Dr. Chittaranjan Misra wrote a wonderful article about our film including his story of how he met Jim Haynes. This article was published in “Literature and World Cinema” by Dr. Itishri Sarangi. We appreciate it very much.
Meeting Jim: A Film in the Making
Dr. Chittaranjan Misra
I met Jim Haynes in Lyon, France in 2007.I watched him in a play reading session in the International Conference titled Viva Pinter. The conference organised by the University of Jean Moulin in honour of the Nobel laureate Harold Pinter brought together scholars, stage directors, film directors and lawyers. Jim Haynes was a delegate extraordinary. His life long association with theater and films, his Sunday Dinners and social networking, his teaching Media Studies and Sexual Politics at the University of Paris for thirty years and many such other achievements have made him stay close to the hearts of thousands of people all over the globe. He is a (young!) handsome man of 83.I feel proud to share the news that a film is being made documenting his extraordinary journey.
Jim’s love for literature and film has drawn many who are engaged in crossovers to other genres. Long before the introduction of Facebook the ideal site for social networking was conceived by Jim through his Sunday Dinners in Paris. For more than four decades he has been hosting dinners providing opportunities for people from various walks of life especially art lovers to connect with each other. A regular visitor to international festivals like The Edinburgh International Festival and Cannes Film Festival Jim has endeared many film makers, performers and artists to him. He helped in the foundation of the Traverse Theatre and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. By the end of the 1960s Amsterdam was considered to be the countercultural capital of Europe. It was where Jim published Suck, the first European sex paper . Around the same time he organized Wet Dream Film Festivals. The first was held in the autumn of 1970. An international jury for the festival included Germaine Greer, Jay Landesman, Richard Neville, Michael Zwerin, Didi Wadidi and Al Goldstein. Germaine Greer of the jury is regarded as one of the most significant feminist voices of the 20th century whose name has become synonymous with feminist “bra burning” activism of the late 1960s.Jim was involved in the underground cultural scene. He co-founded the pivotal alternative paper International Times, known as “I.T.”
“Meeting Jim” is a documentary on Jim Haynes. A team of women from different countries have come together to film the life of such an extraordinary man. “In the film, the camera follows Jim in his daily life in the city of Paris, to some of his regular spots and activities and into his home: a Parisian atelier where he has lived for the past 43 years” the team declares in their website ‘www.indiegogo.com’. This Parisian atelier is the ideal and the real site to reconstruct reality on celluloid. This setting being the basic referent the camera would move to other places like Edinburgh and London. They have a plan to spend twenty days there at Edinburgh shooting. Jim has frequented the city for more than forty years by train. The shooting will cover scenes from the live events from Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This will be Jim’s sixtieth visit to the festival. The film would document real events but would capture the traces of a long voyage of Jim. Back in London Jim’s meeting hundreds of his old friends and fans would be screened in places like Victoria and Albert Museum. They plan to produce Meeting Jim as “a documentary film aiming to be shot through Jim’s way of perceiving people, social missions, life. The journey of Jim and of the film -which will take place in 2016 between Paris, London and Edinburgh, is just an ordinary journey of an extraordinary man.”
Meeting Jim is like meeting people and the film will be more efficient in creating a dual dimension of structure. Jim cannot be visualized without his friends. It’s about people meeting Jim inside the film and spectators meeting him and the people meeting him in the cinema hall. The film is in the making and it’s not wise to comment before it is made. But the Director and Producer Ece Ger’s Statement regarding the purpose of the film is certainly noteworthy. Since Ece has observed the transformation that has come in the lives of people who have met him and the positive vibes they have absorbed from their association with Jim she feels like exploring the essence inherent in Jim as a catlyser. The film is not just about demonstrating scenes of dining and party times but about a philosophy of life. It’s a philosophy that cuts across different constituents of identities of people and renders equality of position to each in a collective and collaborative venture. She observes: “In his world people are not defined by their beliefs, origin or age. Everyone is equal, no one has any privilege. He has this unique way of perceiving the world that is not easily witnessed in practice. Anyone who has ever been involved in his life still continues to be a part of this endless human chain, of this big family.”For Ece, the young director, the film is about the essence of Jim’s life. She has not been able to find the essential Jim in the number of interviews, short/medium-length documentaries on Sunday dinners and some popular advertisements with Jim starring. She believes that the film will be able to speak about hope which is losing visibility in a world ridden with violence.
It has become fashionable to discuss postmodernism in cinema. During a time when obscure plots, pastiche and parody shatter the sense of specificity of place and time aiming at shocking the audience Ece undertakes to recover the referent through a docu-film. Documentary films do not give in to a display of commodities at the expense of the sense of history. Overdose of reflexive sophistication leads to a dissolution of temporal logic .
Val Hill opines: “The question of how we make films and how we understand films after 9/11, during the war against terror, is answered very differently by different nations. Hollywood’s response is complex, and has nothing to do with temporal logic.”( 2011:149 )
But the modalities referring to time are important for the director of Meeting Jim. Her plans are based on strategic representation of time and space. The film aims to be a ‘loyal reflection of Jim’s philosophy of life’. But Jim’s philosophy which refers to creating change in the community by bringing people together is a performative sign. Life can be more peaceful and enriched through collaboration. Such a truth or philosophy in practice has to be demonstrated through the semiotics of film.
