Requiem for the Birds an Official Selection at the 14th International Short & Independent Film Festival, Dhaka, Bangladesh 2016

My short film Requiem for the Birds has been selected for screening at the 14th International Short & Independent Film Festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh from Dec 3 – Dec 10, 2016. A biennale film event, this festival has taken place since 1988 and is one of the oldest festivals of short film organized independently in South Asia. The Bangladesh Short Film Forum, the pioneer organization of independent Bangladeshi filmmakers, organizes the festival with a vision to promote the culture of independent and alternative cinema across the region. For more info about the festival, click here.

Soundtrack: Ars Sonor, When All is Said & Done and World Without and Steve Combs, Rest. Licensed under an Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Hasta Luego, Puerto Vallarta!

Well, we are back in Vancouver after a wonderful trip, luckily to some beautiful sunny, albeit cold, weather. Here are some photos and thoughts from our last couple of days in and around Puerto Vallarta.

The beach vendors have a tough job, trying to sell stuff to vacationers who, in many cases, have been here many times and already have all the trinkets and Mexican clothing they want. These pictures are from Playa de los Camarones just past the north end of the Malecon.

These black and yellow birds are beautiful.

This little guy hopped up onto my umbrella just as I was trying to take another picture of him.

The banana boat didn’t see much action in these parts but this day a group of young men decided to give it a go. With the high waves, it was a bit difficult for the operators to get the banana to the beach so that they could jump on.

Coming back in after the ride was tricky, too; the waves were still high, some of them couldn’t swim, and one of the beach folks had to go out on the paddle board and bring them in.

This sculpture of sea gods near Rosita’s Hotel is a favourite roosting place for the pelicans that hang around here.

Pelicans are large! And have attitude in keeping with their size. This beast, who obviously considered this patch of sidewalk his turf, gave Ty a run for his money, coming after us with his beak open.

These two, dressed all in black under a black umbrella, were an interesting sight on the beach.

We took one last stroll down the Malecon to admire the sculptures and the roof top line-up of chubby aging rock gods.

Feeling the need for something cold after a hard day on the beach, we stopped in at Da Vino Dante, the wine and tapas bar upstairs from Gallery Dante – great spot!

Our very last day was spent at Swell Beach Bar on Playa Los Muertos; everyone was commenting on the condition of the beach; just as we saw elsewhere in the world, rising sea levels are eroding the playa here, leaving a smaller expanse of sand and an abrupt tide’s edge cliff of sand.

On our way back to the ranch the Pope blessed us from his balcony.

Last supper at the Blue Shrimp on the beach was just OK in terms of food but the guitarist, a Gypsy King’s tribute artist, was fantastic.

Micro dogs!

Coronas with ice!

Cemetery sculpture!

Ravens!

Tattoos!

Colourful paintings!

Skeletons!

Tiny parrots!

Big pelicans!

Sayonara, PV – Hasta Luego!

See more photos here.

Mountain Snowshoe Madness

Foggy day in the city – the forest of cranes continues to grow in downtown Vancouver … condo-mania  – who`s buying all these spaces?

We are so lucky to have such beautiful mountains right on our doorstep – the view below is from the lookout point halfway up Cypress Mountain on a recent foggy day. You can just see the tops of the highest glass towers downtown peeking through the ocean of cloud covering the city, with Mount Baker’s volcanic cone in the background.

Here’s the gang of three in front of the upper warming hut on Cypress, resting before a push for the upper snow shoe trails.

We paused to take in the view from the High View Lookout – unfortunately, we couldn’t see as much as this picture shows.

We saw one dead tree with several enormous fungi attached to it – I remember collecting these babies when I was a kid.

The upper x-country ski trails were not as crowded this day, although several groups from Hollyburn Ski Club were racing around the circuit.

The whiskey jack birds were out in force, zooming over to us from their perch in the surrounding trees when Christine pulled out her bag of crushed crackers.

