Author Archives: Babarouge

About Babarouge

Welcome to my blog. I am a self taught film director, writer, editor and producer. I aim to share my experiences and projects with you. I hope you enjoy reading my blog, as much I enjoy writing it, and creating films!

The 10 Places I loved visiting (and would love to go back to!)

Carrying on from Sunday’s blog post, here are ten places in the world that I truly loved visiting and, in a heartbeat, would run back to if money, time and common sense were chucked out of the window. I have only been to 35 countries but I have seen a fair few sights which really should be shared with the rest of you. So without a do, here are my top ten places that I have visited and would definitely visit again in a heartbeat:

10) Seychelles.

I know I have a bias towards the Seychelles as it is my mother’s country, but I have to be blunt. I really do love this country. I also love Sri Lanka, my father’s country, but due to its security situation, I really do not want to go back there for pleasure. You see, Seychelles attracts me, not just for family, but for the islands themselves. There are over 100 islands in the archipelago, and I have only seen four of them. And it is not just beaches. Great wildlife, a steamy hot and mountainous interior and wonderful old colonial architecture give the islands one hell of a lot of variety for such a small place. Plus, the culture, a polyglot of the islanders’ ancestery means that this is a fascinating place to see and meet people. Yes, the Seychelles are expensive, they are a pain to get to but it truly is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.

(Last visited 2008)

9) San Francisco.

I love America, and I jump at the opportunity to travel there. The country is so vast, and is naturally blessed with some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world. America’s cities are also some of the best that humanity has ever built. New York, Philadelphia and Boston are wonderful places that were launched on the backs of their old colonial past. But for me, San Francisco is the place to get to. A wonderful city in probably one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth. And it is not too big or small, San Francisco is just that right size where you can explore and relax in equal amounts. A city steeped in history but also at the forefront of modern technology, this really is one of the happiest places on Earth.

(Last visited 1994)

8) Mexico.

All right, I know this is a big one, but Mexico is one hell of a country, and I have to return here one day. From the magnificent ruins of Chichen Itza, to the wonderful beauty is Chiapas and the frenetic capital of Mexico City itself – which I have to point out as one of the best cities I have ever visited!

I saw a hell of a lot of this country, but a visit back is a must for me. I loved my time here, and would happily go back and this time see the north of Mexico as well has head to the coasts for a bit of R&R.

(Last visited 2002)

7) Budapest.

One of three European cities on my list – and surprising, as I have only really begun to explore Europe in the past two years. But Budapest is truly beautiful. Split by the Danube you have the flat and fun Pest on one side of the river and the hilly, snooty but really beautiful Buda on the other bank. One thing, the Danube really shapes this city and its history. I am probably biased to this city, and I have a lot of fond memories of the place, which is also why I do want to hedd back here. But genuinely, memories are not the only thing. Budapest has tons of stuff to see, and has awoken from its communist stupor with vigour. Check it out when you have the chance, you will not regret it! I will certainly be heading back there.

(Last visited 2011)

6) Meghalaya.

The wettest place on Earth may seem like a strange place to recommend, but Meghalaya is truly a cultural gem of this world. Its unique hilltop location on a ridge overlooking the Gangetic plain both isolates and links it to the surrounding country in one fell swoop. Three unique cultures dot the state, and its pristine environment truly makes this one of India’s great surprises. I have never felt do relaxed and refreshed in my life as I have in Meghalaya. Whether it is the excess amounts of water, the wholesome food or the really cool locals, Meghalaya is a place I could visit time and time again.

(Last visited 2009)

5) Yunnan.

One of China’s true gems, Yunnan has it all. Great food, spectacular countryside and a culture that intertwines South East Asia, Mainland China and Tibet all rolled into one easily accessible destination – no small feat for a country as difficult as China. From the border with Burma to the fringes of the Tibetan Plateau there is something for everyone. Dotted with the famed backpacker hangouts of Dali and Lijiang, it is easy to be an independent traveler or to mosey in and relax with the crowd. It is definitely a part of China that I would not hesitate to visit again!

