Filming trip to Sri Lanka


Ben Mark Films

I caught this woman crossing one of the busiest roads I’d ever seen.
She was beautiful.

Hello! Thanks for tuning into my new blog about Sri Lanka!

Wow, where to even begin!? First of all I’d like to say if I had to sum up Sri Lanka in one word it would be, humanity. But back to that later.

I didn’t even really know where to begin when I pulled my camera out for the first time, the roads and surroundings were all so chaotic. I’d never seen anything like it in my life. Beeping your horn was a regular way of going about the roads; it was a form of communication, not aggression. Somehow amongst all the ‘free for all’ mayhem on the roads, there was a lovely balance of pushing out into busy traffic but also allowing other cars and tuk tuks to pass you, which I think spoke volumes about the culture in Sri Lanka. So my eye was a little off the mark just down to the pure shock of my visual surroundings. After spending a day just mulling around, I really started to get excited about my new environment. So many amazing areas, good and bad, that juxtapose really well when combined in a photograph and film.

One thing I really wanted to do on this trip, was completely immerse myself in the everyday life and culture of these people. Not just look on the outside, but feel it on the inside. That started with just getting out there, speaking to people on the street, offering them food, water and a picture. I wish I had enough energy in me to type out some of the amazing stories I learnt when I was out shooting, but you would be reading this for a long while (maybe I’ll write another blog about them).

The photographs I got of certain people in Sri Lanka are probably up there with my favourite pictures I’ve taken, it lead me to start a project called ‘Faces of Sri Lanka’, which can be seen on my Instagram gallery. It wasn’t down to the quality of my camera or even my skills, but more the people I chose to take pictures of. The idea of self image and ego concept didn’t really apply to these people, whereas in the 1st world, we are generation of selfies and Instagram photos. It made me realise that more and more overtime, we have began to understand how we look on photos, how we look best, how we want to look e.g. ‘this is my good side’, ‘this filter makes me look pretty’, ‘if I hold the camera like this, I look slimmer’, ‘if I suck in my jaw blah blah blah’. You get the gist. However for the people of Sri Lanka, it was not the same. These guys don’t have ‘preferences’ on how they look, they were just there… present, in the moment, as if they were looking into my soul every time I pressed the shutter button. There was never this moment of ‘posing’, I saw them and only them.

I asked to take a photo of them because I personally I believe I ‘saw them’ and in return that’s what came out in the photograph. Sounds a bit weird, but it’s the only way I can describe it. They were such real and grounded people, an absolute pleasure to be around and to watch go about everyday life.

'I guess when you head out to these sort of countries in the Middle East and Asia, you naturally already have some idea of what to expect, however this ended up being beyond expectation'

Filming wise, I wanted best to encapsulate the emotion and mood of everyday life in Sri Lanka. While it is filled with hard graft, fishing, bartering or begging, it is all done with great respect and appreciation for the world around them. I think what we may consider ‘surviving’ in the 1st world, whether it’s earning on minimum wage, trying to pay the rent or pay the bills, affording a new car; but the term ‘surviving’ out here applies in a whole different way, hence their much deeper connection to the world around them.

The majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhist and by god did that explain everything about who they are as people. Again, this value and understanding of life, that was at such a deeper rooted level than we westerners could ever understand, and it was this exact energy that I was desperate to highlight. I believe a lot of Buddhist teachings focus around these same notions, as one guy monk to me ‘Sir, being a good person does not depend on religion, race, colour, political or cultural views. But on how you treat others.’ A beautiful quote, full of truth and meaning and I could whole heartily say that each and everyone of them shared these same morals. It led to my final filming project which was called ‘Life’.

