Film & Theatre

Live Your Truth

NeueHouse x Kiki

Watch the cast of Kiki live their truth at NeueHouse Madison Square’s Gallery Penthouse. Created by The Shop, in collaboration with Sara Jördano and IFC Films.

Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones + Friends Weigh In on the 2016 Election.

The Art of Movement

ABT's Daniil Simkin and Cassandra Trenary at NeueHouse

Watch American Ballet Theater’s principal Daniil Simkin and Cassandra Trenary dance at NeueHouse Madison Square’s new Gallery Penthouse in celebration of directors Ken Browar and Deborah Ory’s new book The Art of Movement. 

Terence Davies

'Sunset Song'

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Over the last four decades, the English filmmaker Terence Davies has produced a deeply personal body of films that explore the longing inspired by movie fantasy and the intermingling of memory and history, marked by a distinct cinematic style. Well known for his aversion to stories set in present day, his period pieces include ‘The House of Mirth’, ‘The Deep Blue Sea’, and ‘Distant Voices, Still Lives’. His recurring themes of emotional (and sometimes physical) endurance and the influence of memory on everyday life are beloved by audiences young and old alike. Davies’ latest film, ‘Sunset Song’, follows suit with his go-to thematic agenda and is an intimate epic of hope, tragedy, and love at the dawning of the Great War. The film spans a young woman’s endurance against the hardships of rural Scottish life, based on the novel by Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Ahead of his screening at NeueHouse Madison Square, the dogmatic filmmaker sat down with us to discuss relationships, his biggest regret, and the difficulties of living in the modern world. 

 

NeueJournal: A great deal of your work explores your childhood. Have you found catharsis in this? What is the biggest challenge in facing your life for art?

 

Terence Davies: Well, it’s not cathartic. I thought that would happen, but it never did. It throws into relief both joy and sorrow, and you wonder what they’re for. That’s been the biggest thing. The greatest thing that I regret, and in fact could have changed if I would have, was that I was brought up a Roman Catholic and I was very devout until I was 22. When I discovered that I was gay there was no turning back, and in England, it was of course against the law. That’s my biggest regret; I wish I’d not been through that because it made my teenage years very, very miserable. If I were able to change it I would be straight, very good looking, with a very good body, but very stupid, because that is an unconquerable combination.

 

NJ: Ignorance is bliss.

 

TD: Being stupid, especially (laughs).

 

NJ: You gravitate towards period pieces. What is it about different eras that appeal to you so strongly?

 

TD: The stories are always what I respond to, and they happen to be period pieces. That’s all. The problem with modern movies is that I can not use all this equipment. I have a mobile phone with one number on it, and if it rings and it’s not the number I have saved in my phone, I switch it off and chuck it. I’m so terrified of modern technology. I’m terrified of the modern world because I don’t understand it. I can’t interpret it, I don’t know what one does with all this information and why it’s needed. I think it’s almost a denial of the world, and I find that repellent. But the world has changed in a way I don’t understand. 

 

NJ: It’s refreshing you haven’t played into this technological future.

 

TD: But if I was your age I would have to. What I think is shocking is children are being bullied at school because they don’t have the right phone. Bullying is iniquitous, but not to have the right phone?! Isn’t it awful? It’s a piece of technology – what does it matter?!

 

NJ: Absolutely. Would you ever consider creating a film set in a modern age?

 

TD: Well if I liked the story…I mean, I’ve written one, which we’re probably doing sometime next year, based on a lovely book by Richard McCann called Mother of Sorrows, but that only goes up to about 1980. That’s sort of about as modern as I get, I think. As I said, I just don’t perceive the modern world in the same way, and because I don’t understand it I can’t make anything from it. It would be like saying, “Make a film about a family of Eskimos.” Well, I don’t know anything about Eskimo culture or infrastructure or the way their families work. Maybe one day I shall, but something tells me I probably won’t (laughs).

 

NJ: Your films have all been widely received with praise, however, what has been your proudest accomplishment so far?

 

TD: Oh gosh, that’s hard. I don’t see them as accomplishments. I never watch them after they’re finished. There are bits of them I like, and I think, “Oh, that’s rather good.” But I suppose what gives me enormous pleasure – and it’s not an accomplishment, really – is working with such lovely and talented people who’ve made life infinitely richer. These people are artists in their own right and you can’t make a film without them, and that’s been lovely – to see people who are very talented and who have given so much of themselves, of their souls. I find that very moving. If you give up yourself, there’s no greater present.

 

NJ: Your work investigates relationships. How would you define love?