(Last visited 2001)

4) Krakow.

Wow, wow, and wow would be the best three adjectives to describe Krakow.

I know, it is surprising to include this city here, but really, my Poland bias aside, I really have to recommend Krakow and it is a city I would run back to in a heartbeat. To simply put it, there is A LOT to do in Krakow, and Poland’s piss-poor marketing skills means that it is a destination that flies far beneath the radar. Without the crowds you get in other European hotspots (unless it is a stag-do summer), you can feel a little like a pioneer coming here with all the ease of mainstream European travel. There is so much to recommend about Krakow, go on, treat yourself, and take some time out over here.

(Last visited 2011)

3) Xinjiang.

China’s biggest province is arguably it emptiest as well. Yes, there are a hell of a lot of tensions over here, with a separatist movement that is far more bloody than Tibet’s. And it is hard work to travel across here. But it is a culturally fascinating area. Plus it is a desert, now that counts as a huge amount of kudos for me. I have spent an inordinate amount of time here. It really was the first place that I experienced ‘independent’ travel, far cut-off from family, friends and anyone else, having to survive on my own with my interactions meaning the difference between food or nothing. I also crossed this vast area by foot (took me two months and lost a third of my body weight) which drove me slightly nutty.

Xinjiang is definitely a place with strong emotional ties, but I can also safely say that this is a part of the world that has a hell of a lot to give to the outside visitor. And despite beinfg in China, it is ironically the easiest part of Central Asia to visit, and that is a spectacular region of the world to taste…

(Last visited 2003)

2) Berlin.

Surprised? Well, you really shouldn’t be. Berlin has it all. An all encompassing history, easily accessible tourist spots, all at a reasonable price. Whether you are looking for cool bars, great food or simple fun, Berlin has something for everyone. London and Paris may get all the glitz and glamour. Barcelona and Milan get all the cool kids. But Berlin itself is simply magnificent. There is far too much to see and do that can be simply described in a short paragraph. There is so much I have left to see. I will be back here, and probably sooner rather than later.

(Last visited 2012)

1) Assam.

There really is not an order to this list, and while Assam currently takes the number 1 spot, I would go back to any of these destinations if I had instant access to cash. But the reason I value Assam so highly is multiple. Firstly, it was my first destination in India, and so I will always have an emotional attachment here. Secondly, it is so big, and so the variety is there. Thirdly, it is undiscovered; despite its huge size and obvious attractions, foreign tourists are few and far between, partly as it is so cut off.

But Assam is truly a stellar destination. It is easy to get round, once you get there! It is also really friendly, with a shockingly competent Tourist Office that will go out of its way to give you information. With a wide variation in Geography from lowland plains to mountainous, I just did not have the time to see all there was. There is a magnificent history, one of Asia’s great civilisations nestled here in the fields. Lush forests and wildlife that will make your jaw drop (I saw my first Rhino here!)

I will go back to India again, and while there is so much of the country I have not seen, I will have to make a beeline for Assam.

(Last visited 2009)

So that is my top ten of places I have seen, and ideally, would love to go to again. Any comments, drop them in the box below. And have you been to any of these places? Agree with me and what would be your top ten?

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Wishlist – The Ten Places I would most like to see in my lifetime

For those that know me or regularly check back to this blog, you know that I love to travel. I have been to thirty five countries in my lifetime, which is a fair few in my short time on this Earth. But there is a lot more that I want to see, and so, here is a top ten of places I would really like to see before I die. From the impossible to reach to the high tourist footfall, here are the places that I have not yet visited that I really want to get to sometime in the near future.

10) Prague.

I thought I would start with a simple place. Even though I have been to the Czech Republic, the reality is that I drove through the country in the middle of the night. For me the Czech Republic provided toilet breaks, a small fine for not paying the motorway tolls and lots of crazy driving. I hope to rectify this in the not-too-distant future, and visit what is regarded as one of Europe’s prettiest capitals.

9) Bolivia.

