New York, New York
At the end of February, I left Australia.
I had a pocket full of one-way flights to film festivals, music festivals, independent cinemas and community halls around the world. After six years of making Mongolian Bling, I was looking forward to sharing it with audiences in so many places. With no full time work and some savings, it was great to be able to tag along with the film.
The first stop was New York.
I’d been to New York in 2002 and had found the city dead. I’m not sure if it was that I was a budget backpacker, or because I was staying in the wrong neighbourhood, or possibly that it was just six months after 9/11 but I distinctly remember being let down by ‘the city that never sleeps’. Maybe the fact that the Australian dollar was worth a measly 50 American cents had tainted my experience.
Almost exactly 11 years later however I discovered the New York I’d expected. Sidewalks full of people braving the freezing temperatures. Friends hanging out in bars watching basketball games on blaring TVs. Pizza shops serving oversized slices late into the night. African Americans busking on trains, singing harmonious soul as they walked the length of the carriage in perfect time so each song ended at a station where they’d dash to the next carriage and a fresh captive audience.
The city was alive and I was excited about Mongolian Bling screening there.
First Time Fest was unique in that it focused on first time filmmakers. Mongolian Bling was one of just 12 films from around the world that had been selected so I was feeling pretty special as I stepped onto the red carpet. The opening night was in the gorgeous Players Club. I drifted amongst the sea of girls in high heels and guys in snappy suits, feeling slightly out of place in my travel jeans and t-shirt. The publicist swept me and other filmmakers onto the red carpet and into the firing line of a hoard of photographers’ flashes.
The organisers Mandy, Joanna, Sarah and David had selected films from an eclectic range of countries. Belgium, Israel, Australia, Mongolia, Belarus, Chile and Argentina were all represented, alongside five films from America. To encourage development, there were four celebrities giving us feedback directly after the screening and each of us were to receive a year of mentoring.
I had a hectic few days trying to catch every single film until Saturday afternoon when Mongolian Bling was premiering. With our films claims of Mongolia being the birthplace of hip hop and New York’s rap history, I’d been really excited about finally screening in the city and I was slightly disappointed at the crowd size. However those who were there enjoyed the film and gave it some great feedback.
Mongolian Bling missed out on an award on the final night, as did my two favourite films, the humorous Blumenthal and the intense and visionary Urban Tales, however some other great films took home some of the awards. The festival was peppered with celebrities and after the awards we got to hang out with Martin Scorsese and Darren Aronofsky.
The next day I made my way to JFK Airport and after 18 hours in the air and seven hours in a stuffy Russian airport, I stepped off flight Transaero 9999 into Beijing. The world tour of Mongolian Bling had well and truly begun.