a film by Milton Altwasser
music recording - “Bell Disco #2"
Filmed in 1992-1993, STATE OF FAITH travels the planet in search of understanding, compassion, and transcendence. Travelling solo for the most part, and utilizing a very basic equipment package ( a Keystone spring-wound 16mm camera and a portable DAT recorder), filmmaker Milton Altwasser realized techniques later popularized with digital video, while anticipating the broader processes of an empathetic civil-society globalization with the scope and content of his film.
Milton became ill shortly after returning from his travels, and was unable to finish the film. He left the completion to friends and colleagues. There were only fragmentary notes, documentation, or descriptions of a path to completion found with the film elements which represented his output, amongst reels of 16mm negative and workprint plus an assortment of DAT tapes which contained both field recordings and original music compositions.
Milton had conceived STATE OF FAITH as a multi-disciplinary collage project, and the filming he had undertaken was meant as a catalyst or foundation of broader activity. His passing foreshortened this process. The film, as completed, is the result of sifting through the source material to locate threads of the journey taken if not finally realized. The film travels from the west coast of North America to Japan, Thailand, and India, and on to Saskatchewan, New York City, and Europe.
Other than trims at heads and tails of shots, many sections of the finished film consist of in-camera sequences. The Keystone camera was filming at a fluctuating frame rate varying between 16 and 20 fps, and this sped-up tempo was maintained. A number of interviews were filmed (transcripts below), and contribute to the soundtrack. Much of the music was composed and performed by the filmmaker. The soundtrack was, in post, designed by Velcrow Ripper, with Dieter Piltz responsible for the mix.
This film is also available for viewing at archive.org
September 2004 screening at Antimatter
“(In) dealing with the topic of faith, I wanted to include perspectives from individuals other than like myself. It is a privilege to have a woman from Thailand relate her faith system to me in an interview, or to listen quietly to a Persian man sing a spiritual song into my tape recorder. When the Cameroonian student talked to me about the American Dream in front of an L.A. freeway I respected his insight, and when seven people debated fascism in Western Europe I acknowledged the severity of the issue. One does not have to travel to Japan to have someone speak to them about technology stifling the soul, however a perspective of the global implications of those issues make the journey seem imperative. My goal was to have contact with the people in the film, to be granted permission to film or record them... I am responsible for the images and sounds I have assembled.” Milton Altwasser
STATE OF FAITH 1995 ROUGH CUT
This recreation of the long version of the film, originally assembled on a Steenbeck from the 16mm workprint, features most of the extant footage, including interviews. Variable frame rates are applied this time through, and alternate takes of many of the music tracks are also featured.
This version of the film is more like a conventional documentary, although the filmmaker’s off-camera presence is key as he guides the interviews and then provides wordless commentary in a series of music / image sequences. Key scenes from the finished version are re-positioned, finding new context. The presence of the interviews in the body of the film results in an entirely different experience. As we discovered, State of Faith’s elements could be infinitely assembled.
INTERVIEWS AND FIELD RECORDINGS
Transcripts of interviews conducted by the filmmaker in many varied locales. The subjects were artists, scholars, friends, and surprised individuals approached at random. STATE OF FAITH’s haphazard filming methods are revealed with audio clips featuring interview excerpts, as well as some field recordings from far-flung places.
JEAN-FRANCOIS NGOSSO student from Cameroon
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA freeway overpass
Okay, Jean-Francois.Tell me about faith.What do you have faith in?
First,I have faith in God.Second,I have faith in me.Third,I have faith in what I am doing.
Do you have faith in the American Dream?
I don't have a faith in the American Dream.
Because when you look at it, it's a few people who have money.Most of, I mean,the masses,doesn't have money.And they make you believe that you can be rich,but that is illusion.
What about Africa?Do you believe in the African Dream?
African Dream?Not now.I mean,the African Dream is more in sleep.
Do you have faith in the future of Africa?
Not really.When I see the mentality of people I don't have a faith. Because it's more, since we don't have our culture, the African culture. We don't try to preserve African culture so I don't believe we are going to go so far.We must be ourself before to do anything.
How do you feel about being an African in Los Angeles?
Being an African in Los Angeles I feel that I don't fit in nearly anywhere. Because Los Angeles is a town where they have a lot of - it's a security town like any bigger city in the U.S. You have African Americans,Koreans, Chinese,Whites,or Caucasions,and the Koreans go with the Koreans,the Whites go with the Whites, the African-Americans go with the African-Americans,the Chinese go with the Chinese,and it makes it difficult for me,as someone who is African,to belong somewhere because I don't feel that I belong anywhere in Los Angeles.
Why not? When I'm at school or to work I feel more like they accept me, but outside work or university people are going with the people of their race or the people of their country.
Do you think they should stay within the races?
