In 2008, just before the launch of EA WorldView, I discovered Matt Harding, a young man from Seattle, Washington, who decided to film himself dancing with people around the world. In the middle of the tragedy of the Israeli war in Gaza in January 2009, I needed an alternative to the images of destruction so I posted his first video:
For me, that video was a life-affirming moment which has lasted. Harding followed up, "Where the Hell is Matt?" with sequels, including one in Gaza. Then this week, as we covered the bloodshed in Syria, I came across his latest film, complete with this recollection from Harding about one special location where he danced:
I timed my visit during Kim Jon Il’s birthday — what turned out to be his last birthday, actually.
They have these mass dances where they bring thousands of people out into the street in fancy dress to do these kinda silly, childish dances together.
Attending the mass dance was easy, but joining in and filming it was not. The North Korean tour guides nodded when I explained what I wanted to do. They were like, “whatever,” but in Korean. Then when it came time for me to film, they were like, “shut up and get on the bus,” but in Korean.
I looked over at the Brit guide who was with our group. He knew why I was there and what I wanted to do and he just kinda mouthed the word, “Go.”
So I ran out into the group of North Korean dancers, opened my tripod and plopped the camera down, and just started doing their dance.
The North Koreans immediately broke out in stitches. They thought it was hysterical, and their laughter kind of short circuited the security apparatus. All the guards just stood there not knowing what to do, cause everyone was staring at me and laughing and I’m going to go out on a limb and say I don’t think that happens very often.
So I knew as long as I kept dancing, we were sort of at a stalemate, but I didn’t have a shot unless I could get someone to dance with me. So I kept going and then finally this one woman stepped out of the group, bowed in front of me, and joined in.
The courage of that woman. The courage!
Anyway, we were shut down and I was put on the bus, but it blew over pretty quickly and no one cared about going after my footage or anything. It was ultimately no big deal.
At least for me. I hope she’s okay.
To modify what I said in July 2009:
Go Matt. Go World.