Travels With H

  1. In “On Seeing,” master boat builder and teacher Robert Darr takes sail on the Bay, linking his early perceptions at sea with the deeper navigations concerning sensual and spiritual seeing.

    “On Seeing” is part two in the Robert Darr interviews that began earlier in this series with “On Doing.” That one showed Darr at work restoring the sailboat Freda. This one shows him at sail, working with the wind and waters, as he takes on the subject of seeing.

    These two themes of Seeing and Doing seem central not just to the poetry of Hafiz --but to the contemporary lives we are living.

    Certainly, in a visual project translating Persian poetry such as Hafiz’s, the idea of ‘seeing’ is central to the entire project. What was Hafiz seeing and how to best see what’s most essential? As a filmmaker I have attempted in my own way the ‘nazarbaz’ --a playful engagement-- with all the material that has come my way.

    With ‘On Seeing,’ I say goodbye to 2012 and to this project. 2013 will hopefully bring a couple new screenings and new shorts, and if so, I will share these with you.

    Until then, thank you for viewing. May 2013 be a year of joy and blessings to all.

    Warm wishes,

    I am deeply grateful for the chance to know Robert and be invited into the workshop. Special thanks to Robert Darr, Scott Ryan, The Arques School and the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center
    Cinematography by Christian Melady
    Editing by Emily LaDue and Tony Urgo
    Music by Paul Rubenstein
    Translations (Arabic and Persian) by Robert Darr

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  2. In this short film, members of an all-male 12-step program recite lines taken from different Hafiz poems, mirroring the original 12-step principles for alcoholics in active recovery of their lives and souls.

    So, Hafiz talks a lot about drinking in his poems.
    Wine and taverns, cupbearers and drunks saturate his verses. Whether he uses such language and imagery purely metaphorically (to describe mystical states) or whether he is talking directly about drinking and drunkenness is still much debated.

    I wonder if the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
    I have a hard time believing --based on the verses’ specificity-- that Hafiz had no direct experience with wine, and I also have a hard time believing that he was only glorifying wine-drinking.

    One of my theories is that he understood the joys and darkness that come with drinking, and that he might have suffered from (or completely understood) the spiritual sickness that is alcoholism. And that allusions to the world of drinking might ideally provide a kind of ‘literary lab’ to mix the mundane and sacred, the lost and found. His verses could serve as salve to help cure the ‘sickness,’ one most starkly seen through the lens of alcoholism but common to all humans. He might call it a separation from the Beloved; others, from a Higher Power, from the Unity that binds us to life and love.

    Mine is a contemporary reading, informed by Alcoholics Anonymous and its influence on American culture. The 12 steps are seen as ‘spiritual principles’ - and are, I think, perhaps the most influential of applied spiritual principles within the U.S. As someone who attended a different kind of ‘Anonymous’ meeting in the past, these gatherings can be some of the most honest, painful and real I have ever been part of.

    And so I was looking, as a filmmaker, for ways to connect the ‘realness’ of these gatherings and their power, along with those same qualities in Hafiz, while giving attention to a certain spiritual progression of the verses. I found couplets from different poems and put them in this form, hence the ‘remix.’

    This piece was originally intended as part of a ‘video triptych’ looking at the issues of wine and drinking in Hafiz’s poetry. Yep, I’m still playing with the two other parts - related to grape harvesting and drinking. Until I can share those, here is this one.

    My deep thanks and appreciation to Michael for educating me on the 12 steps and making this happen. My humbled gratitude to all the wonderful participants who took a chance on this, and were so inspiring. Thank you so much.

    Raeshma Razvi

    Produced and written by: Raeshma Razvi
    Co-produced with: Raj Patel and Michael
    Translations based on: Wilberforce Clark
    Technical support: Bernardo
    Editing: Tony Urgo
    Music: Paul Rubenstein

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  3. “Rend,” features an interview with Ramiel, a tech entrepreneur and mystic, a man who’s worn many identities and crossed many boundaries from an early age, and manages to reinvent himself while still engaged in the daily work required to keep his business afloat.

    There are some terms that are really hard to translate across languages and time periods and cultures. Such is the case with ‘rend’ -a term peppered into Hafiz’s verses, and translated variously as: sly rake, pious rogue, inspired libertine, debauched derelict.
    Hafiz didn’t use such terms negatively - he often calls himself ‘rend’ -a verbal sleight (of hand) because in ‘elevating’ such status he was implicitly criticizing the ‘moral establishment’ of his day: the clerics, judges, religious leaders, established sufis. As a paradoxical person whose behavior and speech trouble society, a rend can also hide a deep spiritual center in order to self-protect an unorthodox path.
    It didn’t occur to me until in the middle of a discussion with Ramiel that a short film featuring him might, in its own way, be an attempt to ‘translate’ the term rend in a contemporary way. Ramiel speaks of practicing ‘rend’ for different reasons, one being ‘blending in with and connecting with people.’ This seems to suggest a parallel practice between the ageless seeking inside some individuals who insist on their own paths into (or out of) wisdom, and the contemporary imperative to connect with people, at a scale never seen before, using new technologies.