I don't think so.Los Angeles is normally supposed to be a nice place to live, because they have more than one hundred fifty communities in the world that's represented In Los Angeles.But people don't share their culture with each other. Just only stay with their people. People don't share their cultures with others and it's very positive when you share your cultures with others so you can learn.
Did you have the American Dream when you came?
I don't have American Dream when I came. No, not really -
UNIDENTIFIED MAN approached at random
TOKYO, JAPAN Tokyo Disneyland
Okay, just hold the microphone like that.
Just say - just talk about the American Dream and what you think about it.
America is the chance have the everybody.Ronald Reagan, he's an actor but he get to be President.Maybe I don't have chance to be President, but I have the chance to have American Dream.Maybe get lots of money,or you can find a job and maybe live in Hollywood.
That's great. This is for art, it's not like for television.It's art. Why would you like to live in America, for example?
I meet some American family some seven years ago in Yellowstone -
I have a different question. What do you have faith in. What do you believe in?
In the United States?
No, in general. Do you believe in - what do you think about materialism? Just in general. Because I'm going around the world and I'm asking people questions about materialism, or pollution, or the environment. Do you have any points of view about pollution? No? What about - what do you think of pollution? Just in general. Or work? What do you think about working? Do you work six days a week? Is it hard?
Do you think that's a good system?
In Japan, right?
Can you describe the Japanese work week? Do you think it's too much?
The Japanese people are very hardworking,somebodies are working seven days a week,or six days a week.They have to work extra hours after 5 PM,for four hours.We're not rich.Some people think Japanese are a very rich country.We are not a rich country.
What's one of your main goals in life? What's your dream?
It's my dream to move to the United States. I want to - I don't like Japan - I'll move to United States.I want to get the lifestyle same as the American people.You know,they get their two weeks off in summer to go camping,or stay someplace and relax on vacation.Japanese people don't get vacation for two or three weeks, only take their -
This is good, this is all good. I just want a little bit more. What do you think about leisure? Time off. Holiday time. Do you believe in the American dream?
Do you think their system is working? That's the question, I guess. Do you think the American system is working?
Very different question. I don't know how to say it. Do you have a different question?
Uh - do you think that there's equality in America? I know -
Why do you talk to me about America?
Because this is what my film's about. Everywhere I go I'm asking the same questions. I know a question. Do you think the people in japan are religious?
Can you answer that for me?
Not all Japanese people don't have religion.The culture maybe after the war,about fifty years ago, very change in know religion in Japanese people.Not a lot of young people don't have religion now.The cultural - very strange people in Japanese. In Christmas we have lots of party,and Christmas Day.After one week we have New Year festival in traditional Japanese.Very mixed.
This is great. Just one more question then that's enough.
Okay, last question. Great.
Can you stand here? It's okay, I'll watch this stuff. Okay, talk into the microphone. Do you think,uh - it's kind of doing a thing about Western ideas and Eastern idea -
Eastern idea? What do you mean?
Eastern spiritual. And Western material. Do you think that there is such a phenomenom? Or do you think - oh, I know - do you think the Japanese people are becoming too materialistic and less spiritual? Do you think? I don't know.
I don't know.
Just in general. Just your perception.
I don't know.
You don't even have to say Japanese. You can just say "I think people" in general. Not Japanese - everybody. The world. Okay? We don't have to put names on it. Do you think the world is becoming too materialistic? You can say no.
No? I don't - you know - do you have a simple question?
But that's a simple one. Do you think the world is becoming more materialistic and less religious, or do you think that they're the same as before? Just in general. What do you think?
(unintelligible) - thinking - by myself.
By myself. You would believe in that.
In something themselves, yeah. But do you think people are becoming - do you want to just explain that or - okay?
In Japanese people? We the Japanese people we didn't have to listen to God. Everybody believed in him by themselves. Um - (laughs) - is that all? Is that all,
I'm sorry -
HIROSHI KOIKE theatre director
TOKYO, JAPAN studio / office
First question I'm going to ask you - you were talking about faith. You ask what is faith. Do you have faith in anything? Like yourself?
(Discussion ensues between Hiroshi Koike and the translator)
I could ask a more specific - as an artist,do you try to encourage people to have faith? Do you feel a responsibility to bring faith to people?Or do you show people that they have no faith?
It’s a really difficult question for me.I think Japan has a special sense of values so if it needs to change,to go to the next stage,it has to be - I’m not sure what it will become in the stream of the world,but Japan has a special style and also Japan has a subject.How will Japan catch up to the Western way?How will Japan find an identity for itself apart from the Western way?So if I want to give something to the Japanese people,I guess I can’t. I’m really destiny disputant (?) so I think I can only live with the destiny,observe the destiny.I can’t do anything,but I want to search how I can do that under present conditions.
Do you see yourself as a kind of medium, a channeler of higher consciousness to people? As a director, as an artist, as a visualist and so on, do you see yourself as being a kind of medium - like a modern day medicine man, a shaman, or someone who brings the stories and tells them and expresses them? Where do you get your ideas from? Maybe you could tell me that. How do you get your ideas?
