Tabitha Denholm: La Mercè

The Queens of Noize DJ Recreates an Ecstatic Catalan Experience

Traditional fireworks, fairground rides and giant bubbles blend with club-style dancing in filmmaker Tabitha Denholm’s exuberant video shot during Barcelona’s La Mercè fiesta. “When I was modeling, I was sent there alone on a job while the festival was going on,” explains Denholm of her fascination with the series of explosive and colorful events. “It was quite a Lost in Translation experience and I wanted to recreate that in a filmette.” In addition to making videos for bands such as Florence and the Machine and Ladyhawke, and fashion labels including Markus Lupfer and Tory Burch, Denholm has traveled the world DJing at festivals as part of the duo Queens of Noize. For this shoot, she was accompanied by a skeleton crew of producer Laura Coulson, stylist Madeleine Østlie and 18-year-old Danish model Sylvester Ulv, who has recently appeared in editorials from Dazed & Confused and i-D. The annual Catalan carnival has been celebrated each September since the Middle Ages and was made an official city holiday in 1871; it showcases local entertainment from parades of papier maché giants (gegants I capgrossos in Catalán) and local folk dance (sardana) to a pyrotechnic display by individuals dressed as devils that run through the crowd (correfoc). Denholm has used her cut-and-paste background as a DJ to good effect: her young male protagonist frolics in a medieval rave to "Sandstone" by the San Francisco-based Tamaryn. “This one is a bit of a mash-up,” she says of La Mercè. “All the Catalan traditions were bundled together after Franco, so it's got many different elements aesthetically.”

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Conversations (1)

  • Juan Barte
    Wonderful video. Regarding the sub-heading, it'd be more accurate to use the term "Spanish Experience" instead of "Catalan Experience", since this kind of fireworks, and fairground rides are quite common in festivities through out Spain.
    • Posted By Juan Barte
    • November 18, 2012 at 4:24AM
    • Share Comment:

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    The Painted Lady: Jena Malone

    Liz Goldwyn Directs the Award-Winning Actor in a Dark Burlesque Portrait

    Perched in a dreamy rose garden, a seductive and melancholic Jena Malone narrates this poetic 19th-century-inspired short by filmmaker and author Liz Goldwyn. Part of a series of works devoted to demystifying the sex industry, The Painted Lady casts the future Hunger Games: Catching Fire star—who made her name in Donnie Darko and Saved!—as a young woman who recalls an encounter with a lushly powdered call girl. As Malone's distinctive voice glides over the hazy footage, intercut shots transform her baby-faced ingénue into a defiant, colorfully made-up femme fatale against a floral backdrop. Only 21 when the vignette was filmed six years ago, the actor’s performance was informed by her own personal transformation at the time. “I was definitely a girl on the verge," explains Malone. "Liz had the sense to see the woman that was crystallizing inside of me. It felt comfortable and somewhat voyeuristic—like the woman I was to become was having a muse’s sitting with my younger self, asking her to remember things." Much like Goldwyn's acclaimed HBO documentary Pretty Things, an exploration of American Burlesque culture, The Painted Lady and its sister project, Sporting Guide, spark discussion of broad social issues, such how our view of the body impacts feminine identity. “In all the work that I do I'm promoting an intelligent conversation about sex,” the director explains. “Jena might look glamorous, but there's a lot of darkness in these stories.”

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    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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