 

TD: I think love is when you want the best for the other person, even if it means they’re not with you. You care for them at a very deep level. You have moments when you’re with the person you love, moments when you’re not, and the moments when you’re apart are very hard because you wish to be with them. There’s an English poet, called Philip Larkin, who wrote a poem about a medieval tomb, called An Arundel Tomb. The man and the woman were nobility and they have effigies above their tombs, and he just talks about this tomb and says wonderful lines, like, “Snow fell, undated.” The last line is, “What will survive of us is love,” and I think that is selflessness. Or, as Bette Davis says in All About Eve, “You look across the room and they’re there, and you think, ‘He’s there.'”

 

NJ: What film, or films, inspired your choice to become a filmmaker?

 

TD: I became a filmmaker by accident, so they didn’t directly inspire me, but all the films I saw that I loved, especially when I was growing up, were huge influences. The American musicals I adored because my sisters adored them, and all the big commercial movies of the mid-fifties that were about women: All About Eve, which was slightly earlier, Love Is A Many-Splendored Thing, All that Heaven Allows, and Magnificent Obsession. The main people were women, and I grew up with my sisters. I loved my brothers, but being gay, I warmed to my sisters, so all those films influenced me. 

 

Also, what we had in Britain then, was a cast of people who were wonderful in comedy, and they were a huge influence as well, particularly that language. I do love language; when it’s well done it’s just thrilling, and there certain films that I treasure, not just because they’re wonderful films, but because of the voice-over. There’s Sunset Boulevard, and there are wonderful things in that. When Joey goes to get his car and says, “He never asked how you were doing, he just looked at your heels and knew the score.” Isn’t that a fabulous piece of dialogue?

 

NJ: What is the last film you watched?

 

TD: I don’t go that often now, but the last one I saw that I think is a very good film, very underrated, was a film by Bertrand Tavernier called Laissez-Passer, or Safe Conduct in English. It’s based on real events and real people, about a Paris film studio during the occupation, and how these people are gradually made to collaborate inch-by-inch. It’s wonderful.

 

NJ: What do you consider the lowest depth of misery?

 

TD: I think despair. When you lose hope, that’s the hardest of all. Despair is worse than any pain. I’ve had it on a number of occasions, especially when my mother died. She was the love of my life, and it was unbearable, but you have to try and cope with it. Despair is awful. It’s awful.

 

NJ: What does happiness look like to you?

 

TD: Well, a lack of despair (laughs)! But small things give me joy. You listen to a lovely piece of music that reminds you of when you first heard it or the way the sun falls on the rain… All those things are the great pleasures for me. The symphonic cycles of Bruckner and Sibelius, the poetry of T.S. Eliot, and the sonnets of Shakespeare…they give me utter joy. 

 

NJ: How would you describe the current state of the world?

 

TD: Road pee. To see the people in power behave the way they do, you think, “How on Earth have we avoided war for all this time?” I do think that huge blocks of countries getting together and meeting and presenting, while the other blocks aren’t is an implied threat. I think that’s awful. At the end of the day, we’re all human, and it shouldn’t be about money, but unfortunately nowadays everything is driven by money, by power, and, worst of all, by narcissism. That’s the most repellent, and I really can’t bear it.

 

Photography: Tyler Nevitt for NeueJournal

nora chipaumire

The Language of a Body

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nora chipaumire enters the room at ROOT Studios, and immediately commands it. The dancer, who was born in Mutare, Zimbabwe and who currently resides in Brooklyn, met with us a few days ahead of her performance at NeueHouse Madison Square, where she displayed her explorations and challenges of the stereotype of the black performing body. Pulling out beautiful artisanal clothing pieces from a woven bag, including a coat made from prayer rugs, chipaumire’s preparation is a reflection of her as an artist who takes every aspect into consideration. Once in front of photographer Andrew Boyle’s camera, with warm music loudly playing, the powerhouse talent showed us the language of a body and proved why she is such a necessary figure in the world of dance today.

 

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Photography: Andrew Boyle for NeueJournal
Hair & Makeup: Campbell Ritchie @ Art Department
Special Thanks to ROOT Studios 

‘In & of Itself’

In Conversation with
Frank Oz, Derek DelGaudio, & Glenn Kaino

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A magician, an artist, and a puppeteer join forces to create a unique theater experience. It’s not a fairy tale nor some sort of surreal dream, but the premise behind the new performative theater production, ‘In & of Itself.’ Written by magician/artist Derek DelGaudio and produced by conceptual artist Glenn Kaino, who worked together in the lauded off-Broadway theater piece, ‘Nothing to Hide,’ the duo welcome the legendary Frank Oz (of ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Star Wars’ fame, amongst many other accolades) to the directorial chair, creating an unprecedented tour de force experience. Ahead of the show’s opening, which runs from May 3 – June 12 at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles, the trio of talent met at NeueHouse Hollywood to discuss the inner and outer workings of their collaboration.