Following the Far East Trail down the hill, we stopped to admire the “Old Man of the Mountain”, a gigantic old growth tree, one of the few remaining on the mountain. This one is thought to be over a thousand years old.

It’s hard to get a sense of how huge this tree is from the photos …

The old Hollyburn Mountain Lodge is still going strong, pumping out fries and hot chocolate for the skiing hordes. From the base of the Nordic area, you can see one of the downhill runs across the valley.

Sometimes I’m a bit sorry that my knees are no longer up to downhill skiing.

We were above the fog bank up on the mountain; it was a beautiful sunny day on the hill while the city was still  enveloped in cloud.

See more photos here.

Road Trip: Playa Agua Blanca, Iguanario, National Turtle Center, Playa San Agustinillo, and Ventanilla Lagoon

We’ve only been in Puerto Escondido for 5 days but it feels like it’s been a month – what a wonderful place!

In addition to the three km long Playa Zicatela, the surfer’s dream beach, there are quite a few small bays and coves to the north with beautiful small swimming beaches. The other day we spent a few glorious hours at Playa Manzanillo, one of them.

Yesterday, we, along with Miguel, Brandy, Tina, and Shawn, were off on a beach-hopping road trip south.

After picking up Miguel’s friend’s car, the six of us, plus Shawn’s surf board, headed down the road. This car, an old Chevy, is a very low rider with small back tires and every time we drove over a speed bump (and there are lots of them), the car bottomed out with a horrible scraping sound as its undercarriage connected with the concrete. It didn’t help that there were three of us (two of them big men) in the back seat. However, even so, we made the trip without leaving the muffler, or any other engine part, behind on the road.

Our first stop was Playa Agua Blanca (White Water Beach), where a loud man still drunk from last night’s bender latched onto Ty and insisted that they were friends for life (or at least until the tequila ran out).

After breakfast under the trees and a walk along the almost deserted beach, we were back in the car and rolling down the highway towards the Iguanario, an iguana sanctuary.

At the sanctuary, a two person operation, are hundreds, if not thousands, of the beasts, hatched, raised, and released in the area. We saw lots of small iguanas, one of whom, a two year old girl, was given to Ty to hold as we made our tour.

She seemed to enjoy her time in Ty’s company. We watched as the caretaker chopped up two giant papayas and whistled to the huge iguanas watching from the nearby tree branches; one, the boldest, came out of the trees and strolled up to the breakfast feast, which he proceeded to chow down on with apparent delight, his pink tongue and big jaws making short work of the orange fruit. Later another large beast joined the first, while a tiny iguana raced up, grabbed a tasty morsel from his mouth and ran off with it.

Our next stop was the National Turtle Center in Mazunte, the turtle capital of Mexico. This oceanside facility has both outdoor ponds – two very large ones – and an indoor aquarium and this day, being Sunday, was visited by a horde of school kids who ignored the “Do Not Touch” signs.

We saw an amazing variety of land and sea turtles, large and small, as well as tropical fish.

The day was hot and a dip in the ocean imperative. We stopped at nearby Playa San Agustinillo, a beautiful bowl-shaped beach with high waves plyed by local boogie boarders.

It was an interesting experience being in the water here because the waves strike both coming in and, after bouncing against the sand bowl of the beach, going out again.

Standing at the right place in the water, Ty and I were hit by waves and reflections of waves, their interaction creating a huge fountain of water that blasted me into the air about three feet when the waves were particularly high.

Every once and a while a set of enormous waves rolled in, tumbling the boarders over and over, before shooting them out the other end.

Last stop on the beach-hopping tour was a trip to the Playa Ventanilla Eco-Center about five minutes drive north. On this thirty five km deserted beach is another turtle sanctuary, one restaurant, and a couple of camping spots.

