Last day of shoot
August 5, 2003
We are driving in the rain to
an out of the way dive that serves Chinese buffet on the
outskirts of Lima. Chifa San Luis’ owner Maria Yiu is no longer
in the prime of her youth but she still has the air of a
flamboyant has-been pageant queen. She catwalks into the joint
like Cher in her push-up bra, skin-hugging jeans and
cockroach-killer high heel boots.
Maria is now fifty and has spent more than half her life in
Peru. Unlike the well-settled and grounded Luis Yong, she still
feels transient and foreign. My camera has played psychiatrist
to quite a few lonely old dudes lamenting their youths, past
loves and loves lost on this tour. Maria will be the first and
only woman to grace me this honour, as she laments about her
lost youth and feeling trapped in Peru. Cheuk is up to his usual
trick. When he asks if she has any regrets, the floodgates of
her tears burst open. Cheuk signals me to continue rolling and I
know he wants the close-ups.
It’s the day I’ve been waiting for. I’m shooting “a day in the
life” of Luis Yong at his daytime television cooking show
extravaganza. The TV station was surprisingly far away. It took
awhile driving through some seedy neighbourhoods that we never
came back out of.
I was more surprised when we arrived at the rundown ghetto
building where the station operated. Ajay, my sound guy and
second camera, had never seen anything so Third World in India
either. The master switcher room was literally a closet with an
old analogue Marantz deck. The studio that operated two
different live shows was a claustrophobic space with ceilings so
low, what minimal lighting they had if you can qualify it were
banging against everyone’s heads.
Ajay and I are more surprised with the consumer cameras and
dangling naked light bulbs used in the studio. I think they were
no more than single chip. This has given a whole new meaning to
guerrilla television. There’s a film in here somewhere.
Luis and Chola, the shows hostess badger back and forth like the two chipmunks from
the Looney Tunes. Luis does his Oriental mystique act on the
medicinal benefits of Chinese food cures. Somehow this all fits
into the new age theme with the fortune-teller at the next set.
The funniest part was when they invited Cheuk up at the end of
the show and the cameras turned on me to get a shot of me
shooting. So we both got our Andy Warhol five seconds of fame on
Peruvian guerrilla television.
Ajay and his wife Sarada are heading off to Machu Picchu after
we wrap things up in Lima. They’re trying to get me to come
along, but I’ve committed myself to a salaried contract back in
Toronto next week and need to be back on time. But most of all,
I just need to get back to be with Fai.
Four years, thirteen countries, fifteen stories, countless bowls
of rice and more mileage than Che’s motorcycle can rev up… we
concluded our diaspora road show on August 5, 2003 in a Lima
hotel room sipping champagne and smoking some good Andean pot.