives. There he and Rodriguez will record his first new record in 42 years. Given how 100 percentage his production has been so far, there is all reasons to have hope. You have in this show heard four of his masterpieces and then you've only heard those tunes that happen to begin with the letter I. Right now he's sitting in his house in Detroit and chooses which tunes will be included in the record. The same old house he bought for 50 dollars 1972. He hasn't changed his life a bit. He has no needs, has never had any needs, and will never want to have any needs because the one who creates needs is no longer free. The money he makes he gives away to his three daughters. Then he will focus on his next project. He has one dream left. This autumn, Rodriguez will candidate for major of Detroit. So when you sit there this summer and improve your house, carve your wooden man, or paint an aquarelle, so remember that those tiny things you have in your hands will survive yourself when they end up in their drawer or in their closet. They will get their own life and you have nothing to do with it anymore. And one day someone will certainly understand its perfection and eternal value. But it doesn't really matters if it happens today or in 100 years, or if it ever happens, you will anyway want to torch the millions the success would have given you. For the fun is the creation process itself!