 

 

Derek DelGaudio: I have been a magician since I was 12 years old, but it started off somewhat reluctantly. I didn’t really understand if I necessarily wanted to be a magician, I just knew I was interested in the things that magic had to offer. I found a lot of beauty in magic and always enjoyed the mechanics of it – how it worked and what it provided. I did it for myself mostly and then, when I started doing it professionally, it wasn’t very rewarding for me, so I left magic and got involved with the art world through Glenn. When we met I saw something in his work and in his world that I felt was missing in my own, so we started working together. Then I began thinking about my personal practice, about the work Glenn and I did together, about art, about magic, and really about the world and what these things I was interested in meant and how to amalgamate them, which I was struggling with.

 

 

About the time when I was ready to start doing work again and show as an artist, I really started to figure out my voice. However, another magician and I were asked to do a gig and the show kind of took off, which led to the show at The Geffen and Nothing to Hide in New York. The show ran for months and broke tons of records, but it took me away from my own practice and what I thought I was heading towards, including the work that Glenn and I had been doing together. And so, after that show ended its run, I kind of started to say, “Ok, where was I?” and that’s what the show, In & of Itself, explores. So it was natural, of course, to work with Glenn on it. The last show, which Glenn also produced, I wrote and starred in with another guy, and it was directed by Neil Patrick Harris. Neil was amazing, but it was a different experience. I mean he’s an animal when it comes to theater, and at the time he was just getting off How I Met Your Mother, so the frenzy he brought to the table was amazing, but when the show came around, I would tell Glenn I didn’t know if I wanted that type of attention.

 

 

Glenn Kaino: We wanted a nobody. (laughs)

 

 

DD: Yeah, a nobody (laughs). It was very important because I didn’t want to have a director just for the sake of having a director. When it came down to what I wanted the show to be, there was only one person in the world that I wanted to direct it, and that was Frank. So I sent him an email explaining why I thought he was the only one in the world qualified. I even said in that email, “And if you say no, I won’t have a director. It’s not a threat, it’s just there literally isn’t another person who I can think of that I would want to direct this.” This show is about being undefinable. It’s about the duality of identity, and I couldn’t think of anyone who could understand that more than Frank, because whenever one thinks of the name Frank Oz, people think of different things. Some people are thinking of one aspect of his career while others think of something else. He said yes, so here we are.

 

 

Frank Oz: It was pretty open (laughs). I met Derek because my wife and I saw his show in New York, and afterwards my wife said, “Just go say hello!” I said “I don’t want to do that.” She always says, “You’re Frank Oz! Go say hi!” I go, “They’re not gonna know who I am!” But I went to say hi, and then we became friends.

 

 

DD: He came up to me and said, “Hi Derek, I’m Frank Oz.” And I responded “Oh my god you’re Frank Oz!” (laughs)

 

 

GK: And then he called me and goes, “I just met Frank Oz!” (laughs)

 

 

FO: In any case, when he sent me the letter. All I care about is doing good stuff, and it sounded really interesting. I liked the rebellious tone of it. We talked about it and I said, yes.What I’m doing in the show, and it’s what Derek has asked me to do, is to keep him honest to himself. It’s a very personal show, as you can hear. And it’s a very generous and brave show he’s doing, but it’s also very complex and ambiguous, and he wanted to make sure that he stayed true to that. So, he can trust me to do that. I also love taking ideas and just shaping them, which Derek and I are doing together. Glenn is no help whatsoever (laughs).

 

 

GK: As a conceptual artist, I like to say I use art to bring systems of knowledge that don’t normally meet together, and I use art as an excuse to do things that one might not normally have the opportunity to do. I attended Art Basel for the first time in 2008, which was the worst time to attend because of the financial crisis. People were miserable. So I got on the plane back home and I told my gallerists, “I quit. I don’t want to do this anymore. We’ve had some success, but I didn’t get into art to be around a bunch of miserable bankers who are buying work or not buying work.” And so my gallerist said, “What are we going to do?” I said, “I don’t know, I think I want to hang out with a bunch of magicians and figure out a new system of belief.”

 

 

Sure enough, I began a journey to learn and understand magic. The first thing someone did was vanish a coin right in front of me, and he was teaching me how to do it. In the process he said, “You need to grab the coin a thousand times and come back the next day.” It was very like Karate Kid, so I was really into it (laughs). I went back the next day and asked why I needed to do that, he said, “Because when you perform a vanish you have to actually believe it’s vanishing in front of you. If you don’t believe, your audience is never going to believe it either.” I thought, what a fantastic mantra for my studio. I make work with political meaning, but I have to be the believer in charge, otherwise no audience member or gallery or museum is going to believe it.