( discussion ensues )
You have a role, job, your responsibility, job, whatever, is to express the ideas from other people and your own - what you see - I forgot the question now. Do you see yourself - you must have some kind of faith in your vision, you have to believe in that, and where do you get your source? Do you believe in God? Do you feel like your a medium, is it a mission, is it something that's a higher calling? Or is it just a job? Or is it something you were chosen to do? Does that make sense?
( discussion ensues) I am thinking of myself after all.I think I want to satisfy my desires.I don’t think I do things just for my job.Of course I do for my job but basically I am thinking: how can I join with other people?I feel I do this by order of God - I think the important thing is how can we live together,including the environmental problems.I guess not only universal theme,not only a social idea.I believe they have a way to tie together all over the world.In addition I want to do my work,not only speak about it.It is including many things,a physical sense etc that they have.They have many problems.How do we live in those circumstances?
Wow. That's the end of this film. I'll ask you one more question. Are you optimistic about the future?
It is difficult. Which do I grasp? Is it a privileged period or a transition period? The human life is really short so we don't care if the future of the earth will be optimistic or pessimistic. If we are talking only of the human race then it must be pessimistic. I think - what can I do in the pessimistic future? A I am imagining the pessimism waiting so I react accordingly. I think it's our duty to get to live longer. Very difficult question.
It's a stupid question really. Not stupid but it's a - you know. I go up to strangers sometimes, like at Tokyo Disneyland, I asked, you know, all the people swinging and in Mickey Mouse hats and that, and I asked "do you have faith?" They just don't relate. Is there anything you'd want to say that I haven't asked you? Like I said, the film is about faith. Do you think that sometimes people have faith in the wrong things?
( discussion ensues )
For example,in America,scholars, university professors are saying people have more faith in television than they do in God.They believe in television but they don’t know about God.But TV they believe in,the Government they believe in, and uh - whatever. Money sometimes. That's what they believe in. So,do you think that people sometimes have faith in the wrong things?
When people changed from being hunters to being farmers I could say we humans were wrong and have been wrong historically.We can’t live with nature so we distort our lives.We believe in the wrong things.What do you think of U.S. imperialism? The Nazis were not just a product of Germany.Nobody can say what is right or not.Humans began living against nature.I think nobody can say what is right or not from that point on.
translation by Yuniko
Hawaiian Drums - field recording
YOUNG MONKS in orange robes
THAILAND temple grounds
Did you always want to be a monk?
We would like to be monk to teach the Thai people.We want to know the history of Buddha, and Buddha is the best religion.
Can you say that again, that you think the Buddhist religion is the best religion?
I want to know history of Buddha and teach the Thai people and study. If you want to know you can ask me something and I can tell you.
Do you think that people can live in harmony? Christians and Muslims? Can all people live in peace?
I think Buddhist and Christian religions. I think so. I tell you something of Buddha. Buddhist monks can have food two times a day. First time 7 AM. Second time 11 AM. After noon, can't eat food but we can drink water and milk and tea. We can't eat food.
Can I ask why you became a monk? Can I film you?
My master studied many years,many years.And my father about two years.I study Buddha.I like Buddha,yes. I have young brother, young sister -
And you became the monk?
Will you always be a monk?
Oh, I'm not sure. I'm not sure.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN speaks authoritatively
THAILAND amidst lush overgrown temple ruins
Can you tell me more about Buddha - something about Buddha. Buddha is the master -
No, he is not the master.
Who is Buddha? If someone said "who is Buddha" -
Who is Buddha?
I don't know. I don't know. I don't know, really.
What is Buddha then?
Maybe go to Buddha. Buddha not mean anything.
Tell me about how Buddha talks about the animals.I'll film the cat and we'll just go.
Buddha says about how different from animals -
Try again. People are different from animals.
Buddha say about that people are different from animal. People have the high mind..animal..is the meaning is about animal is the low mind and people is the beautiful mind.
What does Buddha say about love?
Love is the gift.When you have love,in the Buddha,love is only give.He don't want to save anything,only give.
I have another question. Do Buddhists believe in war?
In war? No, they don't want war. About war,there's, uh, Buddha people protest the war and they don't want war.They want only peace and love and happiness and - difficult to say.
But do the Buddhists fight sometimes? Like Burma and Thailand. They both have armies. What does Buddha say about armies?
Army? No,no - not Buddha. Burma, I think - it is one word. Say a word. Money, gold, jewellry - one word includes everything.
Wealth? Money includes everything.
Because this place - money,gold,and jewellry in this temple. Burmese army fights because they want money.
Is it only Burma? Does Thailand ever fight? Isn't fighting part of nature?
Thai people protect themselves. They don't want anything from Burma.
Do you think money corrupts people? Does money make people corrupt?
