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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  • 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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    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.”

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    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.” 

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