This is how I started filming.
“It was in 2004, on a Sunday. Everyone was very upset, running around. There had been a tsunami – people had died and all the coastal villages were destroyed. At that time there were no cell phones, mail wasn’t working so great, and even the normal landline wasn’t really established. So everyone who was concerned about Auroville but who were abroad contacted auroville.org, the official website of Auroville, which I was managing at the time. I received thousands of mails, it was really tough to manage the inflow and let everyone know what was going on. So I made a CD with information, lists, pictures and so on for the press and a page on the auroville.org website to inform everyone about the Tsunami situation. It was really something. After doing all of this I got invited to the relief meetings, where Aurovilians and villagers were coming together to see how we could generate funds for the people impacted. There were so many things coming up. Wellpaper started to come up with women support groups making baskets out of newspaper, Upasana started to make these small dolls for fundraising, Abha from Shradhanjali made paper bags for collecting and distributing the essentials – it was a beautiful energy of everyone coming together in such difficult times.
I was so touched that I said to a friend at the time, ‘Someone should capture all of this on film,’ just out of a mood. He answered, ‘Then you should do that.’ I said that I didn’t even have a camera, and he was so casual: ‘Well Doris, then get one.’ A few years later I spoke to him about this conversation, which had such an impact on my life, and I told him: “You didn’t even ask me if I would have the money to purchase a camera.’ (laughs)
So I bought a camera, a friend of mine brought one from Germany, and I started out, having no clue how to operate this thing. I met a guy at the beach who was filming, his name was Basil, and I simply asked him if he could teach me. So in the mornings he taught me and in the afternoon I would practice the same by myself. It was fun, he only spoke French and I only spoke English so we mainly communicated with hands and noises.
So this is how the first movie got created about the project Tsunamica of Uma and Vimal. This is my first work. This is how I started filming.
The second project which shaped my work in Auroville was the Matrimandir drone flight. It started around the time when everyone was talking about drones and flight videos. A friend of mine called and said that there were Japanese people coming and they had this thing with them that flies and records, and did I want to come and watch? So of course I went, because it was something new. The funny thing was that these guys also didn’t have a clue. They unpacked it and in the first 5 minutes they crashed the thing. It was crooked and taking horrible, shaky pictures.
Maybe two months later a young guy contacted me, Ashwin a kid from Auroville, who had just finished his studies of robotics in Malaysia. As a final project, he built a drone which he then brought to Auroville. He sent a message to me, ‘I will bring the drone, do you want try flying?’ At the time flying drones was a grey area, there were no rules or regulations. We were not clear on how to do this, so we asked a friend who is a lawyer. He simply told us that in case they stop us we should say that Auroville is under government protection and that we are flying on government grounds. Luckily, nobody ever asked. So we secretly filmed in the morning, in the gardens of Matrimandir. One of the people working at the Matrimandir saw us and gave us a contact to a guest, Nick, who had a drone as well and knew how to fly it. I met him and asked him what he would charge and he answered, “I am always hungry,” so I got him lunch. We discussed what he would be interested in filming, and he wanted to film ‘this golden Matrimandir’, as he called it. Yeah, I agreed that that was a good idea.
The next morning at 6.30 am, we went to the gardens and we flew this drone of his. You could see that he knew what he was doing, he had a concept of how to shoot the video. The whole thing was two flights only.
So then I had his footage and the one from Ashwin, and I just cut that together, without a concept really. I showed that to Francis, my partner, and he said it was great, but that now, we should also go inside. So we got permission and I asked my friend Vimal for the job, as he is the best cameraman around. We filmed with a Steadicam inside. It was really difficult with the light, everything in there is dark and bright at the same time, and the yellowish tint on everything makes it really difficult. In the Inner Chamber, it took Vimal and Francis quite a long time to find the perfect positions to get the shots right.
Then I cut all of this together and Holger, who is a composer, passed by and I asked him whether he could give me some of his music. I showed him the video. After seeing it, he said in a flat tone of voice: “I need to make something for you.” Two days later I had a music clip.
So then we uploaded it. That was that.
This whole project was not planned – it just happened, and everyone who was involved says it is so amazing that it just happened like that. That was magical for us, because this is how it should be, that things come together like that.”