In fact I would like to visit all of South America. I have never stepped foot on this continent and so anywhere on here would be great for me. But for me, Bolivia really stands out due to its combination of natural beauty and spectacular culture. In particular, I would really love to see Salar Uyuni, the largest salt flats on Earth.

8) Ethiopia.

Oldest civilisation on Earth after China, this is one of the world’s great cultural treasure troves. In fact the whole of the Horn of Africa is culturally rich. After all, humanity itself evolved here. Next door Somalia also holds a great allure, but that is not looking like a place I could visit anytime soon.

7) Ooty.

India is going to feature heavily on my list. Officially my new favourite country to visit, I have only been here for a few brief weeks and really only saw the North East. I would really love to see more, and Ooty has the combination of all that is magical. An old steam train puffing up the mountains, stunning scenery and a romantic edge that makes it popular with honeymooners the world over. Out of all the destinations on this list, this is probably the best combination of exotic and ease of travel.

(From Pratheept2000)

6) Tokyo.

What can I say. Cute gadgets, cute food and cute chicks. But behind all the cuteness, Tokyo really is one of the world’s great cities, and out of the ‘Big 4’ Global Cities, Tokyo is the only one I have not visited. It is big, crazy and expensive, but it is still worth a look in. One day…

5) Easter Island.

Well, the remotest place on Earth, one of the real outposts of civilisation with a fascinating Archaeological story. There is so much to learn from Easter Island, and so much tragedy too. The planet in a microcosm, and it shows on one small spot the great achievements of humanity and also the worst ravages of man. Expensive and hard to get to, but this is definitely one of the more likely destinations to reach.

4) Aksai Chin.

Yeah, right. The likelihood of getting here is about as good as me becoming a world class sprinter. At this moment in time, all entry is virtually impossible. But for me, it is the perfect combination of my two favourite types of scenery – desert and mountain. I have always been fascinated by the Himalaya, both from a scenic and cultural point of view. But, out of all the places on my list, I doubt I will see this place in my lifetime.

3) Istanbul.

Out of all the places on this list, Istanbul really should have been one that I should have arrived at sooner, but have so far been thwarted at every turn. I did once have a flight booked here, but, yeah, Easyjet changed the flight days, and so I plumped for the refund. Maybe I should have just jumped, but with my work being impossible to work around, it is one that is on my ‘to-do’ list.

2) Madagascar.

It may have been popularised by the cartoon, but for me, this island in the Indian Ocean really has it all. Exotic wildlife, a spectacular fusion of Polynesian and African culture and a landscape that is simply divine. For me, this destination is more about money and time rather than anything else.

(From Frank Vassen)

1) Arunachal Pradesh.

Again, this is one place I really should have visited sooner than I did. Arunachal Pradesh in India’s far North East is simply divine. Nestled in the slopes of the Himalaya, this is where the mighty Brahmaputra gets its power. All of India’s North East is fascinating, which is why on my two journeys to this great country, I focused my efforts here. Arunachal Pradesh would be the jewel in the crown, and it is just a case of getting round the bureaucracy. Unfortunately, it is Indian bureaucracy…grr…

(From Rajkumma1220)

So there you have it. Ten places in the world that I have not yet visited, but would so love to. What do you guys think, and have any of you been to anywhere on this list?

And what would be your wishlist of places to visit? And anything you think I should have included on this list but missed out (and trust me, it was hard to compile). Answers in the comments below!

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The EU and the Big Hate

Yeah, the EU and Britain. This small island, which thinks it is off the coast of North America is vehemently anti-European, and will do almost everything in its power to leave the grand idea of Europe. The Conservatives, two thirds of the current ruling coalition love to fight themselves into a tizzy about the EU idea. While the other political parties are smart enough to keep shtum about their differences over Europe (and other bits of infighting), the Conservatives have not learned from the 1990’s that while the EU is unpopular in the UK, it really does not matter with regards to my daily life.

So this week, Cameron, yet again, went to an EU summit looking like a spoilt child swinging his mummy’s handbag all over the shop. Embarrassing, even though I really agree with what the PM actually had to say. But he does come across really badly whenever it comes to the EU. And the French, who are really just snivelling self serving imbeciles always come across as slick. Damn those cunning French!