    Many thanks to Ramiel for his participation, patience and insight.

    Happy viewing,

    Produced and shot by: Raeshma Razvi
    Interview with: Ramiel
    Editing: Emily LaDue
    Music: Paul Rubenstein

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  4. This musical short, “Bliss Dance Beloved,” shows how a beautiful and playful manifestation of the Beloved can arise when you least expect it, as in this remarkable sculpture rising out of the desert floor at Burning Man in 2010. Like me, many others were drawn to her as if by magnetic pull. She exerted a considerable and varied influence over her subjects, some sat in meditation near her foot, others danced close by in ecstasy. At one point a DJ-art car drove by with the song ‘Another Love’ pulsing into the daytime heat.

    I brought the song into the video because the lyrics seem to ‘answer’ the narration at the beginning: the narrator tries to give important clues to the traveler about where to find ‘the Woman who will ravish you most.‘ Once she’s found though, she has her own POV and voice, and insists that, basically, if you’re just bringing your regular game, don’t even bother. Seems fitting for a Beloved to say!

    The narration is adapted from a poem by Daniel Ladinsky in his book “The Gift.” This book was literally a gift that helped open up for me the idea of video translations of Hafiz. The more I read into Hafiz, however, the more I understood that Ladinsky’s words are more ‘inspiration’ than translation of Hafiz. Still, I like his poetry and am indebted to the enthusiasm and creative energies behind his project.

    There’s a lot that can be said about the ‘new forms’ the Beloved takes, that translations take. Some might say that, for a project on Hafiz, the location and the arts involved in this piece are a bit profane, too far ‘West’ of the tradition. I deliberately use this location, nude sculpture, house music track, and ‘loose’ translation to try and convey that the unexpected, unconventional, delightful and sometimes irrational are often necessary doorways to getting to the Real.

    Produced, shot and edited by: Raeshma Razvi
    Voiceover: Raj Patel
    Additional editing: Tony Urgo
    Sculpture: Bliss Dance by Marco Cochrane
    Music: ‘Another Love’ by The Mac Project featuring Therese
    Poem: Daniel Ladinsky, “Turn Left a Thousand Feet From Here” in The Gift; Penguin Compass 1999.
    Thanks to: CB Smith Dahl, Christian Melady

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  5. Featuring ‘found’ footage of one Iranian-American family’s trip to Iran, a fictional narration, and audio from an interview with an Iranian woman talking about Hafiz and the city of Shiraz, “Nostalgia” is a media mixture that reflects all the different ingredients that go into making sense of a real and imagined place.

    Nostalgia is primarily a very real feeling directed towards a place--usually home-- that no longer exists or has significantly changed. My original interest in constructing this piece was to learn more about the city of Shiraz, the birthplace and home to poet Hafiz, and a fabled place, known for poetry, wine, and culture. Having never been there, I wanted to reflect the experience of looking at it from the outside, while still being privy to an insider’s perspective. This is the dilemma of we ‘second generation’ types, we hyphenated ones, who have associations with other countries and cultures through our parents and grandparents, and thus carry their memories like a map, especially their nostalgia. Which becomes part of our own.

    This short film highlight’s the teenage daughter’s perspective as she travels to Iran, just on the cusp of emerging into her own adulthood, and the mysteries it holds. And, yes, even in this situation, Hafiz seems to have something to say!

    My thanks and gratitude to Nasreen, Ali, Mehrnoosh and the Sheikholeslami and Paya families for all of their assistance, support and hospitality.

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Travels With H

Raeshma Razvi Plus

In Travels with H: Hafiz in a New World, Oakland filmmaker sees contemporary California life anew through the poetic lens of a Persian mystic poet from the 14th century. See these short video 'postcards' of her travels through the West with verses from…

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In Travels with H: Hafiz in a New World, Oakland filmmaker sees contemporary California life anew through the poetic lens of a Persian mystic poet from the 14th century. See these short video 'postcards' of her travels through the West with verses from the East.

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  • Raeshma Razvi

    "In these times the only untainted companion left is a cup of clear wine and a book of ghazals." --Hafiz

    by Raeshma Razvi

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