Joe Lukawski '10
Fulbright Scholar and Documentary Filmmaker in Morocco
By Caitlin Rodgers / Created 2012-05-01
“Filmmaking is like painting with the human experience as your palette,” Joe Lukawski said in an interview this spring. “Whether real or imagined, we construct things in films that are sourced in everyday life.”Against the arid land of the Atlas Mountains and an ancient world legacy, Lukawski is focused on telling a story. With a camera in hand, the 2010 AUP graduate lives and works as a Fulbright Scholar in Fez, Morocco as a documentary filmmaker. With his eyes on the prize of creating “Les Eaux Cachées” (Hidden Waters), Lukawski is discovering that the water that flows through the city is far richer than two parts hydrogen one part oxygen would lead you to believe.
Landing in Morocco in September 2011 to begin the pre-production process, Lukawski began with a plan to focus his film on the medieval water system that flows beneath the floor of Fez. Over time, as Lukawski mixed with locals, began meeting with experts, and became comfortable wandering through the city’s labyrinth-like streets, he saw a more social aspect to water; one that traveled through the annals of time to show that since the city’s 798 AD founding, water and the human experience have together woven the tapestry that is Fez. “I want to show people very local reasons why water is important,” Joe says. Through history, tradition and customs, urban legends, local folklore and mystical practices – he’s found that all of these aspects of life are linked to and through the city’s water. Now Joe’s mission is to tell others this quenching tale.
Interestingly, it seems that destiny had plans for Lukawski and Morocco. He may not have known it at the time, but a spur of the moment trip to the North African country (his first) while a freshman at AUP, laid the foundation for a running history with the living, breathing monument that is Fez. After his maiden voyage which he made with several friends (on which they coincidentally ran into AUP professors Waddick Doyle and Justin McGuinness who were teaching an NGO Practicum), Joe returned several times with AUP: once, as a student in the very practicum that Professors Doyle and McGuinness had been teaching on his first trip, and another to create a short film for his media ethnography class. In fact, Joe credits the University with kick-starting his interest in filmmaking when he first took a video production class with Julien Guerif. “The kinds of things I was studying in the Global Communications department and in my minors in Middle East and Islamic Cultures and Urban Studies only fed the fire, getting me more interested in how video worked as a medium, in the circumstances under which it is consumed, and giving me a series of overlapping and intellectually stimulating subjects to work with.”
Filming this spring in and around Fez, he’s now on his own. “I like filmmaking because it is the perfect intersection between being an artist and being a worker. I grew up around a lot of hardworking middle class people,” he says, “and the fact that I’m often exhausted from the physical work of shooting on location somehow legitimizes to me all the time I spend worrying about how something looks or sounds. Doing a documentary at times feels like being a detective or an investigative journalist, and on very good days feels more like being a Martin Scorsese or a Clint Eastwood except without actors. However, most times it’s downright difficult, and that’s the fun.”
Lukawski has discovered that despite working mainly solo on the documentary, one is never truly alone in Fez. “The community here has been very receptive and has really widened the story with their insights, grievances, and their curiosity as well.” Once filming has wrapped late this spring, he plans to stay on-location to edit the first cut of the film with fellow AUP alumna Armand Jayet (’11) in association with the French Institute of Fez.
While he calls it “a long shot,” Lukawski hopes that this project can help launch his career. Describing it as a “post-university test” for himself, he sees it as opportunity to draw upon all his past experiences as a traveler, student, and journalist. “In the future I’d like to contribute to a place where journalism on television and on the web looks a lot more like the good old documentary films I grew up watching on PBS when I couldn’t sleep – but faster, more social, and easier to access. After Morocco anything is fair game. However, I can say that a return to Paris is in my plans.”
Stay updated on Joe’s progress on “Les Eaux Cachées” online at http://fezfilm.wordpress.com, or check out his blog at http://joelukawski.wordpress.com.