#FilmHerStory: Anicia Juliana

For women's history month,  #filmherstory, an addictive Twitter meme calls attention to female protagonists and their forgotten, ignored, or too-little-known stories we want to see on screen...there are so so many. As far as I can tell, it was started by  curator Shaula Evans, film producer Cat Cooper, Miriam Bale and film and TV creator Lexi Alexander. Read through the suggestions in that Twitter hashtag, and suggest your own.

I suggested a story I've been researching and developing for years, the story of a forgotten monumental woman builder who built the most decorated building in the world and spurred an emperor to best her.

Here's where you can see more about my Byzantine princess story in development, including images and research:

 Click on this mind map to get the scope of the story:ANICIA JULIANA & her church of PolyeuktosScreen Shot 2015-03-04 at 12.04.21 PM

I’ve been developing this story since, while creating an Istanbul walking tour for National Geographic Traveler, I literally tripped over the foundations of a social grudge between my superlative-but-forgotten 6th century princess and Justinian — which prompted the Holy Roman Emperor to build his world-beating Haghia Sophia Church a mile down the road. The man needed to best Anicia Juliana. See my Pinterest board about it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 3.12.03 PMScreen Shot 2015-03-10 at 3.12.18 PM

Genotype Detectives. Cultural Creatives. Expats In Hollywood.

  • Why use social media? To discover who you really are, writes content strategist Dan Blank at We Grow Media. "When you start sharing more openly for all the world to see, outside of the social construct that surrounds you in your daily life, you share something that is uniquely you." (Here at expat+HAREM we wrote about the self-actualization of social media, especially for the far-flung and previously invisible.)
  • Wonder about your genotype? Last week was "World DNA Day" (who knew?), and expat+HAREM pal Dr. Nassim Assefi draws our attention to 23andMe, which will analyze your personal genetic info for health and ancestry purposes. Not only will you get monthly updates on DNA, and predictions for disease risk, drug response and other conditions, the report will help connect you to relatives and map your heritage. $99 at the moment, used to be thousands!
  • Cultural creatives carry the cultural change in society. The (R)evolution: the first international movie about (200 million!) cultural creatives pulls together the threads of their philosophies and their work, which are part of "a quiet but necessary revolution taking place in today's culture." Watch the trailer, donate or help promote to view the whole film. Connect with the cultural creative community on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Always happy to see an expat writer make good! Journalist Alan Paul's memoir Big in China: My Unlikely Adventure Raising a Family, Playing the Blues and Reinventing Myself in Beijing scheduled to get the Hollywood treatment. I was pleased to be featured alongside Alan in Chantal Panozzo's Writer Abroad interview series last year...
  • "Travel back in time, and around the world": This travel film archive takes you to bygone eras in faraway lands.

Comment below on any of the above, we're on the same page now...

Reading Travelers: Find Your Historical Context

"Can you share a travel secret?" asked an online travel site for women prepping its annual feature of tips from women writers worldwide. "Read the women who went before us," I replied. "Or, read about them."

For this expat/ archaeologist/ writer/ traveler, cultural wisdom pools at the intersection of women and travel.  The romance and grit of historical travelogue connects me to the land -- and reminds me of travel's transformative force in the lives of women. Reputation-risking. Life-threatening. Culturally redeeming. Personally empowering.  (My post about a related controversial history.)

Adventurous Women in Southeast Asia (Oxford-in-Asia), a selection of traveler sketches by historian John Gullick, gave my own struggling expatriate experience new meaning when I was sweating it out for 5 years in the Malaysian jungle. Playing an attitudinal extra aristocrat on the 1860s filmset of "Anna and The King" with Jodie Foster and Chow Yun Fat in 1999 (next to a pig farm during a swine flu outbreak, but that's another post!), I appreciated learning about the dark side of the iconic governess to the Siamese court. Foster may have played Anna Leonowens prim, proper and principled but actually the lady was a scrappy mixed-blood mistress of reinvention. There was hope for me!

If you plan a trip to Turkey maybe Cultures in Dialogue holds similar promise for you. The print-on-demand series resurrects antique writings by American and British women about their travels in Turkey (1880s to 1940s), along with surprisingly political writing by women of the Ottoman empire. Contempo analysis by spunky scholars Reina Lewis and Teresa Heffernan refreshes the context of a region in transition.

Any favorite antique travel reads? What draws you to by-gone reports? +++++ Check out some of expat+HAREM’s favorite hybrid life reads here.