DIRECTOR’S NOTE – SHADOW OF THE HOLY BOOK
It has long astonished me how international companies operate in countries where human rights are constantly trampled on. Dictatorships often ruthlessly abuse the propaganda benefits gained from their relationships with international companies—and pose no obstacle to the companies making huge profits in the dictators’ countries.
Through the use of propaganda, those who live under these dictatorships are made to believe that the companies, and the countries from which the companies come, support the ruling government. It is through the apparent support given by the international companies that the dictators develop a shield against local opposition and dissidents, thus stopping the development of democratization.
I was filming in China and Tibet when I saw how China “opened its doors” and the flood of international companies started to rush in. Many companies explained their participation in China by saying that they are helping democratization through the free market. The end result, however, is enough to give anyone shivers. The companies have gained enormous profits, and at the same time China has become one of the leading countries in the world. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China is now in charge of deciding the destiny of other nations. And yet the human rights and free speech situation has not changed. Indeed, as a stronger state China has grown even more aggressive in its political approach to countries like Tibet and Taiwan. China’s political and economic power is maximized while the chance to influence China on human rights and free speech issues is minimized. When I heard about Turkmenistan and the actions of international companies there, I felt that a subject I had wanted to talk about for a long time was now within my reach. The ruthless self-interest of the companies, as well as the Turkmen state’s propaganda ambitions, could be dramatized and explained through the translation process of the dictator’s Ruhnama book. The absurd twists and turns related to the book provided a superb platform for the story, enabling it to reach from small vivid details to a vast international canvas.
As oil and gas enter the picture, the actions of the involved countries become even more unscrupulous. Also, the moral boundaries of private individuals become less clear as they find a chance to get rich through actions that test their limits. Our questionable actions increase in the grey area, and the purity that resides in each of us turns darker if we don’t recognize, control, and question the consequences of our thoughts and deeds.
As an ambitious business executive I may have made the same mistakes as the companies did in Turkmenistan. The settled company policies also shift our morals and easily blind us to the actual far-reaching impact of our actions. The companies and countries grow into monsters in circumstances that we have created, and at the same time we turn into monsters ourselves. The responsibility remains with everyone: communities, companies, and individuals. Further, it is a filmmaker’s responsibility to tell about these matters—perhaps as much for the filmmaker’s own development as for any other reason.