All in all I produced 5 videos in 10 days while out in Sri Lanka (it was supposed to be my holiday.. lol) but when you get the itch… you get the itch. You honestly can’t help yourself and I wouldn’t of changed it for the world. They are all on my Youtube page so feel free to check them out there or via my ‘Directors’ page. Having spent those 10 days fulling immersing myself in the culture around me, I knew the song I wanted to help portray my experience and understanding of Sri Lanka, however the song was not enough for me. Being a huge fan of Alan Watts, a spiritual entertainer who speaks a lot on Buddhism, I began to recall some of his lectures on the meaning of life… what does it really mean to be alive?

It was the question that forever was repeated in my mind when I was there. The particular speech I chose for my this final film, for me, portrayed best the thoughts and feelings of my experience. Over here in the western world we are constantly striving more for the materialistic things in life, and it’s not our fault really, you live with what you are given. However, with that, we are highly intelligent and we are a fast developing nation, but there has to be a balance and I think we need to use that intelligence to remind us of one thing; that we cannot lose our connection to each other and this world. This lecture best described that balance for me, how we are always chasing for ‘tomorrow’ rather than being present… in the moment, living ‘NOW’.

Ben Mark Films

Not many words can describe one of the biggest mammals on our planet. A real joy to finally meet Elephants face to face.

Other highlights included helping young underprivileged Sri Lankan boys pressure there dreams of being professional Cricketers. For anyone new to me or my blog, I am huge fan of cricket, I’ve played since the age of 11 and I’ve become truly obsessed with watching and playing it. Sri Lanka is a nation of cricket, it’s there number 1 sport, and I cannot describe the excitement of getting to be around sub continental players for the first time in their own environment (which was 43 degrees everyday by the way!).

It was truly touching to see how passionate these boys were to play and to be the best they could be, especially when everything in life is essentially going against them ever having a chance of playing professional cricket. A typical day included me leading the boys through a fitness warm up and cool down that would help with playing in such severe heat, I also worked one on one in the nets with some of the boys on their batting/bowling and further on into the tour, we compiled money and kit together to hand out to some of the really poor boys who could not afford there own kit.

Again, it was another real eye opener, at international level, the England cricket team are expected to be a better side than the Sri Lankan national team purely because of funds, facilities and opportunities but I promise, these boys played with more passion than I’ve ever seen in cricket. It was everything they held dear in life, and I think because of the array of sports available to kids out in England, some of that passion and love goes missing. It goes back to living with what your given and we are lucky that we have so many more choices and opportunities and we can much more relaxed about whether we want to really persue it or not. The talent pool was ridiculous and I have high hopes of seeing some of these boys play in the future for Sri Lanka.

To summarise, I guess when you head out to these sort of countries in the Middle East and Asia, you naturally already have some idea of what to expect, however this ended up being beyond expectation, and in the most beautiful way. Going back to my original statement earlier, one thing that struck me the most was how friendly and nice the culture was in Sri Lanka, a real sense of humanity. I think having lived in London for the past 5 years, anyone who says ‘hello’ to me, is either a maniac or drunk (harsh & general I know, but it’s true, we become instantly suspicious). We also have a serious communication problem over here in the western world and without being too sentimental, it became quite clear to me how materialistic aspects of our world are. I toyed more and more with the notion that we are slowly disconnecting more and more from this beautiful wonderful world we live on, and I know people could sit and argue and say because of the science and technology available to us, that we are more in touch than we’ve ever been, but I’m talking on a human level… Our roots to this planet, each other and the universe around us. These guys in Sri Lanka didn’t have social media, or the online world dictating their lives; there was no sense of personal image or the ego affecting the way they went about life. Yes, they did have access to it, but not in the sense of the way we use it or see it. If you think about it, it is quite ironic; because Mark Zuckerberg and many other huge media entrepreneurs would argue that they are in fact connecting the whole world, and I would agree with that in some way, but as far as actually being present and alive in life, connected to the actual earth we walk on and our likeness to nature, these are the things I believe we (over in the western world) are slightly losing touch with.

Well that’s everything for now, I’m sure more stories and memories will pop back to me that I will want to blog about. Hope you’ve enjoyed getting some insight to my processes and experiences out in Sri Lanka. Tune in for more soon!