Here we took a lagoon tour in a boat rowed through the mangroves by a local guide. Laguna Ventanilla is an estuary that supports a whole community of people who in turn are striving to conserve the ecosystems there. The community consists of about twenty families, all related and working together to protect their area, who offer tours in lanchas done with oars only, so as not to damage the estuary and plant life there.

Just as we were getting going, the guide pointed out the massive head of a crocodile resting against the embankment – wow!

He whistled and the head slowly slid down the bank and turned our way; not only did the head turn our way, but so did the entire beast, making its way through the water towards us as the guide paddled the boat away.

Although we did not see its body, our guide told us that the croc is four meters long. He also pointed out a couple of other smaller crocodiles as we proceeded. Their primary food source is dogs, so he said … yikes, not a pretty mental picture!

As we paddled farther into the lagoon, we saw an incredible number of birds, including white ibis, fly catchers, turkey vultures, herons, tiny finches, egrets, king fishers, and spoonbill ibis.

The sounds they made were incredible. One area was full of nesting ibis – we saw some babies in a couple of the nests. Two types of mangroves grow here, white and red.

The red mangroves are enormous and cruising slowly through the forest of their roots and trunks was fabulous. Wow, what an incredible way to end our day trip!

Once back in the car, we headed back towards Puerto as the sun, a glorious golden-red orb, was starting to set. Unfortunately, we found out that said car had no lights; even though the dashboard lit up, the road did not. Pissed off at our dark ride, someone coming from the other direction on our side of the road almost ran us off the pavement – shit! Luckily we rolled into town without further incident just as it got completely dark. Many thanks to Miguel for the fantastic tour!

For more info about the Turtle Museum, click here.

For more info about Ventanilla Lagoon, click here.

For more info about the South Pacific Coast of Mexico, click here.

For more pics, click here.

Ubud, Bali: a feast for the eyes and ears

Q’ull picked us up from the Little Pond Homestay right on time for our one hour trip to the arts and culture centre of Bali, Ubud. Along the road between Sanur and Ubud are many small villages, all specialising in various crafts, mostly carving and sculpture for temples and private homes. As we zoomed along, we saw all manner of sculpted figures and heads, large and small, gracing the side of the road. After an uneventful, but busy, ride into the interior we pulled over at the side of a busy street in Penestanan, a village just outside the town centre, and dragged our bags along flat cement footpaths through rice fields to our rental house.

This house, along with a few others, is nestled right in the middle of beautiful bright green rice fields. It is a tall two story structure, mostly open to the elements, with two decks overlooking the fields, a very large fishpond, and a small plunge pool, the pool just finished the day we arrived.

It must have been hatching season for small red spiders because shortly after we moved in a vast stream of them emerged from under the stove top and underneath the large stone goddess holding up the staircase. There were too many simply to lift outside so unfortunately I had to blast them with bug spray, leaving hundreds of tiny corpses on the counter and floor. Although we do see little spiders, ants and other tiny insects crawling around the place, hopefully we’ll not be inundated with an entire army of them again.

The fishpond holds many large orange and gold carp and attracts beautiful dragonflies during the day and not-so-beautiful toads at night. Since I’ve only seen some small ones hopping along the cement paths, I’m not sure how large the toads that frequent our garden are, but they have very large voices with an interesting range of expressions. Some creatures in the rice fields (not sure what they are) sound like cell phones ringing, others make sounds like “whoop-whoop-whoop”, still others sound like crying babies. We also have a small bird visitor, one with a tiny white head, a black body and very long yellow legs and large feet, who strolls through the living room periodically.

After settling in Saturday, we headed out down one of the many cement paths through the rice fields to find the Bintang Market. We took a very circuitous route through a series of small paths but eventually emerged at Bintang where we purchased food and other supplies for the week. Later, on our way back, we stopped at a local restaurant (called a warung) nearby where we had some really excellent prawn curry for very little money.

