Our Director-Showcasing Series Continues With Stellar New Work Submitted Via Open Call
Rising star Annabelle Dexter-Jones takes a soul searching trip back to her character’s small-town past in Julian Ungano’s And After All, the first premiere chosen from our Short on Sundays open call via NOWNESS’ Vimeo page. Selected from over 200 submissions, the film throws the seemingly glamorous Manhattan art world into sharp relief when Jones’ protagonist is faced with real loss, forcing her to travel to a world she thought she had left behind—and rekindle a relationship in the process. “I lost my father when I was 15, and had been trying to put something together inspired by that,” explains Ungano of this deeply personal project, which stars a handful of New York scenesters including Byrdie Bell, Victor Kubicek and Heidi Mount. “Then sometime around Christmas in 2011 I lost my mother quite suddenly and I sort of rearranged things and was able to write the first version of the script in a couple days.” Ungano and his collaborator on the project, Tommy Agriodimas, met while students at the Pratt Institute and have since shot for clients including The New York Times, Elle, Ralph Lauren and Nike as well as DJing regularly around town and putting out their own publication, La Lutte Continue. Inspired by cinema verité, the camera work for their newest film draws the viewer into the experience of Dexter-Jones’ character. “I knew almost instantly that she was the right person,” says Ungano of casting the Manhattan-raised actress, daughter of Foreigner’s Mick Jones, sister of producer Mark Ronson, and muse to the likes of Leos Carax, Aaron Rose and André Saraiva. “She can appear supremely confident and then you blink your eyes and refocus them on her and she looks completely vulnerable.” We reached out to cast members Bell, Kubicek and star Dexter-Jones for their reflections on working with the industrious duo.
What was cool was that there was something very personal about the project. It had a lot to do with Julian's life, and when we were shooting we stayed in his house in Vermont where he grew up. I found that very helpful for me. I felt like Julian let me into this very intimate and sacred part of his life growing up.
I love working with Julian and Tommy because they are both uniquely talented but also compliment each other in a way that brings their voices to another level. I remember, specifically, on set when there were some lighting issues in the club scene Tommy so insightfully put Julian at ease by pointing out the narrative parallels illustrated by the juxtaposition of the cramped dark city scenes to the wide open Vermont landscape. That's my favorite part of the film—when we are viewers can breathe with Charlotte.
Julian and Tommy were confident and quick, young filmmakers who weren't too cautious and sluggish. They're very visually sensitive and were obsessed with setting up shots, so they let us do our thing. We had good fun. I know Annabelle, who was in it too, so we were able to goof around. Shooting over three days in the fall in New York City, some of the scenes were in Bungalow 8—but in the middle of the day!
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.
Vincent Haycock Casts Three Brothers From Compton for the London Producer’s Stirring New Release
“Everything in the video is their real life,” says director Vincent Haycock of the Mays boys, who he cast for this magic realist visual accompaniment to London composer and producer Raffertie’s new track “Build Me Up,” after meeting the youngest brother Demantre while location scouting in South Central, Los Angeles. “Every cast member is their friend, son, or cousin, and all the locations are their houses and neighborhood,” explains the filmmaker, whose previous work includes videos for Florence and the Machine, Spiritualized and Calvin Harris. “Most of the scenes were based on what they wanted to do as opposed to me giving them too much direction. The only thing I made up was the idea of death—all the brothers are alive and well.” The occasional special effect adds a surreal, poetic element to Haycock’s fictionalized rendition of the Mays’ intense lives in the video produced by Somesuch & Co, rendering a portrait of the cyclical nature of life while forming a narrative mirror of the looping, primal track, taken from Raffertie’s album due out on Ninja Tune later this year. “One of the aspects I liked most was the idea of turning the breaks in the song’s structure into natural pauses for the voice-overs,” he says. “A musical element was still required here though so I composed some extra music derived from the choral backing vocals.” Next up for Haycock is a video for Rihanna—“It will be a complete 180 degree turn from this project,” he reveals—while Raffertie will release the Build Me Up EP on May 20.
You have a background in musical composition—when you are composing, do you ever have visuals in mind?
Raffertie: Music is very visual for me. Often there are many images that go around my mind when listening to or making music. It happens the other way around as well, when I look at things, and witness events, ideas spring to mind that tend to be musical in nature.
What music videos or visual/musical collaborations have most inspired you in the past and why?
R: Zatorski and Zatorski and Philip Glass in The Last 3600 Seconds of a Wasp. The film documents the last hour of the life of a wasp, which fell onto its back and was unable to right itself. Set to Glass’ Metamorphosis, the combination of what I was seeing augmented by this music caused such a visceral reaction in me.
Have any screen soundtracks left their mark on you of late?
R: I feel that film music has become quite homogeneous, but two soundtracks have stood out recently. The first was the original music composed for Tyrannosaur by Chris Baldwin and Dan Baker. The film is one of the most depressing, harrowing and horrific films I have seen for a while and the music illustrates that exceptionally with its unusual pallet of sounds. The second is the soundtrack of recent British TV series Utopia, which was written by Cristobal Tapia de Veer. Like the imagery of the show, it feels almost hyperreal. Moving from quirky to dark and from abstract to serene, the soundtrack is a timbral adventure.