Thursday, March 26, 2009

The village idiot

For the pass few days, I don't know why but I've been thinking about this village idiot that I accidentally interviewed.

When I was in Terengganu shooting our documentary, we have heard of a chinese temple that was build on the banks of a river, the same spot where legends have it that Admiral Cheng Ho stopped to look for fresh water. It was during Cheng Ho's fourth trip that he sailed up the Terengganu river looking for fresh water. He couldn't proceed up river anymore as his path was blocked by a rapid.

We only knew its general location and we had to stop people on the street to ask for directions. After driving of the main road into some village, we came to the banks of a river and found the temple. In front of it was a river with a rapid. It was quiet and serene. The small temple was more like a shrine. It was locked up and no one was around.

So there I stood in the shade of a tree looking at the rapids. There was a jetty where villagers took water taxis to the main town down stream. I stood there watching passengers getting on and of while enjoying the peace of the surroundings. I had come a long way from KL all the way to this small tiny village called Kampung Jeram. It felt surreal.

I looked around to see if there was anyone we could interview about this temple, and just as I looked down the small street we were standing on, I saw a man riding a bicycle. It was actually a kid's chopper. It looked like it was one size too small for the guy ridding it. He was wearing a ragged t-shirt and he had a shaved head. He stopped and asked us what we were doing. We told him we were filming a documentary and wanted to interview someone who could tell us the history of the temple.

He offered himself saying that knew the history of the place. So we sat him down by the rocks of the rapid and he started to talk. While I was doing the interview, I could see that by then a few other villagers have gathered around. After the interview was done, He when of to get something. The other crew came back from talking to the other villagers. They said the guy we interviewed wasn't 'right'.

At that point, I realized we had interviewed the village idiot and he gave us the version of his history of the village. No wonder the guy was going around in a chopper. He did mention he used to work in KL but couldn't stand the stress and moved back to his village and was now jobless. Damn it. I should have seen the sign.

The other villagers mentioned that the best person to talk too was the former village chief. Just then, the village idiot came back on his bicycle. We asked him to take us to the former village chief. So we followed him from our van while he rode in front of us.

The ex-village chief was quite gracious enough to talk to us. The story he told us was slightly different from what the village idiot told us. There was a lot more 'additional' stuff that the village idiot had told us which I began to doubt about it's authencity.

In the end, when I finally reached the office and started editing. I didn't use any of the interviews with the village idiot. I still have his phone number. He didn't have a hand phone, only a home phone.

In fact, I think this was the second village idiot we talked too in Terengganu. While we were looking for another place, we stopped to ask for directions. There was a small warong selling drinks and a few customers sitting in it. My producer walked up to the first customer to ask for directions. The guy just mumbled and we couldn't understand a word he was saying. Finally the shop owner came forward and took the guy by the shoulders and moved him aside. He said that the person we were just talking too "wasn't right". Damn of all the customers in the shop, we picked the one who wasn't right.

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