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Transport is a city’s living, beating soul. Even Sydney’s transport is not without its hidden charms, as lovingly depicted in ‘A way we go’, a documentary feature by Jacqui Hicks. With an unconventional format emphasising the wisdom and emotions of everyday people, it captures the audience’s attention with a bubbling flow of ideas and images and a vivid dash of humour.
In 2013 Jacqui travelled to ten cities, including Sydney, to film what goes on as people travel from A to B and delve deep into the footpaths, highways, tramways and bikeways of these ten very different hubs. Four years later, ‘A way we go’ will be screening at the Ritz Cinema in Randwick on Sunday 10th December. Meet the characters who love the way they move (or don’t move) around the city, and connect the cities with their people and their very essence.
Jacqui became interested in transport when she noticed the extent to which her daily train commute to uni—twice as long as a car trip – enhanced her wellbeing. She was meeting new friends, having a delightful walk to and from the station, and getting to relax or knit or read for a considerable chunk of the day. Lovely! Since then, she has studied and worked in the world of transport and become an advocate for cycling after learning to ride a bike on the cobblestoned streets of Paris – no mean feat.
‘A way to go’ shows urban transport is much more than time and money. Transport can play a role in helping create more fun, creative, healthy and caring cities and individuals! On her travels Jacqui was struck by how insightful and inspirational people were in discussing their travel time. But the most surprising part was how much people enjoyed talking about transport and their daily commute.
The kindness of strangers provided her with most of her accommodation, translations and local knowledge in all the cities she visited. In Hanoi, she was lucky enough to stay with three sisters living on the outskirts of Hanoi, who took her on their motor bikes, and even let her drive one. She was made to feel like another sister. She left slightly broken hearted but with a farewell that included karaoke, Vietnamese cuisine and a ‘ride through’ ice cream shop that made her departure bittersweet. In Pune she was lucky enough to stay in the leafy campus of the Film and Television Institute of India where she learnt about the composition of shots and how competitive film students are at ping pong. Bicycles were borrowed or bought in every city so she could experience the freedom of two wheels. Cycling in Ankara was so bad she thought about staying to write a cycling strategy for the city.
Jacqui travelled light, and incorporated some ridiculously long train journeys including 40 hours to go from Guilin to Qingdao, in China, which tested her resilience. She also managed to include some cycle touring while travelling between Berlin and Madrid. She picked a very wet September for this leg of the journey but she could enjoy dramatic skies over striking landscapes, and with her rusty French she was helped along the way.
During her trip she had some wild adventures including riding a Boda Boda (a motor bike taxi) through the unfinished back roads of Nairobi. ‘To be honest’, Jacqui said, ‘I had to check the footage twice after I thought we had ridden past a corpse’. The final stretch into the centre of the city was a zig zag through a colourful maze of Matatus (buses). In Casablanca she was intrigued by the system of shared taxis, ‘Les grand taxis’: old white Mercedes you hail with hand signals to indicate where you want to go. The hand signals worked to Jacqui’s advantage because they were easier than trying to pronounce the names of her destination.
Jacqui made many friends along the way but it was in Madrid where her host made the biggest impact on her life. After showing her the city and taking her hiking in the Picos de Europa she decided to share his morning commute one day. Waking up before sunrise with him and seeing his world may have helped spark a special connection. A couple of weeks later he was quitting his job and booking a one way flight to Australia. They are now married with one child and another on the way, and Jacqui finished editing her film with a baby on her lap. That baby just got his first bike.
The film will be showing at 6pm on 10th December at the Ritz Cinema Randwick. For more information please visit the website www.a-way-we-go.net or email Jacqui firstname.lastname@example.org.
The feeling of ‘I’ve actually made a film that people are going to watch’ is a strange one. It’s a mix of achievement, nervousness, more nervousness and fear that the sound will cut out five minutes before the end. Well, luckily they did a test screening, found the error, and we rustled together another copy ready a whole ten hours before the real screening.
I had tried to get the word out as best as I could. Posters and leaflets (which are not cheap to print) could be seen in all the right places in Newcastle. A friend had written an article, I was using social media, and telling everyone I met to come and see this film, including two cycle tourist who happened to couch surf at our place that night. On a rainy winters night (where I was told parking spots were hard to find, but we walked of course), about 200 people turned up to the theatre. We had made St Petersburg tram style tickets, we had cooked and brought some nibbles and so if all else was a failure at least they had a gimmicky ticket and some food.
After a very nervous introduction, the film started and I ran after my son Dante. We got to watch small sections and I could hear the audience react which gave me some hope that people were awake and engaged. It finished without a hitch and when the lights came on for the Q&A it was beautiful to see the feel of the audience in front of me. There were young and old all looking somehow like they had got something out of my film. And then the questions reassured me, that this whole film making thing hadn’t just been a self-indulgent quest, I had made something real.
