Dear Sweetpea by Jacinta Birchall

Dear Sweetpea,

It seems so long now since we last got to see you in person. Your travels are taking you far and wide and I’m more than a little jealous. This is the beauty of the young! Us oldies are not permitted to get out and about again now. So weird, we all thought it was over, but the bastard rears its ugly head once more. Anyway, you know all of that. I don’t need to spoil your day with more stories of how it was for us back then. I am well aware of how many times you heard our stories. (you did like them though just saying) Besides, you can see it all now in technicolour! That’s right, what I really wanted to say was that my film is about to be released after all these years.

As you know, when we were all in the first lockdown back in 2020, I was desperate to get out and film the empty streets of all the big cities of the world. Naturally, I could only capture what I could reach in my car…at first. After, long drives and sneaking into Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane, I set up my camera out of sight of the patrols and basked in the joy of filming spaces devoid of humans. I was in my element!

I began sharing some of the footage and images with other cinematographers in other countries. They too had been dreaming of doing the same. A few, like me had even risked filming in their home cities. One from New York was jailed. Sadly, her work was confiscated. Another friend however, managed not to get caught and his work is included in my film. All the cities are amazing but somehow, the strangest is New York. I suppose we have seen so much footage of that city over the past 80 years or so in film that it has the greatest impact. Tokyo and Beijing were also spectacular in their emptiness. The saddest though was Mumbai.

As time went on and a year had passed with us all still restricted, we began to work together as artists across the world, animators, actors and writers to put together something magical. At some point the project was leaked by a disgruntled film maker and it looked as if we would all have our work confiscated.

We managed to avoid this when a wealthy patron of the arts stepped in and managed the situation with his influence in political circles in Canberra. Friends in high places back then became an important thing in more ways than just securing fresh food and supplies. We are so grateful that at least some people in Canberra could appreciate art for art’s sake. We kept working together in isolation as the years rolled by. It kept us sane. It kept us laughing and marvelling in each other’s ability to see the beauty in the strangeness and the canvas we got to work with.

Anyway, the big premiere goes live this coming Friday at 8pm Australian EST just look up “Breathe Out”. I will be doing a brief introduction and Poppa will be with me to hold my hand. I’m very nervous! I’m mostly worried I’ll blub and not be able to get my words out. One of the film makers will be coming to our place to film us and stream it live. She’s an old girl too so we had to get permission for her to do it.

I hope you enjoy it. I think it is truly very special and something to bring hope and a sense of connectedness to the world once more. And a tribute to those who lost loved ones in the peak of the virus in 2020. It seems fitting now when some of us who have lived through this before are back in isolation, much like your parents were for all those years. Hard to believe it went on for that long darling and you are so fortunate to have the vaccine working in your young blood. Please let me know what you think of my little film. Our blessings to you. Safe travels and keep doing the wonderful work that you do.

Much love, Gran.