From the classic movie "The Battle of Algiers"
Few fictional films look more like documentary than Gillo Pontecorvo's The Battle of Algiers, and very few indeed which have this kind of socio-political structure and recount old, half-forgotten conflicts have achieved such lasting fame. Pontecorvo never managed to repeat the trick, though Queimada!, for which he hired Marlon Brando to play a British agent sent to the Caribbean to stir up rebellion against the Portuguese, was at least a partial success three years later.
The Battle of Algiers, however, remains the basis of Pontecorvo's fame - a model of how, without prejudice or compromise, a film-maker can illuminate history and tell us how we repeat the same mistakes. In fact, this study of the Algerian guerrilla struggle against the French colonialists in the 50s ought to be looked at not just as pure cinema but as a warning to those who seek by force to crush independence movements
Post in honor of "Gillo Pontecorvo, the Italian filmmaker who explored terrorism and torture in colonial Algeria in the powerful and influential 1965 classic, “The Battle of Algiers,” died here on Thursday. He was 86. [Link]"
Being in peace with the animals in near pristine environment is a very powerful experience. Some of my experiences in Botswana in late 2004 were put together by me as photo journal and semi-fiction story here, and here. You can never forget having a tea on the ground 50 meters from a young bull elephant that has chosen to ignore you. Or a hippo who does not care much about you at that moment... Or a lioness only heading to a call from a lion... Or a mother cheetah focusing on her cubs...Or the pack of African wild dogs with teeth stained with fresh blood getting ready for another kill.
"In exploring the shared language and poetic sensibilities of all animals, I am working towards rediscovering the common ground that once existed when people lived in harmony with animals. The images depict a world that is without beginning or end, here or there, past or present."
--Gregory Colbert, Creator of Ashes and Snow
Acknowledgments: Leopard picture by Lav Tandon (2004) and one to the left from Flying Elephant Foundation. Only a young leopard can have such a strong shoulder and neck.
Malik Bowens: Muhammad Ali, he was like a sleeping elephant. You can do whatever you want around a sleeping elephant; whatever you want. But when he wakes up, he tramples everything. [Quote from When we were Kings]
Happy Belated Birthday (January, 17). There have been very few people in the world in 20th century who every kid on all the continents have always admired and men respected - Muhammed Ali and Bruce Lee are in that rare company. Explore his center.
I must have seen "Breaker Morant" in early 80s the first time and then repeated number of times later. Long before, I visited Southern Africa. Long before, I started thinking about war and peace, soldiers being trampled by politics of the side they are fighting for, colonies used as disposable commodity, terminal nature of life - Long before, I pretended to think about such profound stuff...........Read some quotes from the movie below. The movie is an absolute masterpiece. The first quote below here is very similar to one what I heard from Ellie Weisel in one of his campus talks I attended. His wisdom came from real life experiences.
Major Thomas: The barbarities of war are seldom committed by abnormal men. The tragedy of war is that these horrors are committed by normal men in abnormal situations.
Harry Morant: Live each day as though it were your last; one day you're sure to be right.
Major Thomas: Tell me, Mr. Robertson what was Lt Hancock's reason for putting Boer prisoners on open cattle cars on the trains.
Capt. Robertson: Well the Boers had been mining the lines and blowing up a lot of trains. He thought it might stop them.
Major Thomas: Well did it?
[Robertson looks at the prosecutor]
Major Thomas: Did it?
Capt. Robertson: Yes, but I don't think...
Harry Morant: We shot them under Rule 303.
Discovering Botswana: A Standoff
By Kush Tandon
December 28, 2004 , around 8:30-9:30 AM , Okavango Delta , Botswana
"Something, or something awful or something wonderful was certain to happen on every day in this part of Africa . Every morning when you woke it was exciting as though you were going to compete in a downhill ski race or drive a bobsled on a fast run. Something, you knew, would happen and usually before eleven o'clock "
- Ernest Hemingway, True at First Light
Three safari jeeps are parked less than 10 steps away from a wounded leopard, a dying baboon, and about 50-100 baboons on the top of the trees, shaking violently, howling, and ready to jump in. About 7:00 AM , my brother along with the ranger KB had seen a leopard stalking for a kill and then got ambushed by the baboons. Deep in the bushes of Okavango Delta, the morning cool, the dew and the calm is slowly disappearing. The birds have telegraphed the hunt to the jungle.
I am in one of the three jeeps that have joined others a few minutes ago at around 8:30 AM.
Deep in the bushes, I see a baboon on the ground barely breathing and desperately trying to hide behind a giant tree. The leopard quietly limps and is now about 10 steps close to the wounded baboon but also uses the bushes as a cover. Every time he moves, the other baboons from above threaten. They are ready to pounce on him. This strong, young leopard, with an arms-length long deep wound on his thigh, is just staring at the baboons. Very briefly, from time to time he looks at the kill and then licks his wound for a second. I never seen any living creature with such a sheer, raw focus - there is no past, no future, only a very tenuous, fragile present.
"I am bleeding. I can barely move too. The moment, I take my eyes off these baboons, they will lynch me. All this for just for a meal. I haven't eaten in two days. This even happened last year. Do you think I enjoy this? I would rather take a nap."
"Why me? I am dying. Why is my time up?" , the baboon lying on the ground.
"If this leopard moves an inch closer to our brother, we are going to tear him apart. He cannot get away. He has his way all the time. It doesn't' matter that some of us will die if we confront again. This has to stop."
A standoff - that will only be over when one of them dies. In this law of the jungle, for all of them, the best hope is the continuation of status quo. Is there a such a thing?
A beautiful leopard, badly mauled, and very focused. He knows he holds the cards. A brave baboon that refuses to surrender his will to live. The band of brothers who are not ready to give up on him yet - as long as he is alive. Nobody is ready to blink. There is about still 2-3 hours before it is eleven o'clock.
Acknowledgments: Picture of "The Leopard" by Lav Tandon (2004).