I got great feedback about the film and I decided to believe everyone was being honest when they told me of how they had felt inspired to try using different modes of transport, saw hope in humanity, remembered a special time when they had used public transport, or just made them think about transport in a new light. So maybe people will want to see this film after all…
I also received positive feedback from the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival ‘A Way We Go is a very enjoyable and moving portrayal about transportation. The documentary was very accessible and emotionally rich. The director command of pacing, editing, colouring is masterful . Recommended’. I got almost as excited as I would have if I got into a film festival.
And after all the excitement of the screening wears off (accelerated by the less glamorous task of having to look after a toddler), you are left wondering what’s next… I felt like I wanted to get my film out there to everyone with community screenings, but I had to (and still have to) play the waiting game with film festivals first. If I can get it into some festivals I feel like it will help it spread to different corners of the world and give it some credibility when I do try and distribute it through screenings, schools, universities and maybe even TV and the internet.
If you are interested in seeing the film, I will try and set up a mailing list system to keep you updated. Also, if you are really keen and would like to put on a screening, please get in contact with me and we might be able to make it happen.
Thanks again to everyone who has helped make this film happen. I’m so glad it did and I can’t wait to show it to you :).
It’s been a long journey, and my life has changed quite a bit along the way, but the film is nearly ready for showing!!! It is just under an hour and I feel heartbroken with the number of amazing interviews that aren’t there but I was told to keep it short and not have too many different faces.
I almost feel like writing a post about post production, but I don’t think I can give you many interesting insights. I’m definitely not a natural editor but it has been satisfying to actually learn a little bit about it. Eager to learn about the art of editing I found that most books focused on managing editing software and expecting you to just naturally know when to cut. At the end of the day I guess it does take practise but I think there are also a few tricks to it (that I still don’t know).
Really looking forward to hearing the sounds and music that are currently being worked on. Sounds and rhythms in moving around are so omnipresent I think it will add a lot to the film.
So if you are wanting to see the film, put on a community screening, or just feel a sense of relief for me that all this dabbling with a half broken computer and a million hard drives is about to be over – please contact me.
So it’s been a while and my film still has a way to go but here is a trailer for the meantime…
So it’s been a while since you heard from me, and I guess you thought I would be popping my head up soon to say my film is almost finished. Well, it’s taking me longer than I thought – and I’ve taken a few detours along the way – including getting a full-time job and getting married! Both the job and the husband are offering support, the former financially and the latter emotionally – so this should help the film with all things financial and emotional. I fell in love with Manolo while traveling for the film, and he has moved to my side of the world to be by my side. So just as other people have told me they have a lot to be grateful for with respect to their everyday travels (including some romances), I can also say the same about my travels.
I wanted to write this post to let anyone who I interviewed (or who helped me in other ways) and who managed to hold on to the scrap of paper with this website address – that you are in my thoughts and you make me smile and have hope in humanity every time I sit down to do some editing. To have met such lovely people in my film is actually making my confused navigation through post-production a pleasure.
So, the film won’t be ready in the middle of this year as I predicted but I will try and work on it as much as I can and keep you updated. Thanks for your patience!
A little video we made about the formalised dinking world of bicycle taxis in Africa
From the start I knew there would be an end to this trip and there would be tasks I’d need to complete along the way – but these were quite vague when I left Australia at the start of May. I was abandoning promises to reduce my emissions as much as possible – as I hopped on the plane I hoped that what I could achieve would make it worthy of my extra large footprint. So with my ill-defined timeframe and tasks – a race had begun … and then it ends (whether you were ready for it or not). In this race I was going to have to find different rhythms, companions, inspirations, moments of courage and times of joy before I could say I completed it. I would also have to bite the bullet at some stage to buy a ticket home – suddenly cutting this trip of infinite possibilities into a an ever tightening scheduled operation. This is the story of my trip to film the experience of urban transport around the world.
Perhaps I start by asking (and maybe even answering) your more obvious questions – what was your favourite place? and what did you learn?
Favourite place??? To start with I want to cop out and say every city was interesting in its own way – in some ways it’s true and the diversity of my experiences in various places was my favourite space. It was seeing how people all over the world could appreciate place that was more beautiful than any streetscape could be.
But I will mention one city which was very important in this scattered trip of a splattering of cities. Hanoi – like a first love was my first city for this film. I was a bundle of nervousness and excitement, still working out which way to point the camera and believing anything was possible, I trundled off a plane at Hanoi airport. I was greeted by so much hospitality from the people I met, and beauty from the people that surrounded me, I felt tranquil in a foreign place. And then there was this most photogenic transport culture, which made me feel like my film might just be on to something. So while I have had special moments throughout my travels, I’d say that Hanoi was the most important city for me.