I think money makes the people to be the bad people because you got corruption and you want their families rich.I think the army are the bad man because they destroy many things.
Tell me a teaching of Buddha. Like man should not kill or buddha says man should be happiness. The only way to happpiness is through Buddha.
No, not happiness. In Buddha is not happiness.
What is it with Buddha then?
No, you do not know. I think first. I tell you first. Please not now. I think - difficult. I want to tell the best thing. Buddha say nature is the - nature is Buddha. Buddha is nature.
Oh. Do you believe in God? As Buddhists?
Yeah, I believe. I believe too.
So Buddha is nature. Is Buddha also God?
Buddha - yeah. I tell you you have monk in your body - is nature. If you can make your monk in your body higher, bigger, then you to be good man.
Can you say that? Can you explain that? I’m going to start filming right now.
Buddha is the nature.Everybody have the Buddha inside themselves. This layout, this nature - and when you want to be the -
( audio tape abruptly cuts out while filming continues)
field recording street-corner singer
SOMBOON PHUANGDORKMAI artist
BANGKOK, THAILAND leafy residential yard
Maybe you could tell me about why you choose to paint these people who suffer.
I was born into a poor family.I saw people in distress.They were hard-working people and had a problem.I was living in a bad environment.In Thai society young people cannot tell older people what they are thinking.They are just to listen.I can't sing,I can't write,I can't express my thoughts to other people so they will understand me.One thing I can do is draw pictures.When I see something in other people's lives,I put it in the picture.The women and children have a problem in Thai society.
Do you think people have the wrong conception of women? You can talk about Thailand if you want,or you can talk in general. You don't have to say Thailand if you don't want to because the film is international. I think it's okay, I think it's good if people talk in general. Because what you talk about I think is the same in Canada,is the same in Germany,and many places. It's universal,the problems.Sure there's more here,a little less there but it's still the same I think. But do you think that women - when we see women on TV, in magazines, and women, images of women, do you think that's only from a man's point of view? And do you think that women are not usually able to show a different side of what woman is? Do you think that women sometimes become a product, for men, women are just a material for men? How do you feel about that?
I think this is no good if the man thinks that women are dolls or that they are cheap and to be used.I think the woman who has a brain doesn't believe that money will buy everything.In my mind,women are equal to men.Men must accept thinking and feeling from women and don't think women are lower than men.
No, I don't understand anything you said. But that's okay. I'll get it translated - by a good translator. So it's okay if I don't understand. I keep thinking of your paintings, right? So no matter what you say I think you'll be expressing similair ideas. Do you think that the image of a woman is - because in my film I'm talking about faith, what we believe in, and when they make images of women, like say Pat Pong or whatever, these women become an industry. You show - I walked into Pat Pong, they showed me these pictures of women, "come, come", and then they show me, it's like they make me - they're icons, they're symbols to like pull you in, symbols. The same kind of symbol as when you see Christ or Buddha - you know some people see Buddha at the World Trade Center. They go by and they do this - Brahma - and then they say "woman" and they get,you know, so it becomes not who they are but the image and it's - kind of a phenomena. So is there anything you'd like to talk about in that context? Why did you put the woman on the crucifix?
Men fighting each other brings problems to women and children and their own people. I want to tell my opinion of Christ's religion, believing people don't need to fight each other and should have no problem.Women don't like fighting or killing people. And a problem between neighboring countries is mostly men making a problem. I want to continue to see women,children and people. I want to express my opinion, to show the men, and their families, why they make a problem. Who makes the problems?It's mostly men.Making the world's problems, fighting between countries, fighting between neighbour, the neighbours are fighting and the men kill men,make the bomb,and the women die and the children die,and I make the picture like this because you have to make people believe,and don't do something and just give something.It's Buddha.In Thai we have the Buddha. We have a lot of woman, and woman don't want the fighting and bomb. I like to be quiet. If I marry a soldier or warrior or person who can't control the people fighting each other or they go to kill people in another country or make them hurt or bomb their homes or whatever place they are fighting over - this means he kills me. That's his wife and he kills - his family, he kills his children and own people.
We probably have film for one more question. It's also important for you to see beauty in Nature.Do you want to talk about that?
I think that nature is beautiful.Mother Nature is everywhere. Everywhere. I love the nature,everyone,everything. Most people destroy nature. Nature exists to make people happy, under the shade of a tree. If we have a problem in society - people live together and people leave from wild mountain stream and all of them give up power to come to the city to work. We have to take care of family, many things, and conserve nature. You work in the countryside - you go to a job or something, you have many thing to do everyday. In our city you go to the nature or the mountain or somewhere in the nature. The nature gives something back to you like a power.You can enjoy, you can throw away something out of your brain, keep nature, keep it's power. After you get back to work you have power back again. I think nature help people very much.
It's a healer.It helps people to heal,to be balanced.
