15 September, 2010 Happiness and hospitality in Costa Rica, by Viraj Singh

Not to sound too ignorant, I had to look on a map to figure out where Costa Rica was. When Jan first told me we were going there for the next leg of our shoot, obviously I was quite exited by the prospect of going to and area of the world where I hadn’t yet been. During an initial internet search of Costa Rica, google brought up two types of images, thick green jungles with strange and exotic animals poseing through forest growth, and beaches with beautiful girls with g strings.


We were to shoot two films. The World Future Council, an organization based in Germany had given us the job to make a film commemorating an award they were going to give Costa Rica for a law they had passed protecting bio-diversity in their country. Jan had taken the opportunity to add a chapter to Silent Snow.


Now writing this, all the images of the things we did and saw are reeling through my mind. The Costa Rica shoot have to be my most satisfying documentary project of my ten year career.


The highlight for me was the underwater sequence, where Pipaluk had a tour underwater where she was told the situation of the corals in the caribean side of the country, by Memo, our wonderful scuba instructer and all round go to it guy for pretty much anything.


We stayed in Joriene’s beautiful wooden jungle house, which was in a town called Pourto Veijo. It was situated in the middle of a jungle where we would be woken up by blood curdling screems of monkeys. Joriene had warned us to expect them, however there was nothing that anybody could have said that prepared us for their terrifying screems and growls at four thirty in the morning, that would go on for about an hour. At times it seemed like they were as close as ten meters away, but it was almost impossible to see ever them. There were times I was sure I would wake up cuddled next to one of them high up in a tree, having being kidnapped by the monkey brigade. It was only once that we managed to spot them fearlessly jumping from branch to branch high up in the canopy. There was one morning when I had just managed to go back to sleep after being woken up by our monkey friends when I was dive bombed by a humming bird. He had this sound that his wings made, sort of like a small helicopter right above me where I slept. At first I couldn’t make out what it was, my sleepy eyes were peering through my eyelids to make out what this small little thing was doing, making small darts and hovering right above my face. My first thought was that a mini alien ship had finally come to fulfill the promise of abducting me. I later came to be convinced that this was the same humming bird that was tormenting me throughout my stay there. I had taken up the job to capture on our camera a few images of a humming bird. What had happened earlier was that as we were shooting Pipaluk walking through the jungle around Jorienes house, a humming bird had suddenly swooped into shot, done a little circle around her head, hovered for a second and then zipped away. This I have to say was one of the most delightful shots we had managed to capture, as it was total freak luck. He must have known that after his little act we would need a few shots of him to finish the sequence. Each day as I tried to capture him, he would hover precicely at the spot where my camera wasn’t pointed at, or zip and hover at the precise time that I was walking around with my camera, knowing full well that by the time I put the camera down he would be gone. Although he did manage to grace me with his prescence at the very last morning, where I sat in wait with my camera pointed and ready. He provided for me the most beautiful shot of a humming bird ever seen on film. At least I thought so.


On the first night in Puerto Viejo, it had taken us a whole day to arrive there from San Jose, I was given a room on the ground floor of the house to sleep in. As it was night and there was no electricy at the house, it was a little hard to see anything. All work at night was conducted by either candle light, torch light or moonlight. I had already settled into my room with all my things. I was doing a bit of exploring, and organizing of my things. Suddenly I saw the first one, a huge cockroach. If there is one thing in life that I cannot handle that would be cockroaches, and by the next fifteen minutes I had uncovered a whole family, father, mother, sister, uncles, brother, and I think there was even a few families visiting from far away. This wasn’t something I had bargained for, and I couldn’t even go close to that room. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problems with spiders, lizards, or snakes. But if there is a cockroach anywhere in my vicinity that I know of, I become like a little girl. Luckily Jorine allowed me to sleep on the balcony where the only problem was mosquitoes, and I knew how to handle those guys.


My other favorite part of the shoot was meeting Timataeo and the young girls who we filmed. We had the opportunity to film them in all different scenarios, situations and having to battle all kinds of obstacles. I had to learn broken Spanish to get them to redo various activities for the camera. I am sure in the beginning the little girls had no idea why we were asking them to do over and over again certain activities. Timataeo seemed to be clued into the game. He understood and did to the best of his abilities what ever we asked of him. The little girls at the beginning were a little harder but by the end of the shoot they also managed to get the swing of things and I am sure that by now have already hired agents and are well on their way to becoming successful soap stars in bustling town of Bri Bri.


What made me most happy was when I heard that Jorine had asked the girls when she was dropping them home after we had wrapped, if they had enjoyed their experience and if they had been annoyed by having to repeat actions and us old foreign people constantly ordering them around. They apparently had replied that they had totally enjoyed their experience and loved hanging out with us, and they had realized why they had to do what we were making them do.


But what I was most overcome with ,not to say that I was surprised, but overcome with was the overall hospitality that we enjoyed everywhere we went. Every village, every house, and every person both in the city, and in the outlying parts where we filmed. Even the foreigners who we meet through Joriene and her family, were so incredibly welcoming. It seemed as though that the people of Costa Rica had set a certain precedence that one has to follow while ones time there. Jan had said something about Costa Rica having one of the highest happiness quotents in the world. This was truly an example of how true this statement was.



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What a wonderful website, Viraj. keep the film rolling!

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