In Mongolia I continued with the tradition followed in every project I got immersed in during already six years of career. Once again I set to myself tremendously ambitious goals not caring about what experience has taught me after drastic disappointments and ignoring advices from people which know me better than I do myself. This time my mission was to produce altruistically short documentary films about a dozen of humanitarian projects. However, things turned out to be quite challenging.
From the moment I landed in Ulaanbaatar I was obsessed for finding out everything happening in the Mongolian society, I simply could not fight to help what I did not know about. During three weeks at the capital city I combined film shootings with an average of four meetings a day. I met up with NGO’s Directors, embassy representatives, artists, professors, tour guides and basically anybody which I believed had something interesting to share with me. In case my humanitarian project was not ambitious enough, I wrote as well the script of a documentary feature movie to carry out at the same time. However, each of my efforts were in vain, it simply nothing worked out.
Most of Organizations I got in touch with to offer my collaboration (free of charge!) either did not answer or even asked for money. For several reasons from the first twenty shootings scheduled for my documentary project I managed to perform just three of them…and not the way I wished. Protagonists either were 3-4 hours late, canceled in the last minute or just did not show up at all. Besides it all felt as if I was cursed. If I set up to film outdoors it started to rain, while if I decided to film indoors electricity power went off and I was left without lightning; I checked the sound at a location and everything was all right but on the filming day and after bringing together 8 musicians, right next to the spot that same day it had started some noisy constructions; for the first time in my life I got a lens scratched (which happened to be the most important of my equipment) while in another occasion a violent taxi driver hit my backpack and destroyed into a thousand pieces the filter glass of another brand new lens.
After three weeks of stressing work in Ulaanbaatar I had managed to cooperate with just one local NGO, my documentary project was stuck and I had not written a single article. For the first time in my life I found myself at the circumstance of not enjoying an experience abroad. What’s worse, due to the frustration of not being able to carry out my plans something terrible was happening: I was not enjoying doing what I love most.
Then I did what has worked very well to me so many times before: I stopped it all, I grabbed my backpack and I took off.
I must admit I have a very special way of traveling; Without neither phone nor internet connection, carrying no maps nor dictionaries, hitch hiking when I feel like and walking in the direction carved by the exaltation of each specific moment. I normally walk during 6-8 hours a day carrying 20 kg of weight not knowing where I am going to sleep although being almost sure it will not be at a hotel or any other ordinary place. I occasions, this travel philosophy has brought me to outrageous situations where my integrity has been in serious danger, just as it happened while exploring the lands of the north-west, when I lived 2 days 2 the limit.
After three weeks in Ulaanbaatar I had five more ahead. Now, with my conscience clear after having tried it all with my best, I had recovered my strength and motivation to explore and rock 'n roll remote rural areas of Mongolia. I visited the Gobi desert in the south and afterwards I traveled all the way north reaching the mountains next to the Russian border where I spent a week with a tribe of reindeer herders. There I happened to film two videos about meaningful social projects coordinated by an amazing woman. I also wrote a research article about the social situation of that tribe and I got a photo-essay published at The Diplomat. The Humanitarian Filming Expedition was starting to have sense just when I was trying less. Then it was time for the far west. After 70 insane hours of traveling within 4 days, I discovered the Mongol-Kazakh culture and I attended the Eagle-Hunting Festival.
From there I moved to explore isolated areas of the northwest. During this journey I learned the lesson that gave sense to this whole expedition after spending few days sleeping with nomads and being incommunicado. I realized that my main motivation while carrying out humanitarian and audiovisual projects after visiting fifty countries was neither to produce documentary movies, nor winning awards, nor publishing in relevant media, it was not even to perform actions which perhaps could turn the world into a (slightly) better place to be. While I walked across the Mongolian endless steep I had the revelation which made me stop overwhelmed. If so far I had been the happiest man on Earth it was not because of what I was doing, but because the way I was doing it. In other words, I have never worried about the outcome or impact of my projects but I have enjoyed every single day with the privilege of being able to pursue my dreams by working in what I love. From that moment on wards everything changed. Suddenly I realized that I was living an extraordinary experience and that if my documentary project had failed it was probably because that was not the mission I came here to accomplish. I came to produce social documentary films to support local humanitarian projects and I also realized that if instead of a dozen of films I managed to produce four, four it was way better than none. I also acknowledged that if in a certain moment it started to rain it was perhaps because it was already autumn. Also if I could not have anything under control maybe that kaos was precisely the main incentive which drove me to come this far.
Having my wildest explorer spirit fully recovered, I decided I was not going to leave Mongolia without visiting as well the easternmost region even if I had to travel again for 70 hours. There I enjoyed by finding out remote areas with abandoned Soviet buildings, mining and oil camps with Chinese flags weaving and extraordinary museums which seem not to be visited very often. Also while traveling by minivan to a town next to the border with China I even met two local guys who inspired a next documentary project which I have already starting to shoot and this is already the 6th article in last few days.
The Humanitarian Filming Expedition Mongolia 2016 gets to an end. I feel satisfied with the certainty of flying back home with a wide smile by knowing that I have explored this fascinating country in deep, I have cooperated with great humanitarian causes and I have even found inspiration for next projects. Nevertheless, the most important is to have learnt again that everything works much better when we are fully ourselves and we follow our instincts in the search of achieving to do what we love and makes us feel well. It is a lesson I learned while walking and being lost at the Mongolian steep of the northwest lands. I calmed down my emotions, I started to listen at my heart again, I reconnected with my inner self…and then the road showed me the way.