Joao Rito won a contest online. The Portuguese filmmaker created a submission for Taylor Steele’s Innersection project and was named one of the best young filmmakers of the year. His prize was a $10,000 contract to film a section for the upcoming experimental film, Se7en Signs. Six filmmakers. Six modes of travel. And the seventh trip is the movie itself. Sounds cool, but what does any of that mean, really? Boarding a last minute plane for Indonesia, Joao realized he had no idea. They’d sent him tickets and shot lists, names and vague itineraries. But no real instructions. Just the name of some town he couldn’t pronounce. “The boys have motorcycles and hand-shaped single-fins,” an email explained. “Make sure you film that aspect. This movie is about how you travel as much as where you travel.” Vague notes. Ambiguous treasure maps. This strange experiment. Fly to nowhere now and make a film that is not yours. Maybe someone will pick you up at the airport. Maybe not. The road is not smooth. And Joao was not done winning his prize. Not by a long shot. No one met him at the airport. He hitchhiked into the little surf town whose name he could not pronounce and Facebooked, Skyped and rain-danced until he made contact. The first waves were already hitting and the boys were loosening up to their new boards. But there were still hours of road between them and the rumor. A long day’s ride. A river crossing. A mountain. An unnamed village. Things were moving fast, and Joao looked down at his detailed shot list and shuddered. It’s one thing to make a plan. It’s another to hit the road. Dust and potholes define the distance. Thirst-less heat and a sudden rain. Hot, sticky and uncool. They load the bikes onto a raft and float downriver like a flashback from Apocalypse Now. Fitzy ties his shirt around his forehead and mans the .50-Cal, blasting kooks in the tree line. Rambo would be proud. He’s losing it already. The un-smoothness rattling loose nuts and unraveling intentions. Lack of sustenance, too. Just rice and fish out here. Plastic sugar tea and deep fried squid bits. Octopus popcorn. Marinated in dust. Kicked in the nuts. Laughed at by every chicken crossing the road. Further and further again. This is the napkin map sketch left behind by Taylor and his acolytes. Roads less traveled. Visions less seen. Places unfound. The emails said he would be filming part of the next Sipping Jetstreams or Castles in the Sky movie, but only now does he realize what that really meant. No dreamy soundtrack. No time lapse sunsets. Just sweat pouring down the leg of his tripod. Dust stinging his eyeballs. This is how it gets done. Inch by inch. And they are just getting started.
Bali Belly is an independent youth culture magazine based in Bali, Indonesia.