Every city has greeted me in different ways – stumbling on a library in Pune while still carrying my pack, and stopping to interview all the librarians, finding myself on the back of a scooter riding through the backstreets of Ankara minutes after arriving, and then there is always the philosophical taxi driver with too many kids who doesn’t have any change for 2000 shillings on the way from Nairobi Airport.
And I have always been sad to leave. My heart has been weeping through my final memories of places, which include dinner, karaoke, ice cream, chocolates, frisbee, ping pong and of course rushing to catch various pre-booked intercity or international transport. Well my heart definitely received a pounding as I would contemplate whether my travel insurance would pay if I miss my international flight/train/bus. After almost meditating on transport for weeks, my last moments catching transport would involve a lot of stress – but I never missed a flight, so I somehow have faith in the urban transport I used (and possibly abused) to get to the airports and railway stations I needed. As we bounced up and down the curbs, clutching bags in front of me, my backpack hoisted on my back, on the back of my friend’s scooter heading to the bus station in Casablanca the phrase ‘if god wills’ took on a life of it’s own.
And what have I learnt? I guess you will have to wait for the film to really understand this. But I have definitely seen a much more positive view of transport than I ever expected – I have also received pieces of wisdom, kindness and inspiration from all corners of the world. My heart has definitely become a little bit more open during this trip and I hope my film will be able to convey some of this better than I have managed in my blog.
My first trip on the metro of Saint Petersburg was with a beautiful charming girl called Alice. This is entirely appropriate because when you enter the metro through buildings of various forms, you enter a strange and enchanted world which has more in common with alice in wonderland than the modern metros of dubai or singapore.
Before going through the rabbit hole, you convert your money into magical tokens that let you pass into this world. In this world there are no tickets to be inspected only a gold token that is sent through a slot which allows the door to open, and once inside you are free of any evidence you have paid for your fare. My immediate reaction to this discovery was that it must be easy not to pay – but who knows what would happen in this world to those who are trying to cheat the system? Alice gave me a warning that there is always a lady with a red cap at the bottom of the never-ending escalators and when I saw one for myself I knew that I would would always pay from then on. It must be either in their job description or training, but these ladies have faces that say ‘don’t test your luck or your life won’t be worth living’. More effective than any fine.
[Please note I do not have a photo of these ladies because I am too scared to take one]
As mentioned earlier, to get to these charming ladies you must descend the longest escalators you have ever seen. You suddenly really feel like you are part of a giant machine or organism that is filled with moving particles being piped around. It is a surreal feeling to be in this dome and looking up and down the escalator realising you cannot see the start or the finish – just millions of people moving gracefully along at the same continuous speed – some going up, some going down. The lights and the expressions on people’s face set the mood. You literally pass hundreds of faces as you people-watch with no fear that you will ever see each other again. Perhaps you even for in love a couple of times. Alice tells me it takes 3 minutes and she can read two pages of her book in this time. I can’t even imagine how far we have gone underground. Somewhere along the way I have lost my sense of reality. Once we finally pass the booth with the lady, we regain use of our legs to find our way to our little blue train that will take us away. The platforms seem to be wider and shorter, somehow more appropriate for the comical old fashioned trains that they serve.
Finally it is time to enter the train. The trains are coming all the time. You don’t need to run to these trains – it’s better to wait til the next one where you have more chance of getting in the door. Just think of yourself as chocolate being squirted into a mould on a production line. For some reason during the three minutes of escalator riding it hasn’t occurred to me to take off my coat. I guess such an awkward action would ruin the aesthetic of the ride for everyone, maybe this is why. Well, now the chocolate is definitely melted as the temperature in the train reaches uncomfortable highs. I guess I am happy though. When everyone is awkwardly coping with ridiculous situations it always makes me smile. Some people shut their eyes and I wonder if they imagine they are in a sauna. A couple near me are flirting and hugging each other. There is no space between people and not so many poles to hold on to, so people hold on to each other or wedge themselves between bodies.
Maybe it’s the Russian accent, but I find the man making the automatic announcements highly amusing. Such a deep serious voice, that I could imagine to exist in a futuristic world where we rely on such voices to think for us. In fact maybe this voice has been taken directly from a movie I’ve seen. If I understood what he way saying, I’m sure I would obey. I survive the sea of coats and sullen faces and manage to exit the metro keeping sight of Alice as we all flood out the door.
Every metro station is a little different, but there is always some mood lighting and interesting russian faces to look at. As we ascend into the dark autumn night (which is surprisingly not as cold as I was expecting), I reflect on this simple machine that carts people around the city like they are particles. For some reason, I am more accepting of the idea of being part of it than I am on modern metros – maybe because sometimes it’s easier for me to accept dreams and history than efficient modernity.
So with absolutely no organisation at all I just put together some little pieces of footage to create a mock trailer. All footage except the interviews is with my little camera because I was too lazy to import all my other footage from the various hard drives. I am still yet to go to Saint Petersburg or film in Sydney … but here we go … this is all a learning curve for me, so let me know what you think.