Love and lost sleep in Geneva
Sometimes, inspiration comes in the least likely places. I've just finished a crazy, round-the-world, film-work trip that saw me, in the space of 10 days, pass through three time zones and four countries. The sun rose and set over Spain, London, New York, Vancouver, Toronto and Geneva. Geneva, the last place on earth I expected to find enlightenment and yet it came to pass.
The film I'd been working on is all about the search for happiness by a psychiatrist who has become inured to his patients and lives in an emotionally barren world of platitudes and placebos.
He chucks it all in to undertake a quest to discover the meaning of life and happiness, should such a state exist. His adventures challenge him to the core but, by the end of his journey, he feels awakened to the meaning of a joyous life.
I hit Geneva feeling a bit like Hector, the psychiatrist in the film, exhausted and burnt out. I was convinced I'd been part of a sleep deprivation experiment. All I wanted to do was put my head on a pillow and snooze for the week. But the absolute, pure happiness of being reunited with Mr O and little daughter Mini O reminded me on a cellular level how all that really matters in this world is love. The family hug that went on for an age banished any need for sleep. I'm sure that's what the Talmud is all about really. As The Beatles say: "Love is all you need".
Later that day, I went to speak to a group of 15-year-olds at a school in central Geneva. I had about as much enthusiasm for this as I did having to cook a Chicken Kiev from scratch on Masterchef. But what an inspirational group of youngsters they were, passionate about all aspects of film making, acting, writing and directing. They were full of questions as to how to hone their craft and create good work. What an antidote to the usual, I-jus-wanna-be-famous bunch that I so often meet at school talks. Here was a group of young people who loved their hobbies.
At the Geneva Jewish Film Festival, eyes barely open, I sat down to watch A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, settling in for a 90-minute, well-deserved shluff. But sleep eluded me as I was moved to tears by the simplicity of this beautiful film. Following a bomb attack on a local café, a teenage, French-Israeli girl throws a bottle into the sea near Gaza with a message asking for an explanation, A thoughtful but angry 20-year-old Palestinian living in Gaza finds the bottle and tries to answer her question, starting an email correspondence.
The teenagers' respective lives are portrayed on both sides of the divide. Both live in a different kind of hell and both are challenged to reassess their view of the enemy. Both want the same thing: a future that includes love, laughter and hope and not to be defined by futile, never-ending conflict. To be able to believe that the world is not necessarily a hostile place. It was all about communication and empathy. And love. My Geneva awakening reminded me that, at the end of the day, that is all we've got.