We shot all the film. Do you feel satisfied?
translation by Karnkanok Doungmanee
TABLA PLAYER in white tunic
(Tabla player describes Indian classical music as a beat system - 16, 12, 7, etc. He demonstrates 16 beat measure on tabla, drumming increases and decreases in intensity. He then counts out 7 beat system and plays that. Interview commences)
Do you want to say anything about your music? Why are you a musician? Music is a voice to God, do you think?
Yes. Music is a very good prayer of a God. Music is a very good prayer.
How do you define a pure musician?
A pure musician be heavier - everytime is on his face,like happiness everytime, not very cloudy. Musician is like everytime quiet, like the proof of a pure musician.
How long have you played music for?
When I was eight years old. I was playing tabla, Indian classical instruments. I like to be famous in my life, in music line, and I'd like to give big concert in Europe. Like Canada, like America.
Like to travel?
Yes, I'd like to be travelling in my life because I want to be - to get experience in my life. I'd like to teach Indian classical music - there's a form quiet. I think that in Western music also good, but Western music there's too much crowd. Too much crowd in Western music.
Too many people?
Too many people sing together. But in Indian classical music is a for quiet. Is really music you can - is prayer of God in Indian classical music. You cannot prayer in western music.
So you're saying Indian classical music is like a prayer, and Western music - what would that be?
Western music is actually - too many people sing together and play together. It's like too much sound. Why is it like this? But this time, the mentality has changed, in India, the mentality has changed like this. People are going to be modernist like this. They like the Western music.
Yes. They like the Western music this time. And this time I'm going to look as European people like the Indian classical music. Why, I think, it is because people want to be changing their life. Also, the Western music is not bad, Western music is also good. I like Western music.
But it's not praying?
Mostly I like Indian classical music. But I like Western music. Sometimes I play Western music on the tabla.
When you play music, sometimes do you meditate? Sometimes get lost in the music?
When I play tabla sometimes I think there is nothing in this world. There is only music, because music is life. Without music, no life. Sometime I think like this. And I practice at night time because night time practice very good practice. Because at night there is no crowd. It is very quiet. Practice is best for musician.
Same with me. Okay, if I could, I'll film.Do you want to say those things one more time?
Music is life.Without music,I think,no life.Because when I start practice at night I think that all this world is nothing.Only music.Because if I sit one place and speaking this time,also this is music.Everytime music, everywhere music. I think music is life - without music, no life.
It cranks, I have to crank. Do you want to say music is the international language?
Music is the international language.Why music international language?Because music everybody can understand it.That's why I think music is international language.
Why did you choose tabla? Not sitar, not flute, not guitar?
Because,actually,tabla is the one.In English language the word is "healing drum",means the healing drum.Also,I can make good health and also I can be musician.I make good health,because tabla,playing tabla is muscular exercise,very nice,so that's why the healing drum.
Great. Uh, just ran out of film. I guess that's all the,uh, film that I have -
field recording rooftop raga
NAOMI, SUZANNE, TODD, BO living in the big city
NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK apartment
Does anybody want to ask me a question?
N - That’s the camera? I can hardly wait to see this film.
You can start talking now. Because sometimes I may have to match different words to picture, when I crank the camera.
N - You mean some man is going to be lip-synching to what I say?
Then I have to - because I'm shooting you in fast motion, so you're going to be in fast motion like an old Charlie Chaplin movie, but the words are going to be at normal motion so I have to slow your fast motion down enough to match. I was asking people if they have faith.
( phone rings - etc.)
N - You have to understand. Ted is this guy, is making a film right now, The Cherry Orchard, like Chekov's play, he's making this into a film right now with Glenn Close and Hume Cronyn, so we're talking about filming in my bedroom.
"Oh it's really good. You know, we got some nice smells happenning and the candles look really good" -
What do you think about faith?
N - We need faith.
S - What do you believe in?
N - In me.In blood.In certain friends.
T - Do you have faith in the here and now?
N - Yeah,but the here and now is like me.I think the here and now is me.
T - But do you only have faith in the here and now? There's not a faith before that or other than that?
N - Yeah there is. There is a faith before that. The faith I grew up with and I'm sure I still maintain a portion of.
T - But that's faith in what? Just family?
N - Faith in beyond,not necessarily God,although I think I have a very strong leaning to that,I pray to that,I meditate to that,I think.But it's very hard, because I come from that since I was a child and I leave that when I was like eighteen,but I still maintain a part of it,but it's not as vivid as it is to the rest of my family now. I'm not of that same persuasion,but there's still that vivid faith in the beyond that takes me to places,that directs me,since I was a child.
T - But that doesn't mean a whole lot. Because you learned it, like a book.
N - Maybe a bit. But at the same time I made it a reality to me because I studied it a whole lot when I was young. I spent time studying things - studying the Bible, studying other books. As diverse as Francis Schaeffer and Norman Vincent Peale, men that are so far apart religiously, all that I studied. Faith is - like to sit her and talk about it, is like getting naked. It's really wild. It really is, to think about it.
