REMEMBER US (DIARIES FROM THE MYTHIC UNDERGROUND)
STILLS FROM STORY #1 – MADE WITH SUPPORT FROM SØRNORSK FILMSENTER
PITCH »REMEMBER US» (Diaries from The Mythic Underground)
This is a series of short films that focuses on the destruction of landscapes, endangered species and modern mankind’s connection with nature, forming a string of poetic thrillers told from an organic point of view.
Selecting just a few ‘cases’ from the endless list of threatened species - and the pollution in general, this project aims to give nature itself a voice of protest, animating it through tableaux of haunting puppets, grungy musicians, dancers and cave-art figures which draw largely upon mythical and archaic material.
Documentary footage, wild-life shots and animation are tightly inter-woven in seven short tales as each film centers on a certain topic. The particular story is conveyed by animated storytellers – loosely inspired by mythological figures and spirits in cave-art settings; their surroundings associated with prehistoric structures, shapes and shadows of the other-world.
And it is from their point of view that we see the pollution and destruction of nature. By edging this perspective, these approximately 15 minute long independent fables stand as rhythmical and rough reminders of a time when nature was worshipped and spiritual qualities bestowed on it - in glaring contrast to modern society’s industrial exploitation where whole eco-systems have become dumping grounds for toxic waste.
It juxtaposes natural and factual documentary with semi-abstract, lyrical animation casting the melancholic shadow of destruction and predicted extinction. But at the core of the project, there is an enticing rhythm; Nature’s own spirits rising from some stone-age or timeless place, appealing to the sense of mystery - and common sense - in human nature.
The project as a whole, questions big-business’ puzzling mantra of sustainability, cutting through to the real costs of a rip and replace culture. Bleak as the future might seem though, these tales close on an open, poetic note - stressing the fact that still there is hope - to move in another direction; of cleaning up our nature.
Also, it is an ambitious project where we hope to attract the participation of actors/musicians who have an iconic status in our culture.
#1 MOUNTAIN SPIRITS / RARE EARTH MINERALS The first story is about the use of rare earth minerals in high tech products & the Mongolian ecocide the mining business is causing. The storytellers in this first eco-fable are Mr. Jagger and Mr. Richards, two rocking mountain-spirits living in a cave, expressing their thoughts on how they feel about the industrial commotion seen in the valley below them - and trying to understand the term ‘sustainability’. The story itself also playing on their musical legacy and personal history. Worrying that time might not longer be on their side, they sorely long for a feminine touch in the neighborhood as the Ladies of the Canyon now are missing. The ultimate fear is that they have vanished for good and there shall be no more drinking from their loving cup. Thus, Jagger and Richards leave their cave in search for the precious missing.
#2 SPIDERWEB / E-WASTE The Spiderwoman - goddess of creation or the underworld; Always weaving her web - vibrant, pulsating and connected. But how about the new world-wide-web? What do the female multi-layered, mythological figures situated in a cavern somewhere on the West-African coast think about the amounts of e-waste being dumped outside their homestead? And why is this waste not safely recycled in their countries of origin? An army of jungle-telegraph drummers sending their messages over the savannahs and across the sea, help them understand their new and thoroughly toxic environment of constant smog, dead rivers and filthy lagoons; and while the rich countries actually prohibit the export of toxic garbage to poor countries, there is a loophole: the containers filled with e-waste arriving by the hundreds each month at the port, are labeled ´charity´. This strange gift of useless, mercury-infused trash may ultimately etch away the spirits too as their very reason to exist depends on their ability to watch over and protect the ecosystems. Though beneath the surface, other forces are intertwining the cobwebs - as the Spiderwoman has not yet lost her spell.
#3 CRANES / FLAMINGOS / PESTICIDES Kenya, Lake Magadi 1962: More than 200.000 flamingo chicks face certain death due to industrial pollution from a nearby soda fabric; remembering a remarkable example of mass rescue as a local community takes action to move the chicks to a safe lake, this is aĺso a story about how pesticides affect birds in general & the challenges cranes face as 11 out of 15 species are either threatened or endangered. Through universal mythology they used to be messengers of the gods, their dance symbolizing a celebration of joy and life. Nowadays there seems to be little cause for celebration though; one particular male crane is unable to catch the spirit & attention of his partner who doesn’t feel much like dancing. Until surprising good news blows in from the East where a group of farmers refuse to use any more pesticides in an attempt to save the local cranes. Elevated by sensing these new currents (that could possibly become a new wave?), it is enough to snap the female out of her melancholic mood - still up for a dance celebrating joy and life.
