Home' Aurora : Aurora October 2013 Contents In Deborah Rodriguez's novel, The Little
Coffee Shop of Kabul, Afghani Muslim
Rashif writes to his beloved Halajan, "It's
as if we're not real people with hearts and
minds of our own. It's as if we're animals
who need humans to shape us." Film maker
Max Walker is drawn to creative projects
that provide a vehicle to break down barriers
of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality. His
next project is an Afghani story.
Long before he knew how to make films,
Max Walker, originally of Murwillumbah,
was a storyteller. He recalls, "I think I
used to drive my teachers mad with
constant talk! The most signific ant thing
that happened in my childhood was
my parents' divorce, when I started to
understand -- or not understand -- people,
and to wonder why this was happening."
Max moved easily enough between
parents and grandparents and between
the Queensland coast and the bush.
His secondary schooldays were spent
at Woodlawn College, Lismore, and he
has fond memories of the influence of
his teachers there. "My Catholicism has
formed a large part of my identity; the
Marist priests who educated me had a
strong moral compass being taught by
Max's first professional success owes
much to a chicken burger and Africa, in
that order. He met Diocese of Maitland-
Newcastle Fundraising Manager Mark
Lees when Mark was working for Catholic
Mission, and Max had just finished the
first phase of his film studies. Recalling
what was to be for Max, a life-changing
meeting over burgers, Mark says, "Max
bought a video camera and I supported
his trip to Africa to get to know the lives of
people in a village, and bring back a story
showing the raw face of what mission in a
developing country is all about. The result
was An African Christmas which went on
to win several awards as well as screening
on Channel 9 on Christmas Day 2002."
"Who was the one that was poor? The
poverty wasn't just within Africa, it was within
myself. The poor were bringing chickens and
bananas for the poor at midnight Mass in
Tanzania," remembers Max.
Max has continued to enjoy both critical
and commercial success, although it's the
former that means the most, and the latter
that allows him to pursue "the stories no
one else might tell". His career philosophy is
encapsulated in the maxim, "One for love,
one for money," and says, "It can inhibit your
creativity if you have too much money."
Max is currently immersed in 'one for
love'. The Peacemaker is the true story of
an unlikely friendship between "a laidback
Aussie surfer and his best mate, a Taliban
suspect" forged in war-torn Afghanistan.
Originally slated as a documentary, it
will now be a feature in order to protect
identities in a volatile environment.
Researching a project on Afghanistan,
Max needed someone to tell him "what
was really going on" -- and he met 'Jim'
(not his real name). "Jim did some
wonderful peace-building work in villages,
face to face with tribal elders, eventually
rising to the top of UN ranks, and his way
of working is a wonderful example of the
power of relationship-building. The film
will be a tale of friendship, rather than
of war and peace." One of the greatest
frustrations of Jim's 'gently does it'
approach is that it can all be ruined by an
unexpected Special Forces night raid.
Jim married an Afghani woman whose
family had fled Afghanistan when the
Russians invaded and the couple now lives
in the United States. Max keeps in touch
as the film takes shape and while there is a
script, there's also a long way to go.
Meanwhile, Max is doing his bit for
peace in Afghanistan. The self-professed
storyteller spins a great yarn about his
barber mate Rafi, "...Afghanistan's future.
Wicket-keeper for a local Kabul cricket
team and a big fan of Shaun Tait (former
Australian quick bowler).
"I head to the barber shop and inquire
about a price. He quotes me $10,
laughing, and I agree to $5. With Rafi's
OK English and my horrible Dari, we talk
and laugh through the entire haircut -- I
don't think I've ever been so entertained
under the scissors....he gives my back
a massage as well. At this point I truly
wasn't enjoying it as the guilt I felt about
getting all this for $5 was too much to
bear. Finally, he grabs my head, twists
my neck and finishes me off with a bit of
chiropractic work, Kabul style.
"Now most of you know how much I love
a bargain -- but this was worth more than
"So I gave him $6.
"I hear you, I hear you.... but I am on
an extremely tight budget here as an
"Anyway, how is this relevant to the story
of Afghanistan? Well, I guess it isn't. It's
just that after this experience and the
laughs we had, Rafi and I could never
bomb each other. We've shared too
much. There's maybe something in that."
Max Walker is passionately committed
to being, as well as making, The
Peacemaker, and to the crucial role of the
creative arts in promoting justice. "Our
film-makers and our storytellers in this
nation can turn the mirror on ourselves
about what we're doing, why we're doing
it. They create the nation's photo albums
and if we lost that, it would be like a family
losing its albums in a fire. These are the
things that matter."
There's no doubt Max Walker will continue
to capture and represent truly, the things
that matter. Inshallah.
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BY TRACEY EDSTEIN
constant talk! The most significant thing
stro ng mo ra l compa s s...be ing taught by
men and women who had that sense that
there's a higher purpose to what we do,
has continued to have an impact."
Max's current project, working title The
Peacemaker, will be his first feature, and
he hopes, a career-defining work. "My
calling has been to try to tell these
stories and make someone see
the world with a little more
understanding, a little more
forgiveness, than they
did the day before."
One for love,
one for money
Max Walker on location.
Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle www.mn.catholic.org.au
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