Development Cooperation Handbook/The video resources linked to this handbook/The Documentary Story/The motorcycle journey from Rome to Beirut
The motorcycle journey from Rome to Beirut
In the past months I had been so busy managing the whole project that I actually did not do what my main task was as an author: to write the documentary script. Obviously in a research documentary, as ours was, you don't know what you are going to find. So you cannot write the whole script in advance. Still it is important to visualize a line beforehand and then be open to changes. I had already been in most of the places, so I had ideas about what we were searching for. I needed to write that. I had not written it yet. I decided to do it “on the road”. I fixed my old motorcycle (a Suzuki 600 induro) and left Rome for Beirut.
In fact the aim was not Lebanon but Syria. It was our most difficult location, so I decided to start from there. Arab spring hadn't yet arrived there. It was a quiet country but with very strong censorship. How much would we have been allowed to do in Syria? We had our official documents in order but … you never know in Syria who else should allow you to do what …. Rather than rules, there are sphere of power; which are generally overlapping with others so each controller is also controlled. So, you really never know if you are authorized or not to do what you want to do.
On paper, we had an official Syrian partner. But for the past month, they were not answering our e-mails. Again, that was something normal in Syria, where everything is personalized. You can do more but you need to write less. So let’s go there.
I always liked the dimension of travelling. It is a dimension of openness. I wanted to arrive to Syria gradually. To gradually see the cultural changes from Italy to there. With the hope of understanding it better. If I could gradually digest the gradual changes, then maybe I could adjust better and enter with a more receptive mind in a culture I was going to narrate about.
It worked! Not only because the changes were gradual; not even because I had time to observe and reflect over them; mainly because I interacted much more with people. In the overland dimension of travel, many small incidents happen: mechanical problems with the bike, missed ferries, confusion about directions, sudden rain, sudden hunger pangs …. Then you take more courage to interact with people, and overcome the barriers. And especially when you travel alone, you happen to meet people, that for no special reason, become your friends. And it happens that you open up in a way that you rarely do with your own long time friends. You narrate your life without too much care about being precise, sometimes mixing a bit the memories without order; and then by listening to yourself who narrates your life differently, you learn a new dimension of yourself.
I could not write much of the script on paper. But the documentary lines in my mind became clearer. I thought we should give this a dimension of “travel”. It will be us who travel as a team, both physically (in different countries) and then psychologically (inside the way media forms, or tries to form, the mental aptitude of opinion makers and opinion made-s).
The journey also showed me two important things. How the culture of hospitality was becoming more and more important and authentic as I was approaching, and finally entering, the Middle East and Arabian Nations. And how the Mediterranean Region still has so much of a unitary cultural identity, the perception of which has been greatly lost because we made people think in terms of political and commercial borders (The European Community and the “others”). How much damage must have been done to Italy, and especially to South Italy, this political estrangement from its own natural links and from its cultural milieu? Sure, I was feeling much more at home there, in the small tea shops of Turkey or in the meeting places of Syria than in the pubs of Northern Europe!
The last thing I expected was to feel somehow at home in an Arabic Country. But I was so much at home in Syria. Probably the Mediterranean factor! Or maybe the very dimension of travelling. May be my real home is on the road.