Holy Recollections is a new film by young Californian Baha’i Ian Huang, and some of you may recognize him from his part in Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s recent film about the Faith called The Gardener.
Ian Huang’s film is a very personal documentary where he shares with the audience his reflections on the time he spent as a volunteer in the Baha’i Holy places in Israel, and his narrative is interwoven with the beautiful images of the Baha’i gardens and Holy Places.
I decided to catch up with Ian to find out more about Holy Recollections and his experiences in the Holy Land:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell me when you decided that you need to make this film and why it was important for you?
Whenever I travel I usually document the travels and make a short video about the experience of visiting. Before I even was invited to serve at the BWC, I wanted and planned to make a video. Throughout my service I would use my iPhone or my camera to take shots, and the more I thought about the video the more complex and professional it got. It went from a 5 minute video idea to a 30 minute feature. The more I thought about it the more excited I became!
Other than that, the reason for making the video was to give my service and experiences as a gift back to the world. I know a lot of people are not able to visit the Holy Land, so I hoped that the film would be like a mini piece of grace that would potentially give them a whiff of the experience.
Baha’i Blog: What was the main idea and aim behind making the film and what were you trying to achieve?
I had 2 main goals: one was to at least move and touch one heart to such an extent that it makes them feel like they visited the Shrine of Baha’u’llah. The second goal was to challenge myself artistically and make the most professional video possible. I feel that both have been achieved! It makes me so happy! So many people have written to me how the film has literally moved them, and I feel Holy Recollections is my best work yet! I am really thankful and joyous of the end result.
Baha’i Blog: The film is very intimate and personal. Why was it important to share your experience with others?
There is so much media out there about the gardens and the Holy Places. So much about the exterior beauty and the importance of the Holy Places to the Bahá’ís, but absolutely no publication of how these Places move people. Nothing about what it does to a persons heart, or how it changes their lives, or even the struggles of being near such a Spirited Place. I felt it was important to give a personal and open description of my experiences there. People who are not able to go would at least have a visual medium that would give them an idea of what it is like to be there.
I have no problem with being open and vulnerable. I see myself as just a channel and my experiences can be shared to help and remedy people. I welcome the fact that people will get to know me deeply through the film, it’s my pleasure!
Baha’i Blog: What was the highlight for you during your year of service?
Being able to go on pilgrimage during my service was incredible. Those were the most incredible days of my life. If I could, I would choose to die during Pilgrimage! Hahah!
I took a lot of unique and powerful photos during my service and pilgrimage as well. You can see them on my website.
Baha’i Blog: There’s a lot of focus on the arts and this is obviously a very important part of your life. Can you elaborate on this a little?
I went through about 5 scripts of the film before arriving to what I have now. I wanted to find a way to somehow incorporate my artistic abilities into the spirit of serving near the Holy Places, because I know art is a more penetrating channel for inspiration. If I just created another video with editing tricks and dialogue of the Shrines, it would bore people. It’s all been seen before, and uniqueness is captivating, not imitation.
In the film I talk a lot about how I used art as a way to feel connected back to the Holy Shrines, and it’s all so true! Whenever I paint, or dance, or photograph, or journal, I am in Bahji again, and it is my healing balm during my time back in Los Angeles.
I feel the image of art has been molested and adulterated with the tar of bodily impulses, I wanted to to show a direct contradiction to that, and show what the body is capable of doing when it is completely connected to the soul. Miracles happen. Healing, love, and growth. All a remedy to the viewer.
Baha’i Blog: What was one of the most important lessons you learned while volunteering in the Holy Land?
To love your Self. Not the lower-case “s” self, the capital “S” Self. All of my talents, ideas, energy and light comes from the glow within. God is in all of us. So many famous artists say this same thing. We are a minor extraction of the light of God.
It makes me sad to see people degrade themselves, so much light and purity is just waiting to burst forth from us! I truly believe that many of our “incurable” diseases come from a lack of love and self respect, and the disease starts to manifest physically because it has been spiritually ignored for so long. One of the many ways to build self love is service. Service brings us closer to the awareness of God’s existence in us, which leads to a sense of mystic connection, which becomes to Self love!
In the Writings it says we are “…even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world.”
It bothered me when people gave me a cold shoulder to the idea of this film. “It’s selfish!, be careful of your ego now!, don’t taint the beauty of the film!” My apologies, but isn’t art an expression of the Divine? And isn’t a person being a channel of the Divine in all forms of expression, commendable? Just because I am physically in the film and I am talking about my experiences doesn’t mean I am promoting self-interest, it’s my selfless form of expression to serve others!
Baha’i Blog: What do you want your audience to walk away with once they’ve seen your film?
To feel closer to Bahá’u’lláh than they did before watching it, simple.
Baha’i Blog: So what’s next for you? Are you working on anything else?
I am working on a project to create videos that are relative, entertaining, and artistic, but also have a dose of spirituality and meaningfulness. It’s really exciting, completely artistic, and a huge endeavor! The main goal is to create videos that are a healing balm and a remedy for people. I see very few videos that leave the viewer feeling better about their Selfs, and that’s going to change soon (wink wink). I am so excited to launch it!
Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much Ian for taking the time to do this interview and for taking the time to share your experiences with us all through your film.