Believe it or not, after all that, I am fairly Pro-European. ‘Fairly’ is the good term to use. To be honest, it does not makes a difference to me whether Brussels, London or Washington is making laws, my taxes are not dropping anytime soon. As a floating voter (and we are dangerous bastards) it is the money in my pocket, not the hue of a flag that swings my vote, if I bother to vote at all. And while I have an opinion on Europe, it will not make my mind up when I go to the polls in 2015. In 2010, I am glad we got a coalition, and despite the cock and bull in the press, I think most of the people who voted then believe it was the right choice for that election. Going into a recession meant that no political party came out with any good ideas to get the UK moving. And it is still the case two years later…

Back to the EU. So, I like it? Yes, but…that is it, the ‘but’ bit. I do appreciate and take advantage of the free trade, travel and movement of people part of the EU. In fact, it is one of the best ideals implemented in modern politics over the past two generations. A lot of Brits (except retirees to Spain) really have not taken advantage of this. Lazy language skills can be blamed for this. But I have. In terms of my personal life, cultural activities and business projects, I take advantage of the EU’s free movement of goods, services and people like crazy. You may have noticed all those visits to Poland over the past couple of years, tak?

That part of me would not have been possible if the EU did not exist. It opened my life in so many ways, probably not envisioned by the grandees who thought up the project in the first place. For that, I am eternally grateful, and if Britain was to withdraw from Europe, it would peeve me off. While my personal life would remain intact (although become more tricky), my working side would become an absolute nightmare, well, I will be blunt, impossible.

And I love my films, get it! (Don’t ask about the rewrite…)

But yes, there are things I do not like about the EU. It is undemocratic, there are a lot of institutions and conventions that the UK never voted to join but were shoehorned into and the corruption levels make duck houses seem like…well, mere duck houses…

The EU will probably never face a proper reformation of its financial order as long as the nations resort to petty squabbling. It is sad, because the big EU contributors are probably more aligned then it seems when it comes to reigning in corruption and budgets. But David Cameron’s wibbly wobbly attitude does not help . The last shameful embarrassment in the EU last year looked like a small man playing to some Middle Englanders rather than a Prime Minister actually leading.

From my own opinion I think it is good for Britain to be a net contributor to the EU. The fact that we have peaceful borders and benign neighbours who are unlikely to attack Britain in the near future is something that cannot be measured by the financial contribution we make (in addition to the extremely successful NATO). So, I would rather see a stable Greece sorting out its tax collection system rather than see a Greece mired in strikes and uncertainty.

In the end, Britain is not going to leave the EU anytime soon. And good. But I do worry about the long term political relationship that the UK is building for itself. I do not want to leave the EU, I want to see a strong, democratic institution that does allow for good business and trade and that keeps the peace on the continent. Both from a personal and professional point of view, I have taken advantage of Europe, and it is something that personally benefits me. I believe if more people in the UK had the attachment via people to the continent that I have, the tide of euroscepticism would be a lot less.

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Lubiąż Abbey – a little walk round

On my last trip to Poland, I happened to visit Lubiąż Abbey, one of the largest Christian Complexes in the world and while today its Holy functions no longer exist, it is still a significant tourist draw in this part of Silesia. Of course, the day I went Siberia had decided to camp out in Poland (although it was still October) meaning that it was…well…cold when I visited the former monastery on the banks of the Odra.

A little history (my usual Wiki-Quote). The first Christian functions on this site were established around 1150. Like many parts of Silesia, its history is intertwined with the political wrangling that this part of Europe has found itself in. Lubiaz Abbey has come under the control of the Prussian States, the Polish, the Bohemians and even the Habsburgs of Austria-Hungary.

But it is during WWII that Lubiaz’s history come closer to the history in the UK. While occupied by Nazi Germany, Lubiaz’s vast underground complex was home to the engine factories for the V1 and V2 rocket bombs. This vast slave labour camp existed until the Red Army invaded. The Abbey itself fell into decay until 1989 and the fall of Communism. Restoration started and it is a process that continues today.