The weather has been very good, warm (sometimes hot), not too humid, with only a tiny burst of rain once a day. Ubud is really a fascinating place; it’s always been on the art peoples’ radar, but ever since the 2009 publication of Eat, Pray, Love, and the crappy Julie Roberts movie version, it’s been flooded with even more western tourists looking for enlightenment. Right now it’s the low season so it’s not as busy as it otherwise might be (which is a good thing), but the main roads through “downtown” are bustling and during the day busloads of tourists from Kuta and points south, as well as cruise ship patrons, are dropped off to shop for a couple of hours.

From what we’ve seen so far, the town is full of art galleries, temples, bars, restaurants, yoga places, and various other necessaries for spiritual seekers, many of which ask western prices. Sunday we walked from our place into town, stopping first at the Antonio Blanco Renaissance Art Museum, a Campuhan hill-top compound, formerly the artist’s home, dedicated to all things Blanco. I’d never heard of Antonio Blanco before, but apparently his claim to fame in the 1950s was that he was the first artist to paint women’s clitorises … He’s known as the Dali of Bali and the site contains a neo-baroque museum, small gallery, and the studio where he used to paint, including all his paints, brushes and half-finished canvases seemingly undisturbed in the 12 years since he died.

The garden is fabulous, with many different kinds of tropical birds in residence, including toucans, parrots, cockatoos and a type of small buzzard. The museum building, which one enters through a gigantic sculpted rendition of the maestro’s signature (apparently renowned as the world’s largest signature),

is in colossal bad taste, with golden cheesecake statues of women gracing the terraces and rooftop, and two floors of Antonio’s paintings, collages and drawings, all in his own especially designed wooden frames (one featuring an effigy of ET).

Somehow, a piece of sculpture that might look right at home on a Hindu temple seems out of place on one man’s personal museum … We were not allowed to take photos inside the museum itself (I only snuck one of the second floor interior, shown below).

A museum attendant opened two special frames for us which displayed a couple of Antonio’s more pornographic works, one featuring a woman and a red candle dildo and the other two women having sex. His portraits are very skillful but OMG what kitsch! Breasts, buttocks, sultry looks everywhere in a softcore surrealist style.

The museum is a fascinating, and somewhat grotesque, testament to one man’s vanity. After a couple of hours at the Blanco compound, we strolled up the main drag, stopping for a drink at a riverside restaurant, and a snack at Coco’s International Restaurant, a good people-watching spot, before hitting the large tourist market. We had been told to head straight into the centre of the market if we wanted to buy anything, since all the shops sell more or less the same things, and those on the top floor interior get much less traffic. After looking around (and seeing a dead rat lying on the ground next to some garbage), we bargained hard for a black linen shirt and hit the road.

After a dinner of local specialties at a small path-side restaurant nearby, we were heading back to the ranch when an older guy invited us along to hear a “world-class trumpeter” at the Casa Luna Restaurant and Bar. We accompanied him back into town and had a drink at the Casa Luna downstairs bar while listening to a jazz foursome play. And the trumpeter was great –

I found it interesting that, while many of the many restaurants along the main street were practically empty, the Casa Luna, with its desultory service, was quite full. The restaurant is large and vaguely European in design, with antique wooden tables and chairs, marble columns and elegant décor, and could have been anywhere (possibly the reason for its popularity). While we didn’t eat, the restaurant is recommended for its good food – we will hope to check that out later.

Ubud has a profusion of temples replete with amazing sculptural decoration. Almost everywhere we look we see something beautiful or bizarre. The town has more galleries than the entire rest of Bali, I’m sure, some very high end and others more kitsch. It also has several museums dedicated to Indonesian and International contemporary art which I’ll visit while we’re here. And this is the first place in our travels that I’ve seen art supplies on sale. Almost every night there are Balinese dance performances, gamelan music, shadow puppet presentations and the like, many put on in the various temples downtown – a cultural feast.

See more pictures here.

A ferryboat ride and a stroll through the gardens – Sydney!

