by Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD
Galibi sunset and images by Nicole Van Straatum
Have you ever considered shooting a video trailer to promote your book?
I had, but it was on the farthest backburner of my mind until talented visual artist Nicole Van Straatum entered the scene smack in the middle of my trail of abundance (~ On the trail of Abundance ~> How precious is this?). She happened to be in Suriname when she found out about my book on pubslush
(AmazonWisdomKeeper.pubslush.com), and graciously agreed to shoot an image of a grass skirt gate for my book cover, found no where else on earth but in the heart of Suriname's Amazon rainforest. And why not take footage for a book video or two while at it?
Nicole has some video art and editing experience, but this will be her first book trailer. Fortunately, she is, like me, an energizer bunny fueled by novelty, our beginners' minds like that of eager two-year olds excitedly exploring the world minus the tantrums when things don't go our way - a 'must' living in Suriname where blackouts, poor internet connection, and basic infrastructure problems are the order of the day. Perhaps due to learned hopefulness and needing to wiggle our way into new possibilities on a daily basis, potent tantrum energy seems to have matured and transformed into passionate love and perseverance in pursuit of a greater calling.
What should go into a book trailer? The book title and the incredible story how the largest rainforest in the world received her name immediately stood out to me. This passage, which is in the introduction section of my book, also offers the best overarching impression what the book is all about without being too explicit. That being said, I don't think that a book trailer necessarily needs to do this. My humble opinion: Just like some great book covers can pique our interest even when highlighting just a smidgen of a book (a glass of whiskey that belongs to the hard-core, tight-lipped detective or the fist-hole in the wall of the baby's room), so can a book video portray a singular powerful scene that may not reveal an overarching story-line like mine.
Even though I was born and raised on the edges of the Amazon rainforest, I, probably like many of you, had absolutely no idea where the name, the “Amazon,” came from. I found out in the summer of 2011 that the women of Galibi, a small indigenous village on the northern coast of Suriname, did know. They knew it in their bones and in their bodies. They have dance-told and passed along the origin-story behind this name from generation to generation for about five hundred years. They now dance-tell the story to everyone who visits their village, visitors who are most likely there to witness critically endangered, pre-historic aitkantis (leatherback sea turtles) of upto 2,000 lbs lay thousands of eggs on the unobstructed beaches of Suriname between April and August each year after returning from their two-year epic journeys around the world, swimming as far as Nova Scotia, Argentina, and Ghana.
Nicole has in just a few weeks gone over and beyond the call of duty – booked her tours to Awarradan in the interior and to Galibi, got her malaria pills, wrote a formal itemized proposal and compiled a dropbox file with my low resolution images to replace, purchased state-of-the-art digital equipment, consulted with photography experts and her own network of graphic designers, obtained enthusiastic support from Galibi tour guides and the village leader for the video shoot which they would like to post on their websites, and drafted up official permission slips.
Her grandmother, who she is staying with, coincidentally lives in the
neighborhood where I grew up, and Nicole, with the help of my cousin, Janice, took some wonderful photos of my home and the row of homes where my relatives and aunties still live side by side on “my” old street. These images, and other extras, will be great for book talks and slide shows later down the line.
The best and most unbelievable part, she chance-met Masami Tsai Meu Chong, a Japanese-Surinamese filmmaker who is “a truly inspiring soul who knows her stuff about film and Suriname.” Masami agreed to join Nicole on the trail of abundance and shoot some city scenes – together!
I love love love that the generosity and the wise, harmonious nature of the Surinamese people not only showed up throughout the book while crafting my heroic tale of self-discovery and purpose. Serendipitously-guided dissertation research supported my journey and writing with equal loyalty, and magical guidance is now just as prominently showing up in the birthing, marketing, and promotion of the book. With the right mindset, total surrender, and unwavering gratitude, there truly are no splits between the mundane and the miraculous.
What images to shoot in the city?
I imagined myself driving to my old home from the Adolf Pengel international airport, which is nothing more than a brittle landing strip surrounding by savannah and immense rainforest with not more than three airplanes, at the most, proudly parked side by side on a peak day. Some of Suriname's trademark buildings and scenes that I asked Nicole to capture are the flamboyant market by the river front, the synagogue and mosque sharing the same parking lot (such a powerful and one-of-a-kind statement in today's world), the colonial style government buildings and presidential palace, the beaten homes in the oldest sections of the city right behind these buildings, the five-story Hakrin bank, the only “sky scraper” in all of Suriname which my dad worked on as a architect when we lived in Suriname, and the Monument of the Revolution – the reason why we left Suriname in 1983.
The heart and soul of this very diverse multicultural and multiracial society would best be captured by filming people along the Maagden straat, the busiest main street, getting on the infamous "wild" city buses, selling their home-baked cookies and pickled fruit on the side walks, laughing outloud and talking at length with the vendors of colorful fruits and vegetables at the market. Some, like my cousin, Arthur, may be fishing for dinner by the river front.
Tomorrow will be Nicole's first long travel day. She will attempt to capture the feel of the bumpy road and boat ride to Galibi, and aim for a nice and slow shot of the entire village before getting too close to shore. Once there, the women will once again dance-tell their powerful story, which I will “voice-over” with the following passages that I recorded in my car using my iphone after meditating in a quiet serene spot in nature. I recorded it in sections to make it easier to cut out parts if it ends up too long. It also makes it easier to leave “white space” and silent pauses (or soft rattling and drumming) that allow viewers to slowly integrate the message while enjoying beautiful moving imagery of wildlife and fauna.
