Djibouti Diaries, part #1:

Irregular blog series of Iiris’ thoughts and travels in Djibouti filming upcoming feature “The Grave Digger” by Bufo, Pyramide Production and Twenty Twenty Vision.

Reporting thoughts from the first 8 days on the road, exactly 10 days before filming starts


I’m not a huge fan of long flights – sometimes my low blood pressure gets the best of me and it’s not once or twice I’ve almost fainted after half a day in a plane. Surprisingly travelling with Qatar Airways was very nice and I rewatched A Star is Born (not the sad end though, as I wasn’t in the mood for sad endings) and got familiar with Aquaman (or tried to, didn’t really understand why was he called Aquaman and why not Ocean Master) and agreed again how complicated element water is for any VFX / CGI work.

Arrival to Djibouti was hot, fun and exciting. We understood already at the airport the way this country works is something very different than what we’re used to. Hot air whispered to our ears and black night took us to it’s arms. Road to our hotel was bumpy and after 30 minutes in the country I was already sweating like a pig. When getting to my room I was definitely in a small shock – no window, everything was very simple, AC wasn’t working – do I really spend the next 1,5 months here? I need to cancel my boyfriends trip here in the last shooting week – he’ll kill me if I’m making him to spend a week in here instead of the nice hotel rooms he always gets when he’s filming abroad. And my phone has no reception whatsoever, how will any producers from upcoming projects be able to reach me?!

I woke up the next morning very sweaty and hungry and went to breakfast (nothing gluten free was available, but luckily I had my own snacks with me). Suddenly after a big cup of black tea with steaming milk (yes, I might be a little British) world seemed exciting, interesting and adventurous. And especially after seeing the city and surrounding landscapes quickly nothing felt that gloomy or primitive anymore. I’m blaming my tired eyes and sudden travel depression for the first looks.

After 24 hours in Djibouti I finally took the time to open my luggage and make the little room mine. I scattered my stuff – my hot water boiler, tea collection, first aid kit, small library, my favourite tea cup, my essentials on suitable places and sat down. This is my small Djiboutian home. I’ve noticed waiting eagerly to get to show all this to my boyfriend (and am slightly worried his first night is like mine and I’ll be offended even though I’ll very much try not to).

As it’s never as easy as it could be / some IT talk

Through the first working week here (which in Djibouti is from Sunday to Thursday) we’ve scouted few missing places and started our tech recce tour. I’ve redone first 2 weeks callsheets with my loyal 2nd AD Paula (who I really really wanted to take this journey with me and I should probably almost apologise the production company for dozens of relentless, demanding emails) who’s arriving here next Saturday. First real setback happened two days ago when my 6-month old laptop broke out of nowhere. As I thought, nearest AppleStores can be found from Egypt, Doha, Dubai or South Africa. No AppleCare on sight either. As our Gaffer was flying to us in the next 12 hours there was no time to cry and get depressed – that I really felt like doing as I’ve already once had to repair this laptop – but to quickly consider my options and act.

Talking about loyal friends no guessing Emma has been the other one. She googled with me and ran to AppleStore to get me the newest iPad Pro with needed accessories and took it to our Gaffers to catch the flight next morning.

2nd setback of course happened when receiving the iPad and realising there is no longer MMS To Go available (seriously Entertainment Partners!!! I cannot be the only 1st AD who uses this) as mine on my old school iPad is a version from 5 years ago, only supported on 32 bit tablets and not on 64 bit ones so they’ve deleted it completely (and have no plans to bring it back as was replied to me from their customer service). Another round of zen mindset was definitely needed as well as Paula who now exports me PDFs to mark all changes so she can then work on those on her laptop’s MMS.

And not to get too optimistic iPad Pro neither supports formulas on pages that I desperately need for my callsheets. So currently after this setback no. 3 I’m also commenting our callsheets on PDF and Paula then makes the changes as needed. This is very close to our usual work flow but I’ve never felt this handless on a production. So Paula is bringing one more device with her – an old computer for all this I cannot do on my sparkly new iPad.

After blaming Apple this badly I must say otherwise I’m very very happy on this iPad and especially it’s functions with folio keyboard and pencil. If MMS and Pages would work here, I’d be replacing my laptop need with this 95%.

Living, understanding and experiencing Djibouti

My expectations of this journey weren’t very glamorous. I was unsure if there’d be anything in the stores I could or would buy being celiac, vegetarian and a western who’s been scared with a lot of talk over possible diseases and how they spread. After a week I feel very normal here. We’ve got two big grocery stores with many familiar products next to the hotel and one even has ”sans gluten” section. I’m starting to get completely used to cars that are old, rusty and missing some usual actions or pieces (only our driver knows how to get the minibus door open) and bumpy roads.

90% of our local crew is always on time. I’ve been stunned. They’re also very helpful, live at the moment, try their hardest to adapt to our ways and never complain. I’m sure our cultures have and will crash but for now it’s been a lot easier than I thought it would be (fingers crossed!). My 3rd AD is a wise local lady who’s determined to teach me some french on the way – and I am determined to learn at least something.

Amount of people everywhere is crazy to a finn. It’s usual there are more than 10 children in the families. I’ve obviously been in tears seeing little children on burning streets without shoes and then again I’ve also discovered how good life can be without all the things we usually think a good life needs. Most of the children look us curiously and after a while we can see a shy little wave – which we always answer to and that usually brings a lot of excitement to the air. Families living in small village with their stone built huts instantly offered us food and water after we marched to meet them with our safari outfits, taking reference photos with our smartphones and drinking water from our filtering bottles. There are goats everywhere – every possible size and color.

I’ve eaten amazing Ethiopian and Indian food. I’ve almost gotten used to the weather – liking 34°C we had yesterday A LOT more than 42°C we had in the beginning of the week though. I’ve only burned little bits of my skin and almost finished my first travel book (Naiset joita ajattelen öisin, Women I think at night by Mia Kankimäki). I’m starting to call this place my home. My phone still has no reception but I’ve very much adapted to the African living in the moment culture – well, it must be a lot of text messages I get after arriving to Dubai in the beginning of November and getting it back online. And as I have Emma, I’m counting on people calling her if they really need to reach me.

– Iiris