Coming to Africa is the dream that you never knew you had to have. Once you’re here, you’re living the dream, and it resonates with every cell of your body. It opens up your mind, to a level of consciousness that, you had no awareness of before. Africa is where you are truly human. It is a place where light has a different quality. Every sound resonates because our ancestors had 4 million years here and that cellular memory carries through today. But our modern world covers all of that with complications, and structure, and control, and junk.
When you come here, it all levels out and you suddenly realise who you really are. So when you’re in this environment, you still down, you find yourself not rushing to do anything, but to follow the rhythm of the day, to follow the rhythm of your needs, physical needs. You’re hungry, you eat. You’re thirsty, you drink. You’re awake when it’s light, you sleep well in the night. It’s really the home of man. Everyone who’s been to Africa will try to tell you that it is something that you have to experience.
Unfortunately this amazing landscape with mega fauna, elephants and lions is under threat. When white European powers came into Africa, it imposed a state ownership of wildlife. This imposed new laws that devalued wild animals in the hope that it would put an end to the illegal Ivory and Rhino horn trade. The belief was that by devaluing the animal, you remove the reason for people to kill it. Before this law was passed, many of the locals (Maasai) used sustainable hunting to make a living by selling animal products such as zebra skins and impala meat to make a living. You can no longer buy such animal skins, or meat out of the butchery, it’s got to be goat or cow. This has disempowered the local people and forced them to find alternative forms of incomes.
The Massaai are trying to advance to be in the same secure state as our modern societies. They would all love to have a house, and a car, and a TV, and a good job but how do they get there? In the history of man, this advance has mainly been driven at the cost of natural biodiversity by some kind of over use of local, natural resources. Much of this has been done through agriculture, whereby one can make a living off of the land. The goal is to eventually make money in a non-rural based environment but the land is the first resource to be used in order to secure enough capital to become urbanised.
The Maasai are now in the throes of this transition and with agriculture now firmly in place and the Colonial laws are proving to have caused immense conflict between humans and wildlife. The land is being cleared of its natural biodiversity, and subdivided so that each man has his own piece of land to grow crops. Ancient cedar trees are being chopped down and used as the posts to fence off these plots. This is leaving little land for animals to roam free and many of the migration corridors and being blocked. Wild Animals are now edging onto these plots killing livestock and eating crops which is now causing a direct conflict between man and wildlife causing the Massai to remove wildlife at a far quicker rate than before the law was passed. This is the main reason that wildlife has been killed off in Africa today. The belief in the idea that devaluing the animal, will remove the reason for killing it has done the exact opposite. It has now been discovered that by devaluing the animal, there’s less reason to keep it, and even more reason to remove it than before, because there’s now direct competition to the other land uses, such as agriculture.
The main tool for removing animals is by poisoning, specifically a pesticide called Furadan 5G. If a lion injects Furadan its immune system shuts down and experiences a brutal death. Carvingers such as Vultures that eat the remains of the Lion experience the same fate. There is currently a loss of 3.6% of wildlife and biodiversity happening in the reserve so within the next 30 the entire reserve will be subdivided for farming and there will be no more wildlife left.
How does one convince the Masaai to change their ways? They are only doing what they need to do to survive. If a lion or any other wild animal is removing their only way of feeding their families then they cannot be expected to preserve it for Tourists 1000’s of miles away.
The film intends to show the reality of what’s happening in the Mara. To be as transparent as possible in showing the struggles of the people, the animals, and the Land. To raise awareness, about the loss of land, wildlife, and culture that is taking place due to the lack of alternative opportunities for the Masaai to advance. To show that if something is not done now, then all the Mara, as we know it will be gone within the next 2-3 decades.
On screen, we see several characters in their day to day lives and the struggles they are experiencing due to the changing landscape of the Mara. The camera will act as a fly on the wall, that captures a young Massai man that’s trying to advance, a Masaai Chief Elder that is trying to preserve his culture, the Tourist camp owner that is trying to conserve the land and tourism, the Tourist that is having a fresh encounter with the wild, The Park Ranger that is trying to protect the wild, The politician that is potentially stuck in bureaucracy and of course the African Lion, Elephant and all the other incredible wild animals that inhabit the Mara. The land itself will also play a key character, to emphasise the beauty and rawness of the place. The style will more observational but shot in a more stylized way. A slow burn that builds on the story, characters, conflicts, struggles, and solutions throughout the film, leaving the audience with a sense of empathy and understanding. It is important for me to show as much as I can so, “show don’t tell” would be the primary building block for the story, but we will shoot “safety” interviews, and set up certain conversations to help anchor and highlight important areas of the story. I will try and avoid or at least limit the use of the sit-down interviews in the final edit as I am aiming to build the story without this by simply showing what’s happening. The sit-down interviews are more for a backup in case certain elements are not clear.
