Tag Archives: documentary

The Last Laugh

Today, Pamela Jo found this interesting article on Robert Mugabe in The Daily Post. Here’s the story – possibly false, but with a whiff of truth – no Zanu-PF spokesman will tell you about his boss, Robert Mugabe. Back in 1958, when he was teaching in Ghana, Mugabe met fellow teacher and Ghanaian national Sally Hayfron and fell in love. He took Sally back to what was then Rhodesia, and the couple were married in St Peter’s Catholic Church in Harare.
Many difficult years later, Mugabe became President of newly independent Zimbabwe, and the couple moved into Harare’s majestic State House. sallyhayfronstamp Before long Mugabe took measures that echoed those of dictators all over the world. He robbed the national exchequer, and opened a bank account in Switzerland with the proceeds – some millions of dollars, apparently. However, anxious to avoid exposure by the western press, he cunningly put the account in Sally’s name.

Sally died of kidney failure in 1992 – a lasting pity because she had been a restraining influence on the man. But it left him free to marry his South African mistress, Grace. Then, naturally enough, he moved to take control of Sally’s Swiss account. But no. It was explained to him that under Ghanaian law the property of a wife goes, on her death, to her family. Not to her husband.

Sally’s Ghanaian relatives got the lot. Mugabe is said to have broken every window in State House.

Desperately Seeking Sally

Today, we’re back on the story of Sally Francesca Hayfron Mugabe, the first wife of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. The more I read about Sally, the more I adore her. I think she would have been an amazing person to know. Almost everything you read says she was a tempering influence on him. When she was alive and in his life, she could settle him down, make him be more reasonable, mitigate much of the vindictive anger that he used against others. Her love calmed him, sweetened him.

She was born into a powerful and political family in Ghana. She was a good student, loved politics and trained to be a teacher in Ghana. sallyhayfron Sally was in her formative teen years during the period that Ghana struggled to separate from Britain. She was 24 years old in 1957, the year Ghana gained its independence. In 1958, she became entranced with the young man from Rhodesia who taught African history at the famous Achimoto School. Founded in 1927, the Achimoto School was famous for its all-inclusive philosophy, teaching boys and girls, blacks and whites in the same way, at the same time, from the beginning. The young Mugabe shared his frustration at his country’s subservience to Britain. He wanted to bring freedom to his people. Sally became his most ardent supporter. They were married in 1961.

During the next 20 years, they helped lead Rhodesia to become the independent nation of Zimbabwe (1980), they both endure imprisonment for political reasons, they lost their only son to malaria, Sally came to known as Amai (mother) for her work in Zimbabwe, Robert started an affair (and later married) Grace Marufu.

Emily, Oh Emily

On my Facebook account, I’ve been updating my status frequently with the comments about my work on “the Emily and Susan” story. I’m always a bit obtuse about it because, like all writers, I have this basic fear that someone else will see the story and decide to do something similar. And I think this is a really good, really amazing story.

A bit more than two years ago, I was “in a poetry phase.” I’d recently re-watched SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE and was enamored of the written word. I started messing around with sonnets … again … almost with the same enthusiasm as when I was in college. Soon, the rigor of the form dampened creativity and the sonnet lost its appeal. So I started playing with free verse and, for inspiration, I spent time re-reading my favorite poets. only known image of emily dickinsonI stumbled back into Emily Dickinson. Her biography was well-known to me. Unmarried, probably agoraphobic, woman dies with only ten (10!) poems published. Following her death, over 1700 (that’s one thousand, seven hundred) poems are discovered in her home in bound books she called “fasicles.” One thousand, seven hundred.

I started writing a poem a day using Dickinson as my standard bearer. I loved her imagery, her cadence, her style.

Her breast is fit for pearls,
But I was not a “Diver”–
Her brow is fit for thrones
But I have not a crest.
Her heart is fit for home–
I–a Sparrow–built there
Sweet of twigs and twine
My perennial nest.

I started noticing the tenderness and longing and eroticism in her writing. So, how does a reputed agoraphobe have these sorts of thoughts? Did she have relationships in her adolescence of which I was unaware? So, I started reading more. More on her biography and more of her poetry.

WILD nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Our luxury!
Susan Gilbert Dickinson
Futile the winds
To a heart in port,—
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!

Who the heck is she mooring in? Wild nights with whom? Whose breasts? Doesn’t sound much like a (male) editor that she’s pining for, does it? And then I find information on Susan Gilbert Dickinson, her sister-in-law. A woman she knew from school, a woman who married her brother, Austin, and lived next door to family home for Emily’s entire adult life. About half of Emily’s correspondence was to Susan and many poems were written TO her or ABOUT her (in spite of efforts by others to obliterate Susan from Emily’s writings.

Mutilation

Scholar Martha Nell Smith‘s wonderful books OPEN ME CAREFULLY and ROWING IN EDEN offered a more complete, richer biography of Emily. Using the poetry and correspondence of both Emily and Susan, Professor Smith brought an entirely new understanding of Emily Dickinson and her work.

Tomorrow, more about the mistress of Austin Dickinson and the writings of Susan Dickinson. If you haven’t figured it out, I’m working on a screenplay about the Dickinsons.

Mormon Colonies in Mexico

It seems like forever since I last blogged. I guess that’s because it HAS BEEN forever. We are in the final throes of finishing the documentary on the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. The documentary, THE LAND OF REFUGE has been generating a lot of enthusiasm and interest in the U.S. and Mexico. People have been purchasing the DVD at a special reduced-rate pre-release price. Lots of people. We’re going to be sending the documentary to the replicators next week. polygamistsutahprison.jpgTwo weeks later, it’s in the hands of all of those “early adopters.” I’ve been so grateful for those folks. Every time someone calls or writes to order a copy of the film (from three to eleven people per day), one feels this excitement and responsibility to deliver a really outstanding documentary.

Often times, in front of the classroom, I would talk about filmmaking and animation. I’d talk about how many people think they have a good idea but then they never actually do anything. Or, if they do begin, they never finish. I would always say, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. People like the IDEA of filmmaking a lot more than the actual process.” When I first started in this arena, I was told to make sure that I loved whatever project I decided to do because I would spend the next three years working on it. It’s true, you know. Projects consume your life and suck up all of your available time.

It has been incredibly difficult to write about independent filmmaking, animation, and media while making a film. There just isn’t enough time in the day. I’ve got a pile of unanswered emails, can’t remember the last time I made a social telephone call, and I fall into bed every night feeling just a half-step short of half-dead. I have been beat, beat, beat. I’m feeling quite proud of the documentary. We’ve had a few people screen the documentary and, thus far, they have been deeply moved and quite enthusiastic.

We’re now making arrangements for the PREMIERE in Arizona. It looks like the public screening will be the weekend of November 21st, 2008. We’ll be at the Harkins Theatre in Mesa, Arizona. They have digital projectors so it’s going to be quite easy to accomplish. So, mark your calendars!!! The debut is almost here!

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