The filmmaker who travelled 8119 Miles to make an award winning docu-drama
This is a story of a man who travelled 8119 kilometres to make a film. Filmmaker Joe Eshwar’s second feature 8119 Miles which is in the official selection- Izmir International Refugee film festival, Turkey, Religioni Popoli Film festival, Italy, Laurus Film Festival, Estonia, List off Sessions, Pinewood is now streaming in India on Net 5. While 8119 Miles is already a winner of Elizabethtown International Film Festival, Kentucky, United States, where it had its international premiere. To his credit, Joe has directed 26 documentaries and lives in the UK.
The film’s story is about a mechanic from Goa who wants to visit the UK - a dream that was born from a reason only known to him. He fails to secure a visa despite several attempts. A desperate Gabriel resorts to an ancient route used by illegal migrants to travel without documents. Along with a stranger, Anil, Gabriel travels across two continents, different time zones to his destination. Uncertainties, difficulties, deserts, Snow, cultures, and faith shape their journey.
Joe says that it was a chance meeting with an Iraqi that prompted him to make the film. “In 2015, while having a cup of tea at a restaurant in England, I had a chance to talk to a man who was from Iraqi Kurdistan, who fled the terror regime of Saddam Hussein and came to England. That was the first time I came to know that a road that connected these two countries existed. His was the story of illegal migration. Later on, I began searching online for such stories and came to know about the infamous migrant camp called 'Jungle' which existed in France. I met several people in different European countries from Eretria, Afghanistan and Sudan and so on. Each one had a story to tell. The idea of illegal migration began there. Most people came to such situations either because of misery, war or poverty. Our story did not have poverty, but something more powerful. That is how we began,” says Eshwar who earlier worked for a Television Network in the UK as the Producer for Europe. “I made documentaries for them from different parts of Europe. I knew a number of Line Producers from Europe and Central Asia. Because of my experience in Documentary production, I was comfortable with filming with a small crew. We hired a minimum crew from each country and shot the film. In each country, we filmed for about 3 to 4 days. Except for Mongolia, where we shot both in winter and summer for 5 days each,” he says.
But then what is more fascinating is Eshwar’s journey itself while making the film. “The film was shot in the UK, Belgium, Germany, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Mongolia and India. The film shot over the course of 14 months, with various trips made to different locations. I was both the director and DOP of the project. Unlike a conventional film crew, we mostly travelled as a small crew and shot the film. A film of this sort cannot be shot with a full crew. This is possible if the contacts are solid and if the intentions are genuine. I will always thankfully remember the people of these countries we filmed who welcomed us as friends,” he says with a smile.