Kahlil Joseph: Jung at Heart

The Director On Seu Jorge and the Key Players That Informed His Short Film The Model

“When I met Jorge, one of the first things he said was, ʻI donʼt make music videos... I make films.ʼ And that essentially became my maxim from that point forward,” explains Kahlil Joseph, whose own background working with Roman Coppola and Mike Mills’ Directors Bureau (which is known for its unexpected treatments and also represents Roman’s sister Sofia, Romain Gavras and Melodie McDaniel) made him the perfect choice for the brief. “We really tried to take a new approach to the way music is incorporated into film,” adds the director, now part of the What Matters Most collective. Rather than treading the well-worn promo path, Joseph’s two-part film showcases live performance snippets of tracks from Jorge’s latest album, Seu Jorge and Almaz, that function as narrative development in the piece, rather than background music, and invariably leave the viewer wanting more. Here Joseph talks to NOWNESS about the creative influences that were formative to the project.

Inspiration: “The biggest inspiration for this film was actually inspiration itself. I didn't know what I was going to do when Jorge and I met, so we just talked ourselves through the film until it was finished. The whole thing could almost be described as an exercise in improvisation on the part of the actor and the filmmaker.”

Oshun (The Model) who appears in Jorge’s character's dreams: “Using Oshun [played by model Jodie Smith] as the character of The Model was important to me because of her prominence in Brazilian culture and religion, and her attributes as the very embodiment of ‘beauty.’ But I also knew I wanted her character to operate on an archetypal level. Orishas [the set of deities worshipped in African-based religions, including the Yoruba tradition Joseph is referencing here] very often mystically reveal themselves to people in their dreams, something Carl Jung would consider incredibly important.”

Carl G. Jung: “Jung was a huge inspiration for this film—[specifically] a verse from The Red Book ("Soul and God," page 233)—in that the Swiss psychiatrist’s ideas can be found in every aspect of the piece: the journey and the confusion, the symbols, the children, the therapy dynamic… Probably not the sexiest music video reference, but then again, we were shooting a beautiful model and Seu Jorge, so I knew we'd be OK.” 

Paul Thomas Anderson and Bela Tarr: “A couple of people have used Fellini to describe the feel of film—the black and white, the use of dreams; however, I never thought about his films while shooting or editing. If anything, Paul Thomas Anderson or Bela Tarr are the filmmakers I thought of when arranging the action or directing the motion of the camera.”

The Hollywood Hills: “We knew that our canvas was wide open; visually, people only have reference to Jorge from his work in film. So we had a lot of room to be creative and try something that we felt worked for the music and the circumstances of having little time and very little money. [Jorge] was staying at the beautiful house where the film was shot, and when I went there to meet him, the first thing I said was, ‘I don't know what we're doing, but I know we're shooting here.’”

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Conversations (1)

  • Marlon James
    This is a inspiring film for me. I love the way the film was shot. Kahlil Joseph is one of my favourite directors of all time.
    • Posted By Marlon James
    • January 09, 2014 at 8:11AM
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