 

 

I was hooked. I travelled the country to learn and study from magicians, trying to find a noteworthy one who was crazy enough. Every I met, from L.A. to Chicago to New York, kept telling me, “You really need to meet this guy, Derek DelGaudio!” Of course the first thing I did was Google Derek, but this was before there was anything on him. There was actually one Google post – a newsletter from a board of magicians that said, Who is Derek DelGaudio? (laughs). I thought, this is my guy, I need to know more about him, so I got his phone number and we met at a bar in Hollywood at like one in the morning at The Roosevelt. We were immediately friends and brothers. We would have these sessions at night where I would talk to him about art and he would talk to me about magic, and we realized there was an inversion of what we thought the respective practices were. For example, in art, we would say the practice has been sort of hyper-professionalized and systematized, but in magic they say there’s a handful of professionals in a sea of hobbyists. Most people do party tricks, so there isn’t a canon for how to respect the real artists of the craft, so we decided to do something about it and created a performance art duo that we call A Bandit.

 

 

Ironically, the first thing we were invited to do was an intervention at an art fair. What we did was run around the fair with loud music, stealing art and putting it into a box, then we raised the box thirty five feet in the air and made it vanish, creating a sense of liberated art. The greatest question was, “Did you give the art back?” and we said, “What are you talking about, it’s gone” (laughs).

 

 

DD: This is, arguably, the first show with illusions that is purely conceptual; it was conceived with basically just one idea at the very beginning, which then sort of expanded. I didn’t have a single effect or illusion for about nine months; it was more so digging and investigating and tearing apart and putting back together and finding out what this thing means and what it is I wanna say. The first part was figuring that out what the show was about, and once I figured it out I thought, Well, how do you make a show about this? The show was created somewhat similarly to an art show, where there’s first an idea, then you make pieces that represent that idea, and then you put it up for people see.

 

 

The last show was similar, although it wasn’t based around a single idea, rather, it was fragmented into vignettes. And that’s kind of how it’s been constructed with this idea as guardrails that’s slowly funneling down into, hopefully, just the purest essence of it. But where it gets complicated is with Frank (laughs). Because Glenn and I, we almost have a shorthand where we can kind of just look at each other and have conversations with furrowed brows. We’re all about abstraction, especially since magic has so many tropes and there are so many cliches. The work that I create kind of lives on its own, so when I went to Frank and I showed him the show, he was like,  “Alright, well, you’ve got a fuckin’ leg here and an ear here and a tail and maybe a trunk. You got all the body parts, I guess, but this thing needs to be a living breathing elephant.” And I went, “Aw, you’re a dick, dude, how do you do that” (laughs). At a museum show you go like, oh there’s a trunk, cool. Oh, and there’s an ear, oh that’s interesting, and there’s a tail. Oh lovely, oh, wonder what that tail means. But you don’t walk in and go, It’s an elephant! I said I wanted it to be recognized as this one thing as opposed to just a bunch of tricks in a row, because it means more to me than that. Frank is a real bastard about that, because ever since I told him that, he has not for a second laid off and made me make this one thing. So that’s been the most interesting challenge, because if we pull it off, it’s a magic show. And I don’t mean that in a “trick” sense, I mean like it is a magic show. It should not exist in this world. So if we pull it off it’s a new thing.

 

 

FO: I always listen to his heart. That’s where the wellspring is. We talk about patter, you didn’t want to do patter. Which is magic patter, you know that term?

 

 

DD: Can I tell them where it came from?

 

 

FO: Yeah, go ahead.

 

 

DD: I spent a lot of time thinking about the words I’m going to say in front of people. Not now, clearly (laughs), but when I actually do a show. And in the reviews I notice that any time a reviewer mentioned the language in the show, the majority of interviewers would use the word patter. They would say, “Oh, a very clever patter written by Derek DelGaudio.” And they meant it as a compliment, I think, but it didn’t didn’t feel like it, so I met a reviewer at a party and we talked for hours. I asked him, “Why is it that any time a reviewer mentions the language they say ‘patter?’ I’m not asking because I’m offended, I’m asking because I want to understand what that connection is.” And he said, “Well you know. Comedians, I guess…It’s what you say when you’re in between tricks.It’s the stuff that doesn’t matter in between the things we’re there to see.” And I thought, this is a real problem.

