“My Name is Haji Haji”

Last week, the St. Louis Fimmakers Showcase played the documentary short “My Name is Haji Haji,” which I worked on with Brian Spath. I had another short on the same bill, but in picking up Tyler DePerro, the DP/editor of “The South Side of Luck: Frank’s First Alarm,” he and I showed up late enough to miss both works. At some point in time, that’ll become an amusing anecdote, brought on by just a classic run of bad luck and weird circumstance. So goes life. For now, I’ll just remain miffed.

If things had broken a bit different, young Haji would’ve been in St. Louis to see his mini-doc on the screen of the Tivoli, too, but he wound up visiting Saint Louis during the wrong month this summer, missing the the showing by a couple weeks. Luckily, there’s the web, and the short “My Name is Haji Haji” can live there for a good, long while.

At the time of the shooting of the video, the fall of 2009, Haji was already living in North City. But he was a South Sider for about four years prior to that, part of a large, growing population of Somalis that’ve taken root in our city. He’s a real corker, with a curious, hyper-talkative way of expressing himself and watching him in new situations immediately got me to thinking of ways to feature the kid in his own video series, which we envisioned as “I Am Haji Haji.” But as soon as Brian and I started the project, his family first moved North, to an immigrant-centric housing complex on the City/Wellston border, followed by a more dramatic move to Lewiston, Maine.

We initially envisioned a variety of fun scenarios for Haji to get into, from cooking goat (a Somali specialty) to visiting new places and working/visiting with the crew, like at the City Museum or at Zoo. Who knows what it could’ve turned into? This summer, I tried to get back to the concept, but things didn’t click again. A new camera proved trickier than I thought, Haji got his job back at the flea market, then poof! he was gone again.

He’s a wacky kid, though, with an interesting, curious way of looking at the world. I’m happy that Brian dusted off the old tape and put together this short, shot over four sessions with him, most of them after his move to Maine was announced. Enjoy.

(Cross-posted with thesouthsideofluck.com. And thanks to DJ Wilson should’ve been in the credits, but we’ll add them here.)