Do you always know what you have faith in? Maybe you have faith in things that you don’t know you do.
N - That could be,that could very well be.Sometimes my - what I think or believe to be faith misleads me or misguides me,when I lose the center of what I need to know, my focus in life.That time spent with yourself where you really understand what it is you’re looking for,what is faith.I don’t know.It’s crazy. i'm getting crazy. I can't believe this. Really, to ask that - I think ohmygod, I'm getting crazy. It's so honest. What do you have faith in? I have faith in me. I have faith in a couple of people, and sometimes that changes. Sometimes people I have faith in changes,and new people come in and I have faith in them for a short period of time.
Do you ever think that sometimes people have faith that might obstruct other people's faith?
N - Definitely. Most definitely. People have faiths that negate them from the rest of society, that separates them and creates a wall, a boundary. It's not good, but that's reality, it occurs. There has to be a universal faith.
T - But if you have true faith that means you believe in love and if you're going to be judgemental - I think if you're a Christian or Jewish,they always teach you that the most important thing is love.When I go to a Catholic Church sometimes, the god that they're talking about is judging people.It's being judgmental. That isn't right. But I'm not going to judge it.I'm going to find love somewhere else.
S - Do you not have a set of morals?
T - Yeah,but I found those morals within my own spirituality. When I was very young I went to church and I was around people who were very loving and I never had any fears and that's where I found my spirituality. And people don't even have that. That's where I got my set of rules.
S - But have they changed?
T - No,they've never changed. It's so weird. What I grew up with with my parents, I hold so dear to me. My parents had me when they were like 17 years old.They were little kids.They had nothing.But they gave me and my sister so much love and direction.That's where I got my morals from,in their constant giving.No fear of love and no fear of having their egos control their lives.They were very simple people and they gave me so much.They weren't afraid of loving me and that's what the society is fucked about.We're afraid of loving. We're afraid of having those things we had when we were younger, like to hug someone, to take care of someone, those things that we weren't afraid of.Our ego-minds in today's society is so intense. We have to do this, we have to make money, we have to own this, we have to have this stability, we have to have all these things and we have to make sure no one sees us, no one sees us cry if we're a guy, or no one sees us do all this, all these little fucking things that we put on ourselves. Where our ego says "don't do that, it might show you care" or "don't do that,don't cry, don't love". It's all the same thing.It's don't love -
Do you have faith in yourself?
S - Oh, that's a really hard one - faith in myself? Yes, yes definitely. Perhaps when - it's funny,it's changed. When I was younger I had a lot of faith,I was just out there and always going for it, you know, and then - I don't know. What I wanted to talk about more was, it's funny, it's more to do - that's why I got these flowers. It's very symbolic, it's nature. Faith - it's like I think so much of that is lost, you get so caught up in your little world. People and things and where you want to go and what you want to do and how much you want to have, and you accumulate these possessions when really it's about - it's simple things that really are most important.
N - Like what?
S - Well, I suppose since I was brought up in the country I still relate to that.I mean,I'm so cosmopolitan and whatever from just the profession that I've wanted and where I've come from, like a wheat field to New York City, it's a big difference. But it's like, just - when you're out there in the open, I just think - I think we're sort of destroying things.
N - What do you feel when you're out in the open?
S - I feel free. I can achieve so much more, like I think I get sort of confined. It's just a sense of being, like a feeling, like of knowing who I am. The problem is that what I want is more materialistic, I suppose, with performing and stuff.
Is it harder to know who you are when you are trying to achieve?
S - I get caught up. Caught up in this whole other world of trying to be something. Putting on something. Whereas where I feel more comfortable is like yelling to a fucking stone, or a rock, or the water, the water is really - it's funny, when I'm in the water I just relax, it's soothing and I feel just totally peaceful. I lose that, I lose that, I do.
N - That's where you come from, is the water.
S - It's funny because in a way, that is more, yeah - that is more me probably than all this other stuff that I continually put myself through.
N - But is any of it you? Do you really change that much?
S - I think I do. But that's also from my upbringing. I mean, I never was -
Do you believe in marriage?
