Cyclone Warning
Class 4
(1994)

Director's Comments

In February 1994 at the suggestion of Michael Bootle, the imaginative Director of the British Council in Mauritius, I was invited to the island to show and talk about some of my films and the state of the UK cinema, and also organise a workshop for the Mauritian Broadcasting Corporation. The word 'holiday' was quickly wiped from my mind the moment I stepped onto the plane, as the pilot announced before taking off, that as 'Cyclone Hollanda' had just left Mauritius, all would now be fine for landing there!

Everyone in the plane looked at each other - what cyclone? But as we landed we could see the devastation from the air, as we made a somewhat bumpy, wind-blown landing onto the pool- covered tarmac of the island airport.

My hosts, the Bootles, were apologetic, as we clambered passed a huge fallen tree that had smashed into their house, but knowing Michael's sense of humour I knew it wouldn't be too gloomy a stay. Once inside the Broadcasting Corporation's great auditorium, I decided to start my workshop by asking a question, rather than spouting for hours about the state of the UK film industry and my films (some of which were to be broadcast anyway). "As you have all just had a devastating cyclone across the island, have any of you thought of using it for dramatic or documentary purposes?" There was a shaking of heads and a silence. I then rashly suggested that perhaps we could try and make something together, as there must be several good stories there - immediate enthusiasm from all….

…..so from the Director General of MBC, to the fisherman with broken ribs, and the British High Commissioner, who re-enacted with whirling towels like a Turkish Bath attendant, how he tried to stop the storm-rain from pouring into his house, while, at the same time quoting King Lear; my imagined holiday was transformed into an enjoyable adventure. With an enthusiastic and talented MBC crew, I learned a lot more about journalism and broadcasting, and I hope they learned something from me about international presentation and dramatic techniques, as we re-enacted the story of Marie-Michèle Etienne and Richard Ramasawmy's all night vigil, and managed to complete shooting the half-hour film in six days. The editing took longer, which meant that even though we were sometimes working until 4am, I had to prolong my stay by another week.

I didn't swim off any beaches, but I did see the real island and its welcoming people, and I hope to return one day to refresh my memories of the latter, and perhaps try a swim from the former… cyclones not withstanding!

P.S. Although sadly 3 people were reported killed by 'Cyclone Hollanda', there was a slight increase in the island's population 8 months later perhaps due to the electricity being cut throughout the night of 10th February 1994.....?