 

 

I looked up the word, which comes from a place similar to the Lord’s prayer, but then criminals took the language, then carnys started using it, and then it went to vaudeville. The definition is literally: “Words devoid of meaning, meant to deceive people.” And I’m like, god damnit, this is the opposite of what I’m trying to do (KEEP IT). They don’t believe a word I’m saying because they think it’s all just patter, and the problem is, it’s not. If what I’m saying matters to me and I think could matter to other people, how do I get them to hear me? When I told Frank that, he thought it was interesting, so he took it on.

 

 

FO: Well, patter to me is just consequential words between and during a magic trick, and I couldn’t care less about doing a magic show. (laughs)I don’t even want to know how magic tricks are done, I want to be a little kid and wonder. So when he said he really didn’t want to patter, I’m holding him to it. I’m holding his feet to the fire because he wants me to, and both of us, along with Glenn, who’s doing amazing work, are creating something that kind of hasn’t been done before.

 

 

It’s not my show, it’s Derek’s show, with Glenn. I mean, I’m the new kid on the block. It’s Derek’s show and whenever I work with him, I say, “Listen Derek, how do you feel about that?” Because it’s not me imposing. People think directors always direct, but it’s a misnomer. They don’t direct, they work with people and guide, but don’t impose. And so, I always have to ask you, Derek, “Are you cool with this is? This is the kind of thing you’re talking about right?” And he still gets mad at me.

 

 

DD: Because what that looks like is, “No, no, if you want to say that that’s fine, if you want to go back to doing patter that’s fine. Do what you want, it’s your show. If you want to do patter in your show that’s fine.” (laughs)

 

 

FO: When one is doing a movie or a play, one has to be true to the context in which that play is living. And that’s the same here, one has to be true to the world in which we create, and if that world is created around ideas, if something is too good, it’ll take away from the idea. It’s really being as honest as possible to the world that is created.

 

 

GK: What I’m also appreciating about the process of working with Frank is his constant ability to see a bigger picture in that way. I think when we’re in the studio, and oftentimes because it’s such a personal story, we find ourselves working very rigorously to a level that is required, in some way, to extract some of the density and the poetics of the intention. We might work for days on end to identify one word or one image or one moment or one gesture, and then we’re proud of ourselves, but it’s really great because Frank is there and is like, “Great, well how does that fit in?”

 

 

What’s wonderful is to be able to watch this happen on multiple levels. The show is being crafted on the micro level and on the macro level at the same time, and I think we all felt we’re pretty fast and can keep up with each other, which is a really great rhythm to have for the whole process.

 

 

FO: That’s the joy for me, working with world class people. I’ve been very blessed, so I come with these very talented guys and we’re all playing ball on the same level. We may disagree with certain things, but we all want to get to the same place. It’s a joy to work with – that’s what it’s about, just having some fun and working like a son of a bitch. I never think about the result. Ever. I think it’s because the process will usually answer all the questions, and the result will come without you knowing how you actually did it.

 

Photography: Anthony Cabaero for NeueJournal

Ewan McGregor

Gut Instinct

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Since the beginning of his career, Ewan McGregor has always redefined himself as an actor, selecting roles that have shown his immense talent and rage. From the anti-hero Renton (‘Trainspotting’), to punk rock star Curt Wild (‘Velvet Goldmine’), and even one of the most famous Jedis in a galaxy far, far away (‘Star Wars: Episodes I – III’), McGregor has never taken a bland role, and it’s fitting, seeing as there is nothing bland about the charismatic Scotsman. With a current running of eclectic characters on the big screen, including as a journalist in the Miles Davis biopic ‘Miles Ahead,’ as a villain of the wild west in ‘Jane Got a Gun,’ and as Jesus of Nazareth in ‘Last Days in the Desert,’ McGregor proves there is no character he can’t play. Sitting down at NeueHouse Hollywood, McGregor talked to us about his directorial debut in ‘American Pastoral,’ being nicknamed “cunty baws,” and gutting trout as a sixteen-year-old.

 

NeueJournal: You are working on several upcoming projects, all quite different from each other. What draws your attention to a role?

 

Ewan McGregor: I suppose I’m always looking for some gut instinct, some reaction, some need to do it. When I read something and go, “Oh I’ve got to do that,” I’m looking for that. Also, I look for something outside of the normal or something that’s got a little edge to it. Ultimately it’s got to be a good story and a good character.

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NJ: Like Lumiere, for example.

 

EM: That, in a way, was for the kicks and for my kids, I suppose. To play Lumiere is different from playing Jesus (laughs), maybe less of a stretch, in a way. Nonetheless, being French was quite hard work, because Disney didn’t want too much of the real French sounds, they wanted “Disney French,” so when you put “arr” in everything turned Mexican. My whole performance of Lumiere turned sort of Bajan instead of Parisian. Anyway, on the second round I got it.

