Ford’s feature-length documentary on their time there is called “American~Indian.” It’s now for sale online, as a way to help Ford finance future film work upon their return to India, and it will be available to view on YouTube soon.
“We had always been interested in India, but we wanted to see if we could really make it home,” Ford said, explaining the process that led to the film. “At first we started taking Hindi classes. I landed a job with a tourism/travel company to make short videos that could be used to show clients famous cities and destinations.”
All the while, the camera rolled on just about everything the family did, and Ford used these as video blogs on YouTube. (You can link to these videos in the online version of this column at PanamaCity.com.)
“In January of this year, I met with some of the good people who manage Kunzum Travel Cafe in Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village,” he said. “They were hosting a film series and after seeing one of my YouTube videos, wondered if there was anything I wanted to show. As much as I believe in YouTube and the power of vlogs, I felt a bit self-conscious showing these low-production value vlogs on a larger screen.”
He edited together footage from the vlogs with higher-definition travel videos for a feature length presentation shown at the café on Jan. 25, but he wasn’t satisfied with the result.
“People really liked the first half, but the frenetic pace of vlogs was too annoying to sustain for a full 75 minutes,” he said. He decided to make some changes, slow the pace, add some narration and extra content, and: “What you will see is the new and improved final version incorporating some of the feedback I got from viewers of the first film.”
Ford’s past travels have been partially financed by family, friends and churches, as well as his corporate work, but he’s hoping to transition into a business model that will allow him to focus on filmmaking alone. He wants to further his immersion into India and open the minds of people on both sides of the world.
“It has been a great experience. Every time I travel overseas I learn something new,” Ford said. “Getting down on the ground, the immersion process is something I really resonate with. … It made me realize so many preconceived notions we have are not fair.”
India is a diverse place, he said, with 18 major languages and 1,000 dialects. And yet, there are only three official religions (Christian, Hindu and Muslim) and you have to register with the government as belonging to one of them.
“You can’t be an atheist,” he said.
Tensions are often high in the country, with people breaking into factions along religious, ethnic or geographical lines. But it’s also a time that seems on the threshold of bright changes, with start-ups and NGOs opening up new forms of business and revenue.
Ford plans to return to India in about six months.
“I see myself more as a non-governmental ambassador,” he said. “I try to get these cultures to understand each other, to show them that not all Westerners are colonial jerks. … I hope to be a peacemaker, I guess.”