Associated with drama, literature, film, media studies, university teaching and alternate thinking Jim has attracted people from different countries and professions. He is not bothered by the privilege or its lack one is tagged with in social hierarchy. The dignity and warmth he extends to one and all while connecting with others makes him special. I met Jim in Viva Pinter Conference in the University of Jean Moulin,Lyon 3 in March 2007.He was an honoured guest who read from Pinter’s play in a session and after that when all were leaving the venue he called me. He gave me a printed page that contained all about the Sunday dinners and asked me to join in case I had a plan to visit Paris on my way back to India. I couldn’t make it though I changed my plane at Charles de Gaulle Airport. Back home when I tried to know more about him I came to realise how great and wonderful person is Jim. I have tried to be in touch with him ever since through email and have received his warm responses to all my queries. InOctober, 2007 I published an article on Jim in a magazine (published in Bhbaneswar,Odisha,India).It was written in Odia/Oriya (my language).On 25 March ,2007 he had emailed: “Chittaranjan, It was delightful to meet you and to share Viva Pinter with you. My web information is www.jim-haynes.com Maybe one of these days our paths will cross again. Jim”.
I have not been able to meet him since and our paths have never crossed as yet. But Meeting Jim has come as a kind of possibility recompensing my craving.
I was interested in writing on Jim in Odia during the same year and on request he had sent me a brief account of his visits to India which forms a part of his ongoing Newsletters as Newsletter No. 671 (1 August 2007) entitled “Three Trips to India – Another on the Way”. Jim’s first person narrative can tell more about his love for India and his Indian experience:
“It is too long and too complicated to relate here and now, but in 1977 a delightful woman gave me a free ticket to fly around the world. And in December 1977, my feet touched ground in Bombay (as it was then called by the entire world). I called my dear friend Pearl Padamsee from the air port and she said that there would be a dinner party that evening for the recent graduates of the New Delhi theatre and film school, that not only was I invited, but that as far as she was concerned, I would be the Guest of Honor. The party was held in the mayor’s mansion and the host and hostess were Pushpindar and Neelam Chowdhry. The evening was delightful in every way. Attractive and intelligent people, great food and warm conversations. I was made to feel completely at home. Most of the evening was spent talking with a young man named Om Poori, who was to become a major actor in Indian cinema. The host and hostess insisted I move from my hotel into their home. This kind invitation was accepted. Neelam and Pearl took me around the city and introduced me to dozens of their friends.”
Jim’s first contact with India began in 1962 when he co-organized The Writers’ Conference (with John Calder and Sonia Orwell) for the Edinburgh International Festival. “Among the 70 writers to attend from all corners of the world was Kushwant Singh. Then in London in the mid-60s, I was invited to dine with the Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi. For reasons I will never know, she hosted a small dinner party for about a dozen writers, poets, theatre directors, journalists. It was an incredible evening. Again in London, the architect for my Arts Laboratory project was Chotu Padamsee. This led to a meeting with his brother, Alyque Padamsee. And then to Pearl Padamsee. Also in London in the 60s, the editor, Sonny Mehta, became a friend. Later in Paris, I played host to Anand Patwardhan, a superb film-maker, from Bombay. Sanjeev Prakash, from New Delhi, stayed in my atelier in the mid-70s and we have been friends ever since.And Pearl Padamsee cooked a curry for my Sunday evening salon in Paris on a number of occasions.”
Jim made his second trip to India in 2002.He arrived in Mumbai first. Many people were invited to a party hosted for him and his travel companion Antonia Hoogewerf. There he met Om Poori again and gave him a copy of a book he had written that mentioned their meeting in 1977.Jim went to Kolkata from there and was “seduced by the charms of this city”. He met Sashi Kapoor and spent lots of time with him and with his daughter and her husband. By train Jim travelled to Delhi and was impressed by the Delhi University campus. Jim remembers; “On another night, we dined with the delightful Sushmita Sarmah (who I met in Paris when she discovered my autobiography in her friend’s library, read it and called me)”.
Then in 2006, he attended, with a number of friends from Paris, the Kolkata Film Festival where he met dozens of people including the Director, Nilanjan Chatterjee, and others connected with the Festival.
He visited Kolkata consecutively in 2007, 2008 and 2009. His bond with India and Indian films merits attention while the film Meeting Jim is being made.
It is heartening to note that a team of women (not men) from different countries have come together to film the life of an extraordinary man. The core team consists of Ece Ger, Marta Benavides and Gilliam de la Torre all women who are convinced about the responsibility of showing hope instead of violence and the significance of Jim’s ways as an alternative mode of fighting violence. Ece Ger works as an independent filmmaker based in Istanbul. Her short film Ten (2012) has drawn attention being screened and awarded around the world. Marta Benavides, another producer of the film has degrees in Computer Engineering and International Business Management. She is an independent artist. Gilliam de la Torre is the Director of Photography of the film who has studied cinematography and has contributed in the making of feature films, documentaries and theater magazines. They are investing all their savings on this project and are working round the clock. To make the film world class they are not going to compromise the use of professional sound equipment to record sound during the shootings. They have been trying to raise part of the funds through the crowdfunding campaign for meeting expenses for professional equipment, accommodation, travelling, crew, insurance and many unexpected costs. Permissions to shoot Jim’s journey have been sought as it will involve many locations and live events ranging over forty-five days. The risks and challenges during the shootings suggest that the making of the film itself is going to be an exciting adventure.