#4 SEA TURTLES / PLASTIC IN OCEANS How does the increasing pollution of the oceans affect aquatic life? Following the sea turtles migrating the oceans, this fable evokes the freshwater nymphs of ancient times as one in particular appears in a seductive, dark setting before she disappears.
The story also manifests the weavers and spinners, another universal theme shared in ancient mythology; they are working behind the scene - a secret place within women’s sphere. From their watchtowers they keep a close eye on the oceans and see not only how a tidal wave of plastic is changing the environment but also how sea turtles, whales and other marine creatures suffocate slowly when they mistake the plastic for jellyfish; besides, there is the disturbing noise from ships and all sorts of toxic chemicals leaving them to wonder if there is any chance of survival at all. And where did the freshwater nymph go? Ultimately understanding that she left with ‘The Man in the long, black Coat’; Bob Dylan’s ambiguous lyrics flow into a desert - Sergio Leone - inspired setting, while the nymph follows the Man through the valley of shadows - be it of death or a newly awakening sense of passion.
#5 ON FRACKING, OIL AND GAS DRILLING IN USA In a large grotto far north on the American continent, a colony of mythological figures (carrying sacred narratives), are watching the weekly newsreel projected onto the large cave wall from an old film apparatus. It is april 2010 and reveals the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon blow-up to the shocked audiences. A shamanistic judge presiding over them all, is trying to calm down the once grounded and connected crowd. Always prepared to look at matters from all sides, he tries to convince them that there are echoes of a green shift coming from all corners of the world; and they must not consider themselves irrelevant in an increasingly industrialized society, even if some of them already feel ossified. Intrigued to investigate this green shift up close, they send out two female detectives on a vessel to explore the matter. It is to be a long oddysey, and at first, passing the Canadian oil-sands, they find that good news are scarce. They don’t like the first hand look of the fracking business either as their journey becomes increasingly perilous with the rise in wild-fires and hurricanes. Moreover, a persistant and annoying hitchhiker turns up everywhere, trying to get a lift. Driven by the need to find pristine land, they head up the Colorado river and arrive at the breathtakingly beautiful canyons. Now they learn that this land might also open up to gas and oil-drilling, as will nearly all off-shore waters. Heartbroken, the two detectives sail homewards, this time picking up the hiker in an act of defiance. Back home, it all takes a surprising turn though as the hiking musician initiates a dark serenade; his strange and warm tones begin to flow through the now partly fossilized colony, as they slowly melt up into life again.
#6 MOUNTAINTOP MINING About the mythological theme of mountains inhabited by the gods. Hidden behind a mountain crest in an Appalachian-cave, two ancient figures are playing chess while an anarchistic chorus is watching them. At the same time, since the 1970’s, the Appalachians has also been the center of the mountaintop removal industry, using explosives to blast away top layers as a more effective way of mining - thus turning hundreds of thousands of acres into rubbles. Toxic chemicals spilled into nearby streams turn the water black and sometimes impounds of stored, toxic liquid rupture, causing an environmental disaster. As the chorus comments on the dramatic action taking place outside, Mr. Cave - a dark and mysterious force living in the inner halls of the mountains - is venting his rage and spite - as if he by no means intends to let his empire go without a battle.
#7 OIL IN THE NIGER-DELTA Describing an ecocide of epic proportions, this is the story about the sensitive eco-systems in the Niger Delta where mangrove forests, wetlands and aquatic life, have undergone a complete transformation after millions of barrels of oil have been spilled there over decades. Briefly on the history of the seven biggest oil companies, their imperialistic conduct, lawsuits, trials and how Shell tried to pin the blame for the many blow-outs and spills on the poor farmers and fishermen of the delta; independent studies have stated that Shell is responsible for 87% of the spills though. Flowing beneath it all, this is an organic elegy for the delta & its ecosystems which can no longer recognize themselves and the species that are now completely extinct; but how resilient is nature and can the spills be cleaned up?
A seven minute long remake of ‘Blue Heaven Blues’/ Imperiet- a short film from 2005 - now with English lyrics. Nature’s own emissaries wanting to have a say; while Mother Nature’s earthy extensions hang out in her moon-light taverns and stone-age saloons, a primitive guerilla protest is rising from the underground. Inciting rhythms vibrates from the wasteland and marshy grounds, echoes through valleys and over the seas, filling the sails of archaic vessels as they navigate towards a new dawn.
October 2018, Helene Magnhild Kjeldsen