Two very dear friends died this week within hours of each other. I will post first about Michael Edols, director, cinematographer boat-builder, a wonderfully warm man. He died on Tuesday evening this week, July 3rd.
I first became curious about Mike when I saw an extraordinary documentary on the great Plateau in Papua New Guinea, Tidikawa and Friends. The film written and directed by Jef and Su Doring, was shot by Michael.
It was about a tribe called the Bedamini and focused on their spirit man, Tidikawa, a gentle soul amongst his people but a raider and a cannibal as well outside
Getting to the remote location and winning the trust of this tiny tribe of perhaps no more than 500, was something Mike had to do with Jef and Su .
It was the intimacy of his camera work which I found so compelling. I sensed he had some almost magical ability to instill trust, in this case in people who'd never seen a camera before. Tidikawa gazes straight into the lens as Mike's camera looks back unflinchingly. (you can find a clip on YouTube.)
I felt as if I was there in a documented place in a way I had not felt before.
Like many of us young Australians of the era, he was off on a life of travel and empathetic exploration in a way never dreamt of by our parents. We were a new kind of travelers, living through a magic time
Later I saw his superb, Lalai Dreamtime. In that doc. Mike began his lifelong interest in Aboriginal people, again demonstrating his ability to get very close. I remember it as the best the evocation of country I'd seen. I remember especially slender men reaching up to daub images on high rock ceilings, stretching as if to the sky. (There is also a clip on YouTube.)
The chance to work with Mike came later. I was in Paris shooting a film called, Solzhenitsyn's children. Suddenly, my cameraman and had to go back to Canada, his wife was having a baby, but lucky for me Michael Edols was in Paris and he took over.
His style was so unorthodox that I was worried at first. But he fixed me with his crooked and quizzical grin, laughed his signature cackling laugh, and said. "Don't worry, you'll love it ." And I did.
In more recent years, after he teamed up with the artist-later-his-wife, Marion Edols, I knew him as a boat-builder and generally doing watery things around Pittwater and Scotland Island. We last saw him in fact working on the boat on which they'd been living. it was up out of the water, as Mike scraped the hull.
Only a few days ago I sent him a message, knowing the boat must be now back in the water. "When do we get on board?" There was no answer. So sad his going in his mid-70s, heart attack, too young, too vigorous, and too much missed.
"We had such wonderful years together," said Marion when she phoned to tell us the sad news on July 4.