S - I did. I mean, I swear, the past few years my beliefs about everything have been shattered. I believe in love, I believe in marriage. I never thought I would be involved. For years I always thought that was the last thing - I wanted so much else. But love is such a big part of life, such a big part of the world. I mean, love is everything really, whether it's food, a love of food, or people or friends or lovers. I mean really, that is the world, it's about love. But what gets me is the way people change. You know, you meet someone, you're attracted to something about that person, there's something about that person that you want or you like and you see, and someone's attracted to you for the same things. But then, after a while - I suppose that's just from my own experience. It's like they want that, they see that, but then they want to change it to what they want, like to see what they see, they see something and they think they're attracted to that and they want to take it and keep it for themselves and not allow it to be seen by the world anymore. It's almost like they put you on a pedestal, which I feel I really was. I was put on a pedestal. It's like this flower, and without sunlight this flower can't live and it can't grow. It's confined, and people do that to other people and it's really sad. You can't expand. They don't allow sunlight in, they don't allow growth and then they start taking from you. They want the color that they see and they want to take the color and keep it for themselves.It's like - you change. I mean, that's totally what happenned. You become what - it's like they're attracted to something and then they change you into what they want but it's not you anymore, and they're not attracted to that. Does that make any sense? And yet, why can't people just be? Why can't people respect other people's faith, other people's beliefs? And allow them to have those faiths and respect that and then perhaps grow from there. I mean, people are not going to stay the same, knowing that you're two people, that you have two different beliefs, that you have completely different faiths, and allow each other to grow, each other to expand.
I have a question that I want to ask you. What do you think about drugs and alcohol?
B - I think that they're good things in this world.Drugs and alcohol, I think, are the best.They're powerful tools in understanding things like faith and God. Drugs have brought me closer to God.
You think so? Really?
B - Yeah,definitely.Here's to drugs and alcohol! ( raises glass and laughs)
T - I realized my father loved me on crystal meth.
B - Me too!
( talk centers on wonders of crystal meth. Bo is asked to talk about a seminar he recently attended. )
B - Here's the deal. You're like there for three days from like 6 AM to 2 AM. You have two breaks during the day and the other time you’re not allowed to leave the room.If you leave the room they say they can’t guarantee the results, or whatever. You’re like ignored if you leave the room.You’re done with. So after a while you begin to hallucinate because it’s like tripping out. For like three days. They’re like pounding this stuff into your head, and so you start to trip out, literally. So during this whole experience I had this trip about my Dad and I fucking like burst into tears and it was weird. I didn't know any of these people that I was sitting next to and I fucking burst into tears.
T - Yeah but you weren't burst out because the program was so amazing - they broke you down.
B - Yeah, they broke me down - but that's kind of a breakthrough in itself, like whatever reasons they have. It allowed me to have this emotional experience.
T - But you can break yourself down without making yourself breakdown -
B - Yeah but I've never been able to do that. I've never been a crying type of person. I think crying is like laughing. It's a release, it's important. And if you don't have one, it's like you're out of balance. I think crying is really important, but I've never been able to cry. So it was really amazing to me to just sit there and like bawl. This girl next to me was giving me tissues and stuff and she was doing the same thing like half an hour after me. She was like giving me tissues and stuff and all of a sudden the whole trip of being in this room for three days, it got to her too. She started freaking out and then I was giving her tissues and she was saying "I'm getting it now. I get it now." She was freaking out. It was amazing.
T - But if you went to church every week or something like that, you get that same thing without making it pushed on you. When I go to the Course of Miracles you're in an atmosphere where everyone's, like, we're here for something better, we all forgive you, we all love you, let's talk about the honesty, then you will realize that honesty. I found if you're in the right social situation, you can find it on your own, you can find your own spirituality.
B - It wasn't so much pushed on you. They had this like whole philosophy, or whatever, and they were like "this is the way that it is". And it was like, the only conversation was - this is the way that it is. Ask a question - you'll go like "why?" and they'll go "Why? Because of the ceiling. Why does it matter?"
T - They brainwash you! It's almost like brainwashing!
B - It is like brainwashing, but through that whole experience - I have a negative opinion of their program or whatever it was but I had that fucking -
T - That's how I feel about most religions at the beginning.I had that very negative -
B - Is that it?
I ran out of film.
field recording duvali taxi
THE PSYCHICK WARRIORS ov GAIA musicians
NIGHTCLUB, BELGIUM backstage
(excerpts from a long - 60 minutes + - conversation)
- Let him tell us what his film is about.
Initially the idea of the film was about how people's faith usually has a consequence for someone else who doesn't follow that particular faith. It's hard - there's not one sentence I can use,ever.I've tried in a lot of different ways but I can't say it in one sentence.The film is about what happens to people when they have faith in things and what do they do to other people. What actually happens, not to the people who have faith in things, but to the people around them who might not have the same faiths. So the film is concentrating mostly on not people's faith in things but on suppression, suffering, punishment, discrimination, death, murder, segregation, all those things that happen to people who don't have the same faith as other people. But I don't know how to say that in exactly one sentence so -
- When he's talking about faith - I don't truly have faith. I don't know what to believe. My last resort is myself.
- You can have faith but not in a dogmatic way.
- We're using African sounds,we're using Asian sounds.We try to incorporate the world, the human world as well as the living world itself. Then here's this person doing interviews, playing our music, trying to talk to us, being a right wing person. You know what they want right here in Belgium - they want to get rid of all the foreigners -
- They want to be the boss in their own country and they think everybody should be that way.