 

NJ: Jane Got a Gun is your first western. How was filming this project different from other movies?

 

EM: It was a disaster. The movie had to shut down three times for one reason or another, and they lost a director on the first day of filming. So that was a funny project. I started my first day with the crew reuniting after having been off for the second time, and the director went, “We can finish this! We can do it!” and I was thinking, “Oh my god I’ve just started, it’s so weird!” But I loved acting in it. I got to play the baddie and I really liked it, it was really fun to play that. I like Gavin O’Connor, the director. I loved working with Natalie Portman again, whom I adore and have always adored. My regret is that I didn’t have more time on a horse! I rode when I was a kid every weekend so, I’m not a bad horsemen, but they wouldn’t let me ride the horse. I did scenes sitting on my horse, but they didn’t let us ride them. I got a bit bummed out about that. Shame not to able to gallop into a scene and give a speech, instead of just sitting on a horse giving a speech. But anyway, it was good fun to do.

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NJ: If all of your memories got erased, except for one; which one would you keep?

 

EM: It would be the first moment I saw my wife, the birth of my kids, or when I met my little girl Jamyan.

 

NJ: If you were an inanimate object, what would you be?

 

EM: Is a tree an inanimate object? I would be a tree. Or I would be a rock in a river. There you go, that’s inanimate.

 

NJ: What is the strangest nickname you’ve had and where did it come from?

 

EM: “Cunty baws” (laughs). It’s a great term of endearment that my friend Barry McCullough calls me. It’s a sort of a Glaswegian term of endearment. “All right cunty baws?” “Aye, all right fanny face.” There’s all kinds of genital slandering that are a Glasgow hello. “Cunty baws,” it’s a good one. And it should be spelled with a “w”, not double “l.” B-A-W-S, “cunty baws”.

 

NJ: What is the strangest job you’ve ever had?

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EM: I worked on an outdoor trout farm with big ponds when I was sixteen. On my first day, one of the pond’s inlets had been blocked, so the oxygen had starved and there was maybe a million dead fish. The pond was about five feet deep, so I was given a pair of waders on day one. I arrived at eight in the morning and the guy put me in waders and gave me a net. For three days I just shoveled dead fish out of a pond and into barrels that I then had to drag across the grass to a place where I dumped them, making this ever growing pile of dead, stinking fish.

 

Only on the last two days did I do any sort of normal work on the fish farm, like selling fish to people. On my last day, he left me alone, this guy. I had worked four days there, three of them in waders just shoveling dead fish from eight till six, and then on the fifth day he fucked off and left me alone and a guy from a hotel came and said he wanted thirty table size trout, fresh; which meant I had to kill them and gut them and clean them. I said, “Well, we’ve got frozen ones in the freezer, I’ll give you thirty of those.” He went, “No, I want them fresh”. So with no preparation at all, I got thirty fish out and killed them and gutted them and off he went. I managed to pull it off.

 

There was another moment when a family arrived. It was an attractive couple and their attractive young children, and they wanted four table sized trout, but they didn’t want me to clean them. So I killed them, put them in a bag, and he paid for them. One of them wasn’t dead, and as they walked off, it started flapping around in the bag and completely freaked out his children.

 

NJ: What is the last film you watched?

 

EM: I’ve been watching the same film for a year, American Pastoral, which I directed. So that’s the last one I watched, but before that, probably the last film I watched was Alan Bennet’s Lady in a Van. It’s a really nice movie about a woman who lived in a van on Bennet’s street in London during the 80s. He didn’t drive, so he ended up letting her drive and park on his driveway, and she lived out her life in the van outside his flat.

 

NJ: What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

 

EM: I do work with UNICEF and see children in poverty or starvation or with AIDS. Some of the hospitals I’ve seen in Africa, the HIV and AIDS wards are fit to bursting with young girls and really young children.

 

NJ: When and where are you the happiest?

 

EM: At home with my family. I spend a lot time away, so I’m happiest there really. Sunday morning around the kitchen table with all my girls.

 

Photography: Anthony Cabaero for NeueJournal 

Paddy Breathnach

'Viva' & the Vibrancy of Cuba

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Throughout the history of art there have been a few serendipitous moments where everything aligns perfectly to make space for a new conversation. ‘Viva,’ an Irish film directed by Paddy Breathnach and written by Mark O’Halloran, is an example of this new moment in time. Telling the story of a young Cuban hairdresser who comes out to his estranged father as a drag performer, the film is a relevant reflection of contemporary life, where socio-political issues like LGBTQ rights, visibility, and equality, as well as a new chapter in the history of Cuban foreign relations, are prevalent and significant topics of conversation. Ahead of the U.S. release (out on April 29th, 2016), Breathnach chatted with us over the phone to discuss the vibrancy of Cuba, the essence of humanity, and the power of making a political stance by avoiding a political agenda.

