Trail of Ghengis Khan: The Film comes to fruition in a four hour series
Throughout the three and a half years of my travels by horseback I had been trying to capture the experience in film and there had been many times when I felt like giving up: I went through four tripods, two cameras, had to have spare parts shipped in from Japan to Almaty, dealt with a hair in the lens that only disappeared when a horse rolled on it (and consequently put a scratch on the same lens). In Kazakhstan the LCD screen had all but frozen, and in the desert during summer, a rail-worker had managed to break in to my battery charger with a knife to re-solder the circuit. When my camera gave up the ghost all together, my friend Chris Hatherly offered me his own camera.
Towards the end of the journey, I was fortunate to have Mike Dillon join me in the Carpathians and again in Hungary for the finish. Filming alone was a real challenge, usually involving setting up the tripod, riding back, and away….and tigon was so accustomed that he used to sit under the tripod while we went. So getting film of him was particularly difficult. When I returned home in 2007 with a pile of 137 dusty digital tapes and a diaries, it was as if I had just arrived back in Mongolia and was beginning the journey all over again. My dream was to make a short series of documentary films, sharing what I had learnt about the nomadic people of Eurasia. Only this time the obstacles weren’t so much blizzards, lack of grass, or wolves, but the difficulty reality of raising funds, and convincing a broadcaster.
After many promising options that failed to come to fruition, we were asked in June this year to make a four part series (4 X 44 minutes) for ZDF on behalf of ARTE channel in Germany and France. Screen Australia agreed to fund the budget shortfall, and so finally it began to come to life! In the last three months working in Sydney with four editors (Michael Balson, Suresh Ayar, Matthew Walker, and Lindi Harrison), a director (Malcolm McDonald), producer Richard Dennison, and a lot of other collaborators, we have finally finished this series! We were lucky to have the support of animator Frank Gapinksi for maps, original music composed by renowned singer and musician Lisa Gerrard, together with Cye Wood, and Dave Skinner, as well as rights to ‘Shaman Voices’ by Okna Tshan Zam (of the republic of Kalmykia in Russia) and soundtrack to the Hungarian film ‘Conquest’ with kind permission of Korona Films. All of these people have added to a rich tapestry that stretches across many landscapes, cultures, and a range of personal moods and emotions.
The ABC will now look at these four parts and decide what they would like for an Australian broadcast. At this stage, I am not sure when the films will be broadcast in Europe, or Australia, but I will be posting screening information on the website when it comes to light. After the TV release it will also be available on DVD, but that is still some time off.
I would like to say a special thank you to all the sponsors who supported me, and believed in my journey. Without them, as well as hundreds who helped me along the way, this would never have been possible.