Galibi 1 (to set the scene and connect with an American/Californian audience)
We disembark the boat and walk about half an hour along a deserted beach, encountering nothing more than some dried sea weed and broken turtle egg shells scattered in bunches. Not a single aitkanti around. Disheartened, we slowly make our way back to our boat. Suddenly, our local guide comes back to life and points to an immense crouched shadow heading towards the glimmering squiggles of the Atlantic Ocean.
We watch in awe.
The three days it took to get here were worth every minute, pothole, and mosquito bite – two days of air travel from my current home and busy holistic psychotherapy practice near San Francisco to Miami with a second stop-over at Trinidad before landing in Paramaribo, the capital of my native country, Suriname, followed by another whole day of land and water travel, a 4-hour bumpy bus ride from Paramaribo to Albina, an 1½ hour boat ride from Albina to Galibi, a small indigenous village where we were lodging, and a last boat ride from Galibi to the northern shore of French Guiana.
Galibi 2 (to foreshadow my interest in guiding the next generation by having my kids imprint on one of my most important animal spirit guides)
We notice two newborns dig their way out of their sandy womb. Exhausted, they wobble clumsily to freedom and are waved off with well wishes like “Stay alive!” “Say 'hi' to Nemo,” and “Don’t get eaten!” by my son and daughter.
I recognize the sparks of magic in my kids as they scoot their “flippers” along their bellies like eager little aitkantis in the sand. At 41, I feel wholly indebted, grateful, and humbled by the mysterious sacred guidance and many blessings that these breath-taking creatures have endowed upon me my whole life, and am pleased to see that my children seem to be imprinting on their powerful presence just like I did in my childhood.
Galibi 3 – (this next section will likely and sadly be cut to keep to video to an ideal length of 2-3 minutes, 4 the most, even though it reveals important tidbits of the main character's struggle and journey).
Seeing them crawl on the beach reminds me of the many times I embraced and lathered myself in the delectable dirt of my mother land as a kid, and the dreadful day in 1980, more than three decades ago, when I was out of the blue ripped from the safety of her bosom by earth-shattering bombs that no one had foreseen.
I clutched on with all my might, but it was impossible to hold onto her and life as I knew it. Everything that I had ever known and loved – intimate community, big and boisterous family gatherings, rich multicultural heritage, enchanting wildlife, ancient mystical traditions, tantalizing ethnic dishes, lifelong friends, first crushes, and sweet childhood memories in the city and at our rustic weekend cottage at the edge of pristine rainforest, both homes built by my father, a prominent architect – basically my entire sense of self and reality at the age of 13 had crumbled and slipped like grains of sand between my fingers by the time we decided to move to Miami, Florida, in the summer of 1983.
Galibi 4 – (the punchline)
The next evening in muggy Galibi, we join the indigenous villagers in paying homage to the stars and the moon, the sea and the animals, the smallest flower and the biggest tree, blessing them one by one with their rattles and drums. After a long day at the beach and in the sun, my children, as well as some of the adult guests, doze off and nod their heads in unison. Through an elaborate play-dance performance, a circle of grandmothers, mothers, and daughters re-enact the legendary story of their no-nonsense female ancestors, passed down from generation to generation, while the men rattle and drum.
Centuries ago, the brave ancestors of these brave women abandoned the tribal men – their husbands, brothers, fathers, cousins, and uncles – who were feasting in secret on some game that they had caught after days of hunting. The infuriated women fled with their sons and as many possessions as they could fit in boats by sea, shooting arrows at the men who were chasing them. They resettled in a different area along the northern coast of Suriname. Spanish explorers who encountered these predominantly female tribes named them, and later the entire region, the "Amazon" after the fierce female warriors from Greek mythology.
We looked at a few video examples to emulate and particularly like these four: 1). Book trailer for While the Gods were Sleeping by Elizabeth Enslin, for its portrayal of an international story and uncommon setting like mine (taken in Nepal), 2). www.AmazonTeam.org a top-of-the-line promo video of this organization's cause with narration by Jeff Bridges and gorgeous wide and tight shots of the Amazon rainforest including Suriname, 3). Book trailer for More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger, for its top-notch editing, smooth movement, and great visuals as if on a sightseeing car ride, and 4). Nowness with Rick Rubin for the beautiful tone and calm pacing of his voice and the use of silence with - less is more - footage of the beach and nature.
We hope to create a hybrid version of these four styles to portray Amazon Wisdom Keeper's unique flavor. Nicole will attempt to have the video done by October 21 for a big-bang start of my book campaign launch on pubslush, but in all honesty, the fact that she is pouring herself so fully in this project and inspiring so many others along the way is already much more than I ever imagined what the making of a book trailer would be like.
As is the case with all great art, the creative process can't be rushed. Should Nicole not make this tight deadline, prolonging my, and perhaps also your, eager anticipation a bit will allow us to savor her final product even more.
Stay posted for updates www.AmazonWisdomKeeper.pubslush.com