Ben Makinen on location! (from his website)

By Conor McCormick-Cavanaugh, Westword | Yasser Hussein, his wife and their two children arrived in Cairo on March 13 with plans to stay until March 28. But with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting borders and airspace around much of the globe, the Aurora family wound up stuck in Egypt.

The hotel where they were staying made them “pay a lot of extra money,” according to nineteen-year-old Manar Hussein.

Finally, the U.S. State Department was able to arrange to bring U.S. citizens home from Egypt, and the Hussein family landed in Washington, D.C., on April 1, and are now driving back to Colorado. But for much of last week, they wondered if they’d be stranded for months.

Other Coloradans stuck abroad are still wondering the same thing.
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Ben Makinen, a Denver musician and filmmaker, has been in Bali since March 6; Makinen traveled there to be with his Balinese wife for the birth of their son.

Now, with flights back home “prohibitively expensive” and no guarantee he won’t be grounded by a travel ban during a layover, Makinen is trying to stay busy and help support his eighteen-year-old daughter in Colorado.

He’s promoting a rough cut of JazzTown — his feature-length documentary about Colorado jazz legends such as Freddy Rodriguez Sr., who just passed away after contracting COVID-19 — and asking people to pay $15 to watch the film. “Donations for a ticket to watch the visually stunning JazzTown are the only way at this point for me to generate income,” Makinen says.

“We are safe here for now. There have been no mad dashes to hoard goods from the markets… yet,” he says via email. “My wife is born and raised in Bali with a large family, she is not worried. … Indonesians, like many 3rd world people, have had to struggle with a lot of tragedy baked into their daily lives; many Balinese feel this is just another thing to tough out and then get back to biz.”

Read the whole story here:

Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including immigration, education and sports. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia. Originally from New York, Conor is still waiting for Denver’s first bodega.


[Editor’s note: Ben showed an early trailer for JazzTown at the COMBO meeting in October 2018 and won the award for best Sound Design at the Nederland Film Festival in December 2019. It looks like a really cool film and is so complimentary of the Jazz scene in Colorado.]

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