 

NeueJournal: What initially drove you to explore ‘Viva’’s subject matter?

 

Paddy Breathnach: On holiday I had gone to Cienfuegos, Cuba and seen a drag show. The raw emotional power of the performances captured something in my imagination, so I became interested in trying to show something of that world. I was interested that through this artifice they were able to get to some really deep emotional and truthful experience. As I began to go back over the years I looked at other performances and began to think of an idea of a father-son story set in that world. I did a little bit of work on that and then I went to an Irish writer, called Mark O’Halloran, who turned it upside and inside out. We began to explore the world together a bit, and these themes began to come out; the theme of finding your voice and identity and the themes of what the nature of male power and masculine power are. Once I began to get the idea of the father-son relationship I became interested in the idea and the image of a son almost serenading his father in the voice of his mother’s musical interests and channeling his parental love in some way into his performance.

 

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‘Viva’ Film Still

 

NJ: You’re exploring so many themes that are so pertinent to contemporary society. What do you want the takeaway to be for the viewer?

 

PB: The idea that through artifice we can transcend our space and where we are in a reality, and reach a deeper understanding of ourselves and deeper expression of ourselves. It’s something that’s very interesting to me and definitely something I want to tell…the possibilities to change and move on, but maintaining the integrity of where you’ve come from and who you essentially are. To be in motion and movement, but yet to have a sense of origin about you as well.

 

NJ: This is a theme that’s very prevalent…gender, the construction of it, and how it assumes so many different forms than what we were used to accepting. Do you think that ‘Viva’ is trying to speak to an audience that might not be attuned to that reality yet?

 

PB: I think the film does speak to that audience. I’m not a campaigner, so if i’m political or there’s politics in anything I do, it’s definitely with a small ‘p.’ But the idea of just accepting the reality of that world, and telling a story in that world, and looking for the common humanity in that world, allows people to experience it and might change their minds and will allow them a language to be able to move on. Most people don’t think they’re bad people or that they’re misguided; they don’t do it out of  malice. So what way can you find a path to allow things to move on? I think in watching the film, the character is who he is. It’s just a fact with his life. We’re not trying to justify that or explain that or contextualize that. It’s just a factor of the story. I think it’s a more powerful way of doing it than a campaigning piece.

 

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‘Viva’ Film Still

 

NJ: How was it different to film in Cuba than in other locations you’ve filmed before?

 

PB: The place itself is so vibrant and full of life. I decided, partially because of practical reasons, and budget reasons, and also for aesthetic reasons, to try and shoot in a very naturalistic way that allowed us to capture as much of that vibrancy on the street as possible. We didn’t try and sanitize the sound by cleaning up all the tracks, or stop traffic outside the window so the motorbike doesn’t go past. It’s not a place where you can just go down the road and buy a wig, or buy new makeup, or buy materials very easily, or even go to a coffee shop and buy coffee easily. It’s limited what you can get there. For certain types of films it can be a real difficulty and frustration, but for us it was a limitation that actually allowed a particular type of aesthetic to unfold, and gave it a coherency.

 

People there are very welcoming as well. They want the world to know them and they want to know the world. You’re not dealing with an unsophisticated people. You’re dealing with a very clever, smart, people who are hungry to learn and hungry to show themselves. It’s a very interesting, wonderful place. It’s not without it’s problems, but it has a huge amount going for it.

 

NJ: What is the first film you remember having a deep impact on you?

 

PB: A Matter of Life and Death, by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. I think it may have been called Stairway to Heaven in America. I came home and I watched it on television one afternoon and got captivated by it. It wasn’t the type of film I imagined I would be captivated by, but I was. It had ideas in it that intrigued me and it was very visually impressive and vibrant, but it wasn’t conventional. I was probably about 16 at the time.

 

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‘Viva’ Film Still

 

NJ: If you weren’t a filmmaker, what would you be?

 

PB: A health and safety officer. I have a bad habit of seeking out danger and pitfalls and trying to fix them before they become a problem. It’s a sort of slightly anal pursuit that doesn’t reflect well on my character. But yeah, health and safety officer.

 

NJ: That’s interesting…

 

PB: No, I wouldn’t have been, but I think I have an aptitude for it. I’m not sure what I would have done actually. I’ve been doing film for so long, I don’t know what I would do. I think I probably would be making something of some sort. When I discovered what it’s like to make something and complete something, that sort of structure became very embedded in me.

 

NJ: I believe that creating is kind of the essence of humans.

