Gadling Take FIVE: Week of June 12–June 19

Happy summer. It’s official. The Mermaid Parade is happening in Coney Island today, and Catherine has the scoop on the solstice in Alaska. Hopefully, you’ve snagged a travel bargain. Tomorrow, for starters, take Dad to a National Park for Father’s Day–or take yourself.

  • Annie’s reminiscence of Old San Juan might trigger your own memories of a place you went as a teen.
  • For tips on how to make your life more like travel, Jeremy has advice worth heeding-even if traveling is your middle name.
  • In case Orlando only gives you images of amusement parks, read Tom’s post on what else to do in Orlando. There may not be time for the Magic Kingdom. Next time I go, I want that scenic boat trip in Winter Park.
  • If the world about the news seems too darned depressing, check out Kraig’s post on Art in All of Us. Yes, indeed there are wondrous, uplifting happenings as well.
  • For anyone heading to Morocco, do read Tynan’s latest Life Nomadic missive on the Moroccan hustle. Reading about his experiences trying not to be taken reminded me of the Moroccan segments of Brook Silva-Braga’s documentary, “One Day in Africa.” Being prepared for the everyone is trying to make a deal experience is a wise move. Tynan covers the issue to a T.

San Francisco International Film Festival

The San Francisco International Film Festival started Thursday and goes through May 9. If I wasn’t miles and miles away, I’d go. I still have a bit of a buzz from my experience at the Cleveland International Film Festival last month where I took in Brook Silva-Braga’s film “One Day in Africa,” plus three more.

What I found most intriguing about my movie-going Saturday was the intersection between the various countries that were represented by the movies, the directors, and the audience members. I imagine the festival in San Francisco might have a similar feel.

Depending upon which theater one ducks into, one’s experience of the world might be charming and uplifting, serious or fun, kind of depressing, or downright disturbing. The films rest on the passion and drive of the film maker. The variety is astounding. Even if you aren’t going to be able to take in a festival, browse through the film selection and savor the scope.

Because most films aren’t the ones that splash into main stream movie theaters after months of advertising, when the lights turn down, the unfolding of each story can be a surprise. Each film I saw, except for Brook’s, was one I did not know about before I settled into my seat. I was with a friend who snagged me the pass, so I went with her selections and wasn’t disappointed. We saw: “Surveillance,”Prodigal Sons” and “The Wrecking Crew.”

Unfortunately, I don’t see that any of the films I saw are showing in San Francisco, so I don’t have a specific recommendation–except if you can manage it, see at least four films that seem totally different from each other. That results in a buffet where there’s sweet, sour, salt and spicy. You’ll leave wanting more, but satisfied. One of these days, I’ll have enough time to see 20 movies like one woman I met when I was at Brook’s film.

Actually, I did notice on the San Francisco festival’s list a movie that I have seen, but would love to see on the big screen. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” It’s showing on April 29.

If I were going, I’d also take in “City of Borders” because it sounds interesting and excellent. It’s about the lone gay bar in Jerusalem with layers of stories in its telling. The director is Chinese. That’s cross-cultural.


Brook Silva-Braga, One Day in Africa and the film festival circuit

This is season of film festivals. Brook Silva-Braga and his movie “One Day in Africa” drew me to the Cleveland International Film Festival a week ago Saturday. It was the premiere weekend of his film and I didn’t want to miss it. Plus, Brook was going to be there. Ever since his guest blogger run at Gadling, I’ve been keeping up with his travels and wanted to meet the guy behind such interesting work.

I was able to catch up with Brook at the film’s second viewing at 9:20 a.m. Even with the early time slot, the theater was full, the audience alert and Brook an engaging story teller. After the film, he fielded questions from the audience and stuck around later for further conversation.

The movie pulled me back to places in West Africa where I’ve traveled myself, and throughout I kept thinking–oh, I recognize that. I remember.

The first details I noticed were the sounds. The thwacking of the wooden mortar and pestle, the swoosh swooshing of a broom across a carpet, grain rubbing against each other in a calabash as women’s fingers sort though to pick out small pebbles and chafe, a farming tool turning over dirt in a field, and the children’s voices.

For a region of the world Brook had never been to before, he intuited the specifics of the cadence of the people in each country. Interestingly, although six countries were represented, if he had gone to The Gambia, he would have found people with similar stories. What’s striking about these stories is how they illustrate how access to education and services have such an influence over people’s lives.

Access to a clinic for child birth and the differences between how men relate to their wives are shown along with how each person views his or her own opportunites–or lack of. In The Gambia there are people who also struggle to acquire water and coax crops out of dry land and others who are hooked into services and have found economic success in the world economy.

Because Brook found his subjects in different African countries, the result is that there’s a notion that the continent does have factors that unify the people despite the differences in ethnic groups, politics, religion and geography.

During the question and answer period, Brook told about the choices he made as a film maker and the serendipity that hooked him up with his subjects. When he crossed over into Morocco to start filming, he had a loose plan, but was not sure what or whom he would find. The result is that as he found out more about each of the people he chose as subjects, so did the audience.