One little titbit about the Abbey was that in 1997 Michael Jackson visited Lubiaz. Rumour has it that his helicopter tour and stop-off was to see if he could buy the Abbey. Well, his offer was rejected. However, according to the guide who took us round, the visit was meant to be kept a secret, but the whole village (and most of the surrounding area) turned out to greet the King of Pop! Given the traditional Polish welcome of bread and salt, Michale Jackson was in Lubiaz Monastery for only 20 minutes. It is reported that he was astounded by the lavish interiors. Yes, I did go inside, but we were not allowed to take photos inside of the Abbey 😦

Yeah, I think you noticed it was snowing like crazy that day. Of all the days to see a top tourist attraction, I had to pick the one day in October where Siberia decided to decamp. Snow was everywhere, but luckily, having been bitten by the famed Polish cold earlier this year, I came fully wrapped up.

One little extra you will see at the abbey is an exhibition on old German trains. I do not exactly understand the reasoning behind it (other than the fact that Lubiaz was a hot tourist spot when it was called ‘Lubies’ and a part of Germany). Although I could not get exactly what everything was about, it was fascinating to see the old cultural links that used to exist between Silesia and its big neighbour to the west (something that is more evident in Wroclaw).

Getting there and away:

One word – car. It maybe only 40 miles or so from Wroclaw, but Lubiaz is a small village and it is difficult to get to. There are local (and infrequent) buses from the two nearest railheads in Glogow and Wroclaw throughout the day, but really, unless you have your own transport (or speak brilliant Polish), it is a pain to get here.

Accommodation here is non existent too, and the restaurant in the Abbey keeps limited opening hours, so plan your trip accordingly…

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A busy month – you bet!

Wow…

I do believe this has been the longest gap between blog posts since…forever, or something like that. I have seen a lot since then in the news. An American Yawn, a Chinese Yawn, Qatada and something in the Middle East.

Oh, and yes, I was in Poland for half that time with a lot of filming. In the can as they speak. Lots to edit, rewrite and pray for before heading off to the next bit next year.

And I did take a little saunter through Poland too. After all, it was a ‘working holiday’.

But enough of that, I think it is time to actually write a blog insead of talk about not writing one. Let me flex those fingers…

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Plane Crash

I do not often really care for TV, but I have kept an eye on this story since it first surfaced, and finally, last night it was screened on the box, and I will be catching up on this online…

Plane Crash on Channel 4

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Questions about Magda

Making films is not just a simple case of writing a script, getting together a few camera angles and hey presto, you have made movies. It is always a lot more complex than that. As the preparations for the shoot of Great Brytania continues, I have been in communication with Marzenna Więcek (who plays the part of Magda) and have been answering her questions about the character. As the writer (and the director), it is me who has to create a mold so that Marzenna can fit into the character I want to portray on the screen. So below are some of the questions she asked, and my answers.

Next week, I will answer the final, most important Question about Magda:

What is Magda’s target? To Adapt?

To Survive, plain and simple.

What are Magda’s aims?

To get more drugs. She is hooked, and both the physical and more importantly, the psychological hold of the drug on Magda is, at the moment, unbreakable.

Is Gemma her first girlfriend? No. Magda is a lesbian, not bisexual. One of the reasons Magda left Poland was that she could not resolve the conflict between society and her sexuality. Running away to the ‘big city’ is a common phenomena amongst young gay/lesbian people seeking a more tolerant backdrop to their sexuality ten or twenty years ago.

Has Magda slept with guys before?

Yes. Magda experimented when she was younger, but was very uncomfortable sleeping with men. This is how she knows that she is fully lesbian rather than a lesbian identified bisexual.

Was she in love with some guy?

No.

Has she had before some sexual experiences with any woman? Or with Gemma?

Yes, she has been sexually active with women both in Poland and London. Magda has had more female sexual partners while in London.

Is the relationship with Gemma more psychical / platonic love?