The whole aim would be to paint a realistic picture of what’s happening in the Mara. The things that people don’t necessarily want to see. The kind of stuff that makes a real impact. I would like to show, the reality of what happens when lions enter onto farmland, to consume livestock. What happens when Elephants kill a local person. What Happens when animals consume crops. What happens when vultures scrap at an infected corpse. Where the wood for the fence posts is coming from. The ancient cedar tress being torn down. The land being cleared. The advances that the Masaai are going through. All juxtaposed with the sweeping landscapes of the Mara. The majestic animals. The incredible skies and the local customs and ceremonies that define the Massai people.
One of the most important things for me is to create compassion for each character leaving the audience will a feeling of empathy and understanding. I think it’s important to highlight that there is no real villain. No bad guy. It’s just people trying to survive, and create a lively hood for the families and generations to come.
In terms of the solutions, I would like to avoid this being explicit. I feel it would be better if it was more organically spoken about and fed into the story subtly. As soon as a documentary has something to sell, even if it’s an idea it changes the whole dynamic, and these films don’t seem to be as effective. If a film has a solution that can be met within the process of making the documentary, then it works but if it’s just highlighting an idea for a solution that it can feel like a sales pitch that takes away from the poetic nature of a film like this. I would like to have the film end with a strong sense of awareness, empathy, and compassion leaving the audience hungry to help, with a subtle call to action to how that can be done.
I would suggest that we produce a second short film that can go online as a call to action with a more detailed pitch to help get people to contribute to the solution. This is something that could be shot simultaneously and go alongside the film.several
My style of directing is one that realises the symbiotic importance between the story, the composition of the images, the placement of characters, and the natural sounds of the world. If one of these elements is weak I feel that the connection between the audience and the film is dimmer. The look and feel will be that of a high-end, art-house film. A hybrid that bridges the gap between the realism of documentary and the imagery of fiction. I would like to avoid the standard modern documentary approach, (Using sit-down interviews as the base for the story) which in my opinion is moving away from reality. I would like to direct the film back to the roots of documentary storytelling, whereby what is seen is shown tells the story, and the interviews are used to fill in the blanks and provide more info when necessary. The element I am most interested is truth. To show things exactly as they are. To not have to convince anyone of the reality because they can see it playing out in front of their eyes. I believe this is the best way to authentically tell this story. Everything about the Mara, is raw, stripped back, and real, and that how I would like this film to come across. Documentary filmmaking has come along way, so the combination of the original documentary approach whilst harnessing modern tools and methods is the perfect storm to create something groundbreaking and unique. I see a combination of character storytelling of the great British director Ken Loach, the Rawness of Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev, combined with the images of the natural world seen in David Attenborough’s documentaries.
Fire at Sea
Winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin Film Festival 2016, Gianfranco Rosi’s incisive, poignant and deeply moving portrait of the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa – and the humanitarian crisis occurring in the seas around it – is both a masterly work of documentary filmmaking and a timely call for urgent action.
Mark Waters Showreel
A collection of moments from the many multi award winning films Directed, shot and edited by Mark Waters
TicToc – 2020
In the sixteen years that Felix has grown up, he’s had to contend with the unpredictable and consuming nature of Tourette’s Disorder, all whilst navigating the usual tribulations of adolescence. He wants to share his story and break the stigma. Selected for IDFA, and Lunenburg Doc fest and being released in 2021
In 2015, I had the privilege of coming out to the Mara, where I was introduced to the land, the people, and the crisis. Over the 7 days, I my time was spent capturing and falling in love with the wild. The idea was to create a short film about the conflictand solution but after returning and looking through the footage I was able to get a stronger understanding of the situation, realising that the story was far bigger and more complex than I originally thought. I shot several interviews, as well as the footage you can see in this short but there was no footage to really show the reality of the conflict.
For this story to have impact, then I believe that the heavy stuff needs to be seen as opposed to explained in an interview. This sparked the idea of this film, which has been brewing in my mind for the past 5 years. After finishing my latest project Chasing the Present, I now have the full capacity to put all my time and energy into this this. Now with a deeper understanding of the story, and potentially two months in the Mara, I will be developing this story into something for the big screen.
Revisiting this story 5 years later feels perfectly timed. None of the old footage will be recycled. Everything will be fresh, and shot to a high standerd. .