In the mix f the six people’s stories are the hard to answer questions about sustainable development, women’s and men’s roles in society, the disparity of educational opportunities, the consequences of political strife, how religion can influence world views, and the role of western culture in Africa. There are the underlying issues of changes need to be made–if any.

Even though it’s been more than a week since I saw the movie, I find myself thinking about the people whose stories Brook captured so well, and I can still hear the sounds of grain, the earth and their voices.

There are more opportunities to catch One Day in Africa. Here are two of them this month.

Boston International Film Festival on April 18 at 8:30 p.m. AMC/LOEWS
theater, Boston Common: 175 Tremont St. There is another short film showing at 8:00 as part of the same session.

Newport Beach Film Festival at Newport Beach, Calfornia on April 29 at 1:30

One Day in Africa: Lives of six ordinary Africans

When I watched the trailer of One Day in Africa, the latest documentary of Brook Silva-Braga, the resonance of village and city life in most African countries was immediately evident. It’s a resonance that often doesn’t make headline news. It resides in the pattern of each day that starts before the sun comes up when Africans, in particular women, get busy.

The shot of women pounding grain comes to mind. When I lived in a Gambian village for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer, the thwack of a wooden pestle against a mortar as it removed husks from grain was like a heartbeat.

What Silva-Braga shows about African life is that it has rhythm and cadence and is not totally embroiled with AIDS and poverty. There is another theme to explore, one that involves the complex melding of African traditions with the modern world.

Sure AIDS, poverty and violence do exist, but they are not what Brook Silva-Braga set out to show in his second film project. His first film, A Map for Saturday, was a documentary about around the world travel–his and others. That film included every continent except Africa.

One Day in Africa is a companion project in a way, but the focus is different. In this latest project, Silva-Braga got up close and personal with his subjects– six Africans, both men and women, whose stories are typical of the stories of others who live in this vast continent. [For the trailer, keep reading.]

These six could be like any other six, but in their typicality, their uniqueness also comes through. Athough their lives may not look anything like ours, the essence of what they are after is recognizable. How they resonate in their own lives is an alluring tale.

  • Titus, a store owner in Kisumu, Kenya has just reopened his store after it was ransacked during the presidential election. For him, life is about moving forward.
  • Howa, a young woman in Farge-Fundu, Niger starts her household chores at dawn in a place where it’s hard to imagine that anything could grow in the dry landscape.
  • Bridgete, a pregnant woman in Lilongwe, Malawi is hoping for a son and is unsure how she will get to the hospital since her husband is a bit lackluster about the idea of driving her to the hospital in his taxi.
  • Sali, a university educated woman in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, has high expectations despite living in a mostly male dominated culture
  • Osman, a merchant in Fez, Morocco, has many “brothers” who help him sell his goods to tourists.
  • Brahim, a farmer in N-8, Mali, feeds a family of fourteen from his efforts

From the snippet I saw, part of the film’s charm and interest lies with Silva-Braga’s questioning of the subjects. As they go about their day, his voice is heard asking them questions about how they see their lives. Through the interactions, the viewer is led into the intimacy of conversations that are similar to the swirl of dialogue that happens around us every day. Conversations about life, hairstyles, work and the mundane.

Look for the film’s screening schedule on March 1 at the One Day in Africa website. It will be making the rounds at various film festivals.

Brook Silva-Braga graced Gadling with a stint as a guest blogger in 2007. His posts, grouped together as the series “Across Northern Europe,” are a thinking person’s missives about aspects of travel. Reading them is also a look into Silva-Braga’s head, not a bad place from which to view the world.

The Big Trip Contest: How Does Around the World Sound?

“A Map for Saturday,” the documentary conceived and directed by Gadling, guest blogger Brook Silva-Braga has been raking in movie festival awards. Read Justin’s review and you’ll see why. If you look across the top of the film’s home page, you might notice how the award graphics look like winning symbols on a slot machine. That’s what I thought, anyway. If you watched the trailer of the film on the Web site, or saw the whole thing and started thinking, “Aw, rats! Why didn’t I take this trip,” or, “Sure, what a great experience for someone who can actually AFFORD a plane ticket, ” don’t fret. Your life is not wasted. All is not lost. Not yet, anyway.

There’s the most awesome opportunity for some wordsmith, traveling type to win an around the world journey. Did you catch that? AROUND the world!!! . . . Plane ticket. . . Journey!!! Along with the airfare, the winner will received 20 nights in hostels, guidebooks AND a backpack. Plus, Brook who will give a one-on-one sit down to help you plan your trip. As you can tell from this Talking Travel interview with Justin back in June, Brook is an engaging kind of guy.

To win, write a 400 word essay that explains just why YOU should be the one who gets such a prize. Click here for exact details, and click here for the rules. Once you’ve written you missive, email it to You have until November 30, 2007 to enter. Get busy. Need some inspiration? Read Brook’s posts from his Gadling series “Across Northern Europe.” They’ll whet your appetite for that possible trip in your future

**The contest is being sponsored by Earthchild Productions and Hostelling International, thus the hostel stays. If you’re traveling solo, hostels are one of the best places to meet people. If you win, you have time to pack–the deadline for hitting the road is November 30, 2008.