Screens with: RITUALS FOR CHANGE
SAT NOV 17, 13:00, HACKNEY HOUSE | 8'32 min | FREE
A contemplation on movement, stagnation, the fluidity of gender and the boundaries of masculinity; explored through physical movement, style representation, natural forms and video collage.
Hey Anuka, thanks for talking to TNC, how is everything going?
Thanks for having me! I’m excited about the Fringe! Festival to start, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s films and meeting other filmmakers and the audience.
Your short film is being screened at Fringe! Queer Film Fest this November, what does it mean for you to be at the festival?
It means so much to be recognised, especially by a festival like Fringe! that I have looked up to.
I’m proud that an experimental film like ours gets a platform. Our technique is quite particular. Jawara’s clothing transcends traditional binary gender presentation, and I wanted to break and weave and build that texture into the filmic material, leaning on my background in essay filmmaking and sound art. It’s beautiful to share that with people, and I feel Fringe! is a space where people will receive our film.
How important is it for LGBTQ+ films like yours to have a platform like Fringe! Queer Film Fest to be screened?
I think it’s especially significant that Fringe! has invited queer people from different backgrounds. I’m always wondering if there are other queer West Asians out there, and a festival like this is the place to make a coming together possible. It can be especially difficult to be recognised or to gain funding from institutions that may have structural barriers to queer and trans-POC.
Do you think these types of film festivals open up LGBTQ+ lives and stories to a wider, perhaps mainstream audience?
I think it’s not just important to normalise the lives of queer people -- having festivals like Fringe! brings to light that we have always existed. I think it’s great there are so many free screenings. They are making the festival accessible and bringing people together, not just commodifying queer identities. I have great respect for the organisers and the people involved.
Tell me a little bit about Ripples, how did this film come about?
Jawara and I met through a mutual friend. Initially, my friend had suggested I make jewellery to accompany one of Jawara’s collections. I make beaded jewellery, working off of West Asian tapestry and silver jewellery designs. When making a film, I am similarly interested in patterns and repetition. When Jawara and I began talking about collaborating, we noticed a common aesthetic thread in our thinking -- water, fluidity, movement, clothing as a skin. I like to try and slow time with my films, and that really worked with trying to hold the texture of Jawara’s clothes. We went back and forth, sending each other artists, music, film, designers, writers. You know, Flying Lotus music videos or Wu Tsang’s art. And lots of wider research and references, too. Aubrey Williams, Lotic, Parajanov, Fred Moten, Sevdaliza, Recho Omondi…
What was the inspiration behind the screenplay?
A big thing for me always, and especially at the beginning of our process, is keeping the senses in mind, and working against sensory overload. It’s all about texture and movement. The Skin of the Film (to throw a Laura Marks film theory title out there). Motion never comes to a halt, heat never comes to a halt, water in motion... I wanted to come close to water in motion and close to that ASMR sound of the touch of fabric against skin. Jawara’s collection is all about the depth of identity, he’s probing black masculinity and his own Caymanian background. I tried to bring the viewer near to the surface of our film, near to understanding multiplicity of identity.
I am still always influenced by West Asian avant-garde filmmaker Sergei Parajanov - especially his film The Colour of Pomegranates. The lead actor, Sopiko Chiaureli, was nonbinary - that bit was taken off the Wikipedia page. Parajanov has a way with juxtaposition, his technique is very anti ethnocentric - he understands the overlap and depth and multiplicity of cultures.
What were the biggest challenges you faced making Ripples?
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the biggest hurdle we faced was funding. We didn’t get any funding for this film and made it on a budget that was just a couple of quid. At the time, I was working six days a week - and Jawara is working, always. We concentrated the process down into the few days of filming that we had. Most of the post-production communication happened online after that.
Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?
My background is a long story that I don’t find easy to tell. That was always difficult. Filmmaking is a way of putting it all out there, a way of putting a bunch of images next to each other and saying, ‘these have meaning together’. I’m from Georgia, a part of the world that people don’t know much about. Or if they do, it’s a very white-washed, red wine and mountains, cosy third world hitchhiking destination sort of imagination. It’s West Asia, it’s Eurasia, people refer to it as the ‘Near East’ (?), and sometimes include it in Mediterranean histories. It was dominated by the Ottoman, Persian, Russian and Soviet empires, and it’s also proximate to Europe. A lot of our history became especially skewed by racist monolithic Soviet powers in the 20th century, including queer histories. It’s hard to find information and it’s hard to tell stories that you’ve had to deduce. And so filmmaking is a way for me to trace.
As a filmmaker how important is the collaborative process for you?
It’s always a joy to work with other people because you give each other confidence, whilst moulding and reconfiguring ideas. I worked on my final MA piece with a friend and artist Aminah Ibrahim. Our project began as an ongoing recorded conversation. We recorded for four months.
The result was an installation audiovisual piece questioning gendered voices, a play on gossip and double-meaning. Where we came to at the end was indescribable for us when we first proposed the project. I wouldn’t have been able to zigzag towards a final piece like that if I hadn’t been able to bounce off Aminah. If you’re working on something by yourself you look at that idea and you keep looking. A second person always forces refraction, mirroring, a splintering, discomfort.
"If you want to use a DSLR video camera try to find a friend who goes to a university with an equipment loan store."
How much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
My process has changed quite a bit. I used to be about short drama films - starting with a script, drawing out my storyboard, building a crew, etc. That was all possible at university. After uni, I really stripped back, because I had to, and I realised I could make a film from nothing. I use a point and shoot camera. I often find it difficult to speak - my change in approach allowed me to write essays and put these into speech, folding the words into my soundscapes. I like often to begin with the sound and the words, and letting that produce the visual, sort of working backwards.
Do you have any advice or tips for any fellow filmmaker?
If you have an idea, don’t wait, just begin and trust. The best thing you can do is have practice. Also, I sort of don’t believe in the idea that the world is too fast-paced for a film. I love getting lost in youtube holes or going to the cinema. I like the test of patience and I think people are willing to watch something you have confidence in.
Equipment costs a lot, including to rent - it’s ok to use your phone. If you want to use a DSLR video camera try to find a friend who goes to a university with an equipment loan store. Make use of libraries. I work in a library - there is so much knowledge amongst the staff.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Ripples?
I hope people come away thinking about sensuality and a respect for texture. Listen to what’s around you.