Magda and Gemma love each other. But obviously, Magda is quite sick, and Gemma has given birth recently, so their sex drive has diminished recently.

Does Magda want physical intimacy? Did the drugs not kill her sex drive?

Magda is as sexual as the next human being. The drugs both enhance and depress her appetite for sex. Obviously, the drugs have a major effect on her mentality, and the obtaining and consumption of drugs is Magda’s priority. But like anyone else, Magda wants sex with her girlfriend, Gemma.

When was her mother dead?

When Magda was a teenager. I would say around 14 years old.

How did Magda’s mother die?

Cancer, easy answer, difficult for the character to deal with.

How did the father deal with her death?

Badly. The major reason he drinks is that he has never been able to reconcile his grief.

Is she accusing the father because of that?

There is definitely resentment and anger directed towards her father. Grief is a complicated emotion, and while she does not blame her father for her mother’s death, their is anger (misdirected at the father) for why she had to go rather than him. Also, remember that the father does not accept Magda’s sexuality, which further adds tension to their relationship.

Is she accusing the mother?

Of course there is also anger towards the mother at why she had to die and leave her behind. As I have mentioned previously, grief is a complicated emotion. I will talk to Marzenna about this when I come to Poland.

Was the mother happy with the father? Yes.

Did M. talk with the mother about her sexual orientation?

No, that was not done in 1990’s Poland.

How the mother reacted on this?

While the mother might have suspected about Magda’s sexuality, to be honest, she died before Magda reached any form of sexual maturity.

Did the mother betray the father? Do You have suspicions about it?

No, they stayed married faithfully, with their ups and downs.

How was the mother treated by the father?

Like a Polish housewife. Remember, the mother would have died around the time of the early 1990’s, and socially, Poland was a very different place from now. Less divorce, more conservative family values. People stayed married for longer.

How long did Magda take drugs?

Petty drugs (alcohol and cannabis) would have started from mid-1990’s, when Magda was in her late teens. Heavier drugs, she would have encountered in London.

Did M. love someone before Gemma?

Of course. If Magda is in her thirties, then Gemma is not her first love.

Did she face any love disappointment before she was betrayed?

Yes. Her girlfriend in Poland probably betrayed her for a man. Remember, she looks at that photograph at the bus terminal, and is one more reason to leave Poland. Magda feels that Polish girls (when she was there in the 1990’s/early noughties) will eventually bow to society norms and ‘become’ heterosexual.

Did she hurt anyone?

I’m sure Magda is no angel, but Magda probably sees herself more as a victim, and that would be bound up in the grief of her mother’s death.

Is he afraid she can loose Gemma?

Yes and no. Magda is a bit older than Gemma, and part of her wants Gemma to have a better life without herself, the AIDS victim. But of course, if Gemma left Magda, she would be emotionally distraught. But remember, the problem with Magda (and Gemma) they love each other, but not themselves enough.

In which way the heroin made her emotionally wild?

Heroin in fact probably calms Magda down, makes her quite mellow. Crack Coccaine on the other hand will make her brave enough to laugh at Ritchie.

Does she have suicidal thoughts?

All the time.

Since when was Magda infected with HIV?

Okay, a bit of technicality here. The definition of AIDS is different from country to country. Here, in the UK, it is when the White Blood Cell count (the cells that attack bacteria and viruses) drops below a certain level. Now, while drugs can reverse this count upwards, in the UK, once you have been diagnosed with AIDS, you, cannot be undiagnosed and revert to HIV, even though your White Blood Cell count has risen to more ‘normal’ levels.

Magda got an infection, went to the local health clinic. A lot of outreach health workers are available in London to women working in the sex industry. They provide free (NHS) and of course, confidential help to all that visit them. Magda, while sick, would have got tested for HIV and was then found to be infected.

Now, to directly answer the question, Magda has probably had HIV for three to four years, but as she is bad with her medication (partly due to being a drug taker and so not having any concept of time, plus the fact that she really does not want to cure herself) means that Magda now has full blown AIDS. Remember, Magda’s cuts and sores are not healing.

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