January 31, 2004

Lawrence and Lorne Blair's 'Ring of Fire'

From Lawrence and Lorne Blair's 'Ring of Fire'

My brother Roko and I grew up on late-night dinner conversations with interesting guests, and summer trips to Eastern Europe to see family. But it was the television documentaries on PBS that allowed me to travel to the far-off corners of the world and had me home for school the next morning.

Most of the documentaries I watched as a child told stories of adults and their usually formal perspective on the world. But one evening during my high-school years, all that changed. I watched the first segment of Ring of Fire, a four-part BBC series on PBS about a ten-year odyssey through the mostly uncharted Indonesian archipelago. Not only was this an epic adventure through some of the most remote and untouched areas of Asia, but also it was made by two brothers, Lorne and Lawrence Blair.

What was even more remarkable to a high-school kid was that these brothers embarked on their journey merely because they thought it would be interesting. And they brought a camera along to document what they experienced.

For two young brothers cloistered at home weathering another cold Chicago winter, the idea of wandering through tropical Indonesia, hopping rides on pirate ships and dancing naked with native tribes, seemed like a cross between Dr. Seuss' Oh the Places You'll Go and Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are.

What's more, these brothers were in their 20s—just a little older than me. They finished their schooling and decided to pursue their dreams and discover a world far from their parents and formal society.

My brother and I embarked on our own adventure after college, culminating with the feature documentary Genghis Blues (1999). As the film began its festival run at Sundance, I attempted to get in touch with the Blair brothers. It was through their accountant in Colorado that I contacted Lawrence. I was sad to hear that Loren had died a few years earlier. Lawrence was living in Bali and rarely came to the States any more; he and I stayed in touch by email.

More than a year after our first contact, and a decade since I was blown away by the Blair brothers' Indonesian odyssey, I managed to meet Lawrence. He sent word he was going to pass through Los Angeles on his way home to Bali. My brother and I were busy with meetings and events surrounding our film's Academy Award nomination that year, but I dropped everything to meet one of our heroes.

Lawrence and I talked about inspiration, passion, adventure, life and storytelling. For Lawrence it was perhaps a brief moment to relax and reflect on what an amazing adventure he and his brother had embarked on as young men; what a powerful story they had woven through motion picture and sound; and what a lasting impact it has had on so many people.

My brother and I are busy with new projects, more passions and dreams yet to be fulfilled. I can never repay all who helped us achieve our dreams, so I take time to nurture others in this journey we call life.

Ring of Fire is available through www.mysticfire.com.

 

Adrian Belic is currently in post-production on Knightsbridge (working title), a  feature documentary shot in Afghanistan and Asia about three Americans who travel to the world's war zones delivering lifesaving humanitarian aid (www.wadirum.com). 

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