Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Gatekeeper, part 2

Hideki leaves me waiting in the car: this first contact is to drop off our proposal.

Hideki will then seek to meet with the head of the whaling operation the next day and perhaps arrange a meeting that includes me on the third day... should we even get that far.

I step out and walk up and down the waterfront, intending to spend the 5 minute wait in appreciation of the sea.

Rather than stress over the outcome, I’m now in a meditative zone – I look out across the Pacific and draw up memories of the days when I lived in Venice Beach, California, in the early 90’s. That familiar boardwalk lies there, beyond thousands of miles of deep, mysterious waters in which untold, watery lives unfold.

Most weekends I would get the hell out of LA and its infernal grid to hike through the arid canyons north of Malibu. The memory of the hikes washes over me now: probably because of how I would enter the same meditative state on these walks, where everything falls away leaving only an expanded, more vibrant present awareness of the world around me. In these times, there is a feeling of connecting earth and heaven, and the senses extend beyond the body to fuse with the air, the water, the earth and the life they are all host to.

Hideki has been gone 30 minutes, and I continue to walk.

Hideki has not returned after an hour – I choose various vantage points along the beach to stand and observe the universal rituals of the beach-going public.

After an hour and a half, I laugh at how tortured this wait would be if I were in any other state of mind.

Surely, either this long absence is a very good sign, or a very bad one.

The inhabitants of this region are far more friendly than the bustling denizens of Tokyo – most nod or smile as they pass me. Only a few seem to not know what to do with me, and so remain impassive or stern.

The butterflies flit about. The hornets fly about their business.

A cat pads out from the bushes, across the road and down the stone steps to the sand, where it promptly digs and squats. I look away out of respect for the keen sense of dignity cats have – especially in these embarrassing moments of public body function - then back again in time to see it paw a token amount of sand over its business before returning back the way it came.

Well over two ours have passed, and finally, there is Hideki, alive and smiling.

The film will be made, he says.

We sit and look out over the water. The details come out gradually, some of which I can share here.

The head of the whaling operation is a very reasonable man, intelligent and well-traveled, Hideki explains. And most importantly for us, he shares the vision of exchange of Whale Like Me. Many details remain to be discussed but in principle, we have a meeting of the minds, and this creative partnership of a conservationist with whalers will move forwards.

The next day, the three of us meet. I agree with Hideki’s impressions of the man.

Whale Like Me proposed this meeting but could not know in advance who the whaler would be: now that I have him in front of me, I see that he is perfect. He will represent his perspective with intelligence, and give my conservationist approach real questions to grapple with. Already during our first brief meeting, we left each other with some potent challenges to chew upon and the tension in the air was thick: there is no doubt we will - all three of us - grow and evolve through the making of this film.

My time with him during the shoot will be tense, confronting and real – but the outcome, I know, will mark progress towards unlocking the stalemate over whaling. He and Hideki will represent to foreigners a more honest representation of who the whalers and the Japanese are, what they do, and why. I will represent to Japanese people a more honest view of who conservationists are, what we do, and why.

The dice are not loaded: after following this chemical reaction between opposites, caught on film, the chips will fall where they may.

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