 

PB: It is. We’re meaning machines. We seek out meaning and we try and give meaning.

 

NJ: Say you win the lottery right now. What’s the first thing you would do with the money?

 

PB: Pay off debts. My own debts and my family’s debts. I’d still want to make films and I want to work. I like working. I like doing that. Hopefully I’d win enough, but not so much that it became a ridiculous problem in some way…just enough to buy myself a little bit of freedom. If somebody finds what I’m saying admirable and they’re willing to share just a little bit of their fortune with me they’re welcome to do that (laughs).

 

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NJ: What’s your favorite smell?

 

PB: My daughter’s hair. She’s only two.

 

NJ: If you could work with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

 

PB: Gregory Peck. He had such dignity about him and kind of decency. I don’t know if he was that in his own life, but I got the impression he was.

 

NJ: What’s your go-to karaoke song?

 

PB: I avoid karaoke like the plague. But, if I had to do a song, my best rendition at the moment is a song called ‘Horsey Horsey Don’t You Stop,’ which I sing every night to put my daughter to sleep. That’s my best performance.

 

NJ: What is your idea of perfect happiness?

 

PB: I suppose my idea of perfect happiness is trying to get there and moving towards it in some way. I suppose it’s a paradox. It’s relative happiness on the way to perfect happiness. You need a bit of danger. If there isn’t a little bit of danger or tension, then I don’t know whether the other thing can sustain itself. You always need a touch of that alongside. If everything is too good, you don’t feel alive.

 

Portrait Photography: Daniel Savage for NeueJournal

Robert Glasper

Grammy Award Winner Scores Miles Davis Biopic

A few years ago Miles Davis’ nephew said the only actor who could adequately portray his legendary uncle was Don Cheadle. Flash forward to 2016 when Cheadle has not only played the role of the musician in ‘Miles Ahead’, but the film (which he co-wrote) also marks his debut as a director. And while Cheadle was the appropriate vessel to bring Davis to the big screen, the same can be said for the Grammy-winning musician Robert Glasper, who was in charge of the film’s music. Glasper, whose work includes the lauded albums Black Radio and In My Element, is one of the most exciting acts in contemporary jazz, blending influences from R&B and hip-hop to create contemporary sounds that Davis would certainly be proud of. Ahead of a pre-release screening of ‘Miles Ahead’ at NeueHouse Madison Square, Glasper sat down with us for a video interview during which he discussed the everlasting genius of Davis, working with Cheadle, and breaking the molds of history.

 

Portrait Photography: Manolo Campion for NeueJournal

Video: NeueHouse Media

 

Anna Rose Holmer

The Fits' Directorial Debut

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The Fits, Anna Rose Holmer’s directorial debut and one of the films that comprises the New Directors/New Films Festival, organized by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the MoMA, takes the universal theme of the confusions of growing up and reinterprets them by adding a psychological twist. Revolving around the young character Toni, who is trying to find her place between the world of boxing and an organized dance crew, The Fits’ harrowing complications of identity, combined with an unexplainable fit spell that takes over everyone in the dance crew save for Toni, elicits the teenage complexities of trying to find oneself. Ahead of the film’s festival release, the writer and director sat down with us to discuss using sound as dialogue, providing diversity in the writing room, and the creative influence of Mad Max: Fury Road.

 

NeueJournal: What is the driving force behind The Fits and what propelled you to explore this story?

 

Anna Rose Holmer: The driving force behind the film has always been about the subconscious choreographies we perform on a daily basis. I really saw adolescence as a culmination of that; the body mirroring and intuitive ways in which we move our body towards each other. For me it was really grounded in physical action. Looking to other girls’ bodies to define my body as an adolescent was something I finally started to understand as a 30 year old, so that’s always been the theme: how to make an unconventional dance film about adolescence and how to focus on a coming of age story that wasn’t about sexual identity but more just about identity.

 

NJ: This film marks your directorial debut. What was the most challenging aspect of it and what has been your favorite part?

 

ARH: Transitioning into directing, coming from both producing and camera work, was definitely the most emotionally vulnerable I’ve felt. You really have to be open. and you cannot ask others to give without first giving yourself, especially when you are working with kids. I felt I had to be this open book. It is a big challenge to remain really vulnerable throughout the whole process, especially with everyone witnessing that vulnerability on set, which was definitely the most challenging part. The most rewarding has been how much I’ve grown as a collaborator. As a director you cannot carry the film by yourself, you have to lean into your collaborators and I’ve grown so much through my relationships with my two co-writers; Lisa Kjerulff and Saela Davis, as well as my DP Paul Yee, our lead Royalty Hightower, Marquicