The Award-winning British Photographer Travels Through The Ruins of the American Dream
Kahlil Joseph's Film Meditates on the Origins of an All-Black Rodeo in Oklahoma
A dreamlike narrative binds cowboy and an angelic specter clad in white in director Kahlil Joseph's exploration of a little-known African-American rodeo subculture. Joseph, who is part of the Los Angeles-based What Matters Most film collective, visited the annual August rodeo in the sparsely populated Oklahoma town of Grayson (previously Wildcat), an event that attracts African-American bull riders, barrel racers and cowgirls from all over the Midwest and southern USA. He set out to celebrate the origins of the rodeo by paying respect to the spirit of Aunt Janet, a member of the family who founded the event, passed away last year and is embodied as the young girl in the film. “Black people are light years more advanced than the ideas and images that circulate would have you believe. The spaces we control and exist are my ground zero for filming, at least so far, and there are opportunities for me to tap into the energy,” says Joseph who has also made films for musicians including Shabazz Palaces and Seu Jorge. “So an all-black town with an all-black rodeo in the American heartland was a kind of vortex or portal through which I could actually show this.” Wildcat is scored by experimental musician Flying Lotus, who has previously collaborated with Joseph on a short to accompany his 2012 album Until the Quiet Comes, which is showing during Sundance London this weekend.
The Model-Turned-Polymath Takes Us Deep Into the Brazilian Amazon
A region in peril is distilled on 8mm film in Wild Rubber, directed by the multi-talented Lily Cole. The flame-haired model made the short while on assignment in Acre, northwest Brazil as an ambassador for Sky Rainforest Rescue, a partnership between Sky and WWF that raises awareness of the jungle’s plight, and aims to help protect one billion trees in the area. Cole, who has successfully melted the divide between the worlds of fashion, art, film and literature, shot the film across a day-lit Amazon vista after spending time with a rubber-tapping community in Feijó, where she learned more about the practice she believes is key to curbing deforestation. The hazy sepia and cyan-toned video depicts bird flocks, rainbow-hued spiders and nymph-like forms diving into the river’s purple wash. It is relatable, youthful, and eerie—particularly when overlaid with Cole’s soft British-accented singing. “Early one morning, I took a few hours out to go into the forest alone to film, and make a sound recording on my iPhone,” she says. “I only had two rolls left, so every shot felt incredibly precious.”
Aesthetically, the film has an old-school look. How did you select this format?
Lily Cole: I had been meaning to buy a non-digital camera last year in Paris, when I happened to run into Tacita Dean—a friend and one of my favourite artists who campaigns for film to be valued and protected as a medium. She took me shopping for a camera and we found this 8mm in one of the last camera shops in Paris to still sell it. I took it with me to Brazil and, without time to construct a set narrative, I simply captured moments as we explored the area, shooting whatever drew my eye.
What are your hopes for the future of rainforest conversation?
LC: I hope a growing market can be created for forest products, such as wild rubber, as it essentially could protect the rainforest by making it worth more standing than cut down. Knowing she is passionate about the rainforest, I asked Vivienne Westwood if she would be able to make a dress using rubber for this year’s Met Ball to show its potential versatility, and she and her partner Andreas made something very special for me to wear. This isn’t for a consumer audience but who knows what we can do in time.
What is the most memorable thing to have occurred during your time in Brazil?
LC: The rubber tapping itself was very impactful. Cutting thick lines into bark to watch a latex material bubble up was very surreal and filled my mind with possibilities. Rubber seems like such a synthetic material so it is really surprising to see that it is produced by a tree.
Has deforestation been curbed at all?
LC: Yes! Last year it was reported that deforestation rates were declining. Paraguay reduced the rate in their country by 85% following the enactment of its 2004 Zero Deforestation Law. It doesn’t mean the issues are fully resolved but I feel very optimistic that we are heading in that direction.
Why is this cause important to you?
LC: About 20% of the planet’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest so it's definitely something to value. Well, if you appreciate air.