- In itself, because you use samples, they can be used for any kind of meaning whatsoever. Because you can use them for everything that you want. You can do it with words, or music, or whatsoever. And how it is understood is up to the people themselves. And you can try to communicate with them, and you don't have to agree with them - and of course you try to make a point where you stand yourself but I think it would be a mistake to get involved in discussion with all kind of people and putting it again on a political level where it shouldn't happen.
- I think people can use technology. I think people can drive cars. I think people can do a lot. It depends on the way you do it, depends on the way how often you do it, depends on the way if you use a car for everything, if there's no balance in what you're doing. In our culture there's no balance. It knows only "me".
- True faith, true spirituality, transcends morality. I mean, morality and institutionalized religion - these are instruments of control. They're ways of asserting power and faith really has nothing to do with it. It's these institutions that connect the two, that use people's faith and spirituality to control them. Real faith,real spirituality comes from within people and has nothing to do with right and wrong.
- It has to do with transcendence - to transcend the human condition. And what I mean about the human condition is the way we are conditioned.
- The Psychick Cross is a symbol on which you focus,on which you put in yourself as being an individual who wants to transcend,who wants to climb the stair. And it doesn't say more or less, it's just simply that, it simply transcends the other symbols.
- We just have to really believe what we believe, and to try and push it out non-verbally and that energy will come back to you, to us, and will also be put forth again. I could be wrong, it's just my experience, what I happen to see.
- I think it happens quite often - transcendence. Most people experience - for instance, most often on the dance floor. At a certain point they're just dancing and they don't realize themselves, they're not conscious of it, but you can see it, and they're freeing themselves of themselves.
field recording chanting-singing
Milton Altwasser with his Keystone camera 1993
music recording - solo piano “Lyrical"
A film by Milton Altwasser
Produced by Milton Altwasser and Dena Galay
Camera & Sound Recording: Milton Altwasser
Editors: Jeff Carter and Dena Galay
Sound Supervisor: Richard Eyre
Sound Designer: Velcrow Ripper
Sound Mix: Dieter Piltz
Produced with the assistance of Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society, The Canada Council for the Arts, and The National Film Board.
crew and assistance
CANADA Bike Sequence - cyclist: Joe Caruana assistance from Neil Pinnackline
Dance Sequence - dancer: Denise Galay assistance from Darren Trenchard, Ian Migicovsky, Wilson additional camera: Brad Poulsen
The Gypsy and the Amway Woman - written by Milton Altwasser Amway Lady: Helen Zilkowsky Gypsy: unknown camera - Bill Evans assistant camera - Costas Grigoriadis sound - Jeff Carter costumes - Denise Schuk set design - Siobhan O’Keefe
Saskatchewan - assistant camera - Clark Henderson assistance from Danielle and Russell Wildlong
AMERICA Los Angeles - assistance from Jean-Francois Ngosso and Monique Ngosso
New York City - Naomi McLeod and friends
JAPAN Tokyo - assistance from Hiroshi Koike, Andrea Sadler
THAILAND Bangkok - assistance from Somboon Phuangdorkmai
EUROPE Belgium - assistance from The Psychick Warriors ov Gaia
the credits are extremely incomplete, please advise of additions or corrections
EYE SURGERY FOOTAGE courtesy of Dr. Rizvi.With thanks to Mehdi Rizvi
WARTORN * LYRICAL * NORTHERN FOREST * FOR MAUREEN * SPACEY * WET BELL DISCO * GINZA DISCO * MUTUAL OF OMAHA * BANFF STUDY * CELTIC * LAST SONG * -composed and performed by Milton Altwasser
SAND * TALES OF THE GANGES * -composed and performed by Richard Eyre
HAWAIIAN DRUMS * - field recording RAGA #3 * - field recording TABLA #2 * - field recording
“PSYCHICK BEAT” * The Psychick Warriors
Gordon Anderson Juergen Beerwald (Cineworks)
Dan Bellan Joe Caruana
Scott Collins (NFB Winnipeg) Denise Galay
John Hickey (Toronto) Richard Holden (Canada Council)
Sandi Kilby Mark Lebraun (Thailand)
Kathryn Lynch (NFB Vancouver) Alex MacKenzie
Arun Mauro (Thai translation) Clark Nikolai
Mark Nugent Kent Overgard (San Francisco)
Walter Quon (BC Arts Council) Ileana Pietrobruno
John Price Velcrow Ripper
Heather Scott (Thailand) Robert Shea
Meg Thornton (Cineworks) Malcolm Tung (Toronto)
Helen Yagi Yumiko (Japanese translation)
Andrea and JoJo Mia Wood
Andrea Sadler Debbie and Robert Heigner
The Altwasser Family Brooke and ?
Dr Shen Dr Sukamariu
and the countless assistants and guides that have journeyed with me
This film is dedicated to my mother and father