Doc Blog

On the making of  POOL - I'm writing to you from Kuala Lumpur, within the autocratic state of Malaysia, currently celebrating it's 50 years of on-again off-again independence.  While in my time in the big city, I was fortunate enough to have been able to join a researcher on her trip to the province of Aceh, one of the hardest hit areas during the 2004 tsunami that devasted parts of South and South-East Asia. Eighteen months after tragedy, we took a plane from Kuala Lumpur to Medan, Indonesia, and was taken on an 9 hour car ride through the province to the outer tip of the Aceh province where we would end up at a place in the small village of Lampu'uk.  Throughout the trip, markers of 'help' were seen all the way through the province. Whether it be about HELSINKI  where the Memorandum of Understanding was signed, or the presence of the international NGO's, 'help' was definitely here and there was no sparing of signs to show it.

This film was an accident.  I was ignorant of the situation in Aceh but wanted to gain some small insight into a state that had been in a state of war for the past three decades and further punctuated by the diaster of the tsunami.  I packed my camera to help my researcher with recording interviews of Gerekan Acheh Merdeka (GAM) / freedom fighters and the government leaders during and after the war.  But one of the most striking events for me actually was not the rebuilding of the communities, nor the after-life of the freedom fighters who had returned back down from the mountains and began to merge into the greater Aceh community.

The most striking event was the impact of the international aid agencies.

Humanitarian diaster capitalism was a reality that I had never seen face to face.  Why did World Vision and UNDP need to have a logo on the back of every rickshaw?  Why did each community that was 'built' needed to be clearly marked by the country/countries that had given the funds.  Why did each door of each new home need to be clearly marked by the international NGO that gave the money to do so?

Is this proof of help?  Why are we staking territory within diaster/conflict areas?

And finally, why was there a USAID pool being built at the village of Lampu'uk - a beach side village that was 1st hit by the tsunami?  I was temporarily staying in Lampu'uk for almost a month with my researcher, and the pool was built at the back.  What was the purpose of the pool?  And what was the purpose of the oversized tiled branding of USAID that covered the floor of the entire length of the pool?

Morning after morning, I placed my camera on the porch, and watched, as all foreigners do, as the kids in the village use and transform what is made available to them.

From the perspective of the international agency, to the perspective of the village, to the perspective of the filmmaker, everything seemed to have lacked real purpose.  No one knew the purpose of anything.  We all seemed to have just used what was there for our own purpose.

There was no clear purpose.  Just a pool, as it filled and emptied everyday.

Comments are locked for this post.

Check the Archives for older postings.