A Work of Poetry
April 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
My documentary film was shown at The Fritz two nights ago. Raffi Cavoukian and his Centre for Child Honouring hosted the event as a fundraiser for the non-profit.
Taxi Casablanca, as the film is called, had its world premier at the same small theatre on Salt Spring Island, to a sold-out house of friends and family, exactly three years ago. At the time, I was so bewildered by the project, that had spanned three years of tireless work leaving me utterly exhausted, even broken and damaged from within, that I couldn’t face the crowd who had come out in droves to support me. I couldn’t receive their love and warmth. I sat in the back row and during the movie chugged back straight vodka — can you believe that! I don’t even drink. I just needed to escape how overwhelmed I was inside.
At the end of that first show, a group of women gathered around me. They were so touched by the film that we — all five of us– broke out into tears.
Tears for what? For the story of Zakia Mezzour, for her courage, for her beauty, for her honesty, for her willingness to live.
Tears for what? For the unlived freedom inside of ourselves? For the stories of women that unite us across the world? For the stories that point to our common humanity, our common need to be ourselves and live with freedom, safety, dignity and self-respect? Or maybe tears for our opening hearts — the ways that we come to love people who have nothing to do with us, who live on the other side of the world, whose paths with ours may never intersect.
Were we crying perhaps because “whether we say it out loud or not, or to ourselves or not, or to each other or not, we all know, we all understand in our hearts that women are the soul of the world,” as Sharon Butala wrote in her exquisite memoir Perfection of the Morning. Or because we know on some basic gut level which is often not even conscious or able to be expressed in words, that this, this soul of the world, has not expressed its full potential, is in so many ways, in so many countries, in so many families, in so many governments, not allowed its freedom, or worse yet, is deeply damaged. Flashes of dire poverty, sex-trafficking, violent pornography, forced marriages, domestic violence, rape… We try to force these images and feelings from our minds as we feel helpless to change what has, in our world, become all too commonplace.
We cry because a woman who drives a taxi is a woman who can leave when she wants to, and go where she pleases. In the film, she drives to the sea to escape the noise and pollution of the city. Just this simple choice alone, the decision to go where she must go, to experience what she must experience, means she is a woman with autonomy, in touch with her own needs and values, in a relationship with her own life.
For me, the tears were for all of these reasons, and for even deeper reasons: I missed my friend, Zakia Mezzour, a woman who drives a taxi six thousand miles away from me who I loved and who changed my life.
At the end of the film screening two nights ago there was a Q&A session with the audience. Unlike three years ago, I had the courage to face the supportive and loving audience.
After some time, I was pleased that Raffi (famous children’s song writer and advocate for children’s rights) stood up on stage and said:
“For me this film is a work of poetry.”
To hear him say this in front of the entire audience made me feel that what I had been trying to accomplish over all those years of work and struggle had finally been recognized. Perhaps the only way we can change the world is through poetry, through seeing and feeling the things that can’t be verbalized, categorized, or compartmentalized. Poetry allows for complexity and conversation and paradox, it allow for feelings to emerge inside our hearts; it allows for inner transformation — the only thing that has ever changed the world.
Earlier that day, another person had said something to me equally meaningful.
I have often questioned what the impact of this film was on Zakia’s life. I know it wasn’t necessarily a positive experience for her. And at the end of it all I hadn’t succeeded in saving her life, that is, I hadn’t bought her a new home to live in, I hadn’t lifted her out of her poverty, I hadn’t secured her an old age pension. Perhaps our friendship had for all of these reasons been a disappointment to her.
It wasn’t until yesterday when my mom said, “Through this film you let her know that she is important” that I realised this was the gift I had hoped to give to Zakia all along. This was the goal of my three years of hard work. And this, in fact, is all that we can ever give to anyone.
The “work of poetry” that is Taxi Casablanca is my meagre offering to Zakia Mezzour. It seeks to tell the world that there is a person you have never heard of, who you will probably never meet, who is extremely important and valuable and precious.
She is Zakia Mezzour, and she is also all of us.
Finally, this month I am moving into a new cabin. I found out a few days ago that this cabin, which is on a gorgeous pastoral farm, used to be a Turkey shed (perhaps more on this later). It was the home of one well-fed and happy turkey, the place where she lived out her life in the sun and the rain.
Next month there will be a new turkey moving in, her name is Mary Flowers and she is looking forward to more poetry.