Sydney – what a grand place! I have never had any inclination to come to Australia before and if we hadn’t had to travel here to catch our flight to Bali, I probably never would have come. But that would have been a mistake. Sydney, at least what I’ve seen of it so far, is beautiful. We arrived last night, being transported by Steve in his limo (!), at the Waterside Apartments in Manly, a lovely beach town about 45 minutes north of the city. According to Wikipedia, Manly was named by Captain Arthur Phillip for the indigenous people living there: “their confidence and manly behaviour made me give the name of Manly Cove to this place”…

Our home for the week is a studio apartment one block from Manly Beach – the location is fabulous, just off the Corso, a pedestrian area with many small shops, coffee bars, delis, restaurants and bars, and the Manly Wharf, with ferry service to downtown Sydney in 30 minutes. After having spent the last five days in a hotel, I’m really glad to have our own place – I like the anonymity of an apartment and, best of all, being able to cook our own meals. I do get tired of eating out. The apartment is small, one longish box with a small kitchen at one end and a large terrace at the other, but it suits us just fine.

This morning dawned slightly overcast with the promise of sunny periods (jeez, I do sound like a weather reporter …) and so, after a couple of cups of delicious coffee and pastries from the coffee bar around the corner, we headed out to check out Manly Beach. Along its length people were walking, running, skate-boarding, surfing and swimming. After Ty had picked up a new pair of flip-flops (his $8 ones having given up the ghost in Nadi),

we investigated the inline skate and bike rentals, determining that we’ll do that this weekend, and then headed towards the Wharf and the ferry.

After having purchased a weekly pass, we hopped on the boat and cruised along the coast to and through Sydney Harbour, passing the Opera House and Harbour Bridge and anchoring at the Circular Quay right downtown. Much of the land along the coast is undeveloped, with a long, low coastline and interesting shale rock formations with the occasional golden sand beach.

After getting off the ferry, we followed the Writers Walk, a 50 person bronze plaque trail along the harbourfront, including plaques for Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London, took pictures of the iconic Sydney Opera House, and then entered into the Royal Botanic Gardens, an amazing park stretching out along the water.

Some philistine had parked his car on Umberto Eco’s plaque – the indignity!

The Botanic Gardens, established in 1816 and home to over 17,000 plant species, has, for us, really fascinating flora and fauna; almost every creature and plant we saw was one we don’t have at home.

Funny Ibis birds with long curved beaks, Noisy Mynah birds (cheeky beggars), red-beaked ducks with tiny babies (it’s Spring here), and other interesting varieties of birds captured our attention, as did the trees full of Flying Foxes, an indigenous variety of large fruit bats. These creatures have colonised several trees in the park, from which the wardens are trying to remove them, with little luck, as far as I can tell. The Mynah birds have incredibly sentient faces.

We were lucky enough to be able to check out the Artisans in the Garden art exhibition at the Lions Gate Pavilion, an interesting show of sculpture, pottery, jewellery, and ceramic art in a garden setting. Especially enjoyable were the silver sculptures of lizards and dragons whose alert faces and expressions really intrigued us.

After spending some time there, we wandered through the fern pavilion, in which beautiful varieties of tree fern were displayed – these are really amazing – and the Palace Gardens, whose sculpture reminded me very much of the Boboli Gardens in Florence.

We decided to venture into the Opera House and purchased tickets for the Tuesday night showing of Puccini’s La Boheme, which I’m very excited about. Satiated with grooving on foliage, we caught the ferry back to Manly, picked up some steaks to throw on the terrace barbie, and enjoyed a feed of red meat (first time on the trip for me – I’ve been eating mainly vegetarian). Mostly the prices for things such as cappuccinos, beer and wine, and groceries are more or less the same as in Vancouver, but some things are noticeably cheaper; for example, jars of peanut butter and jam are 1/5 the price.

Read more about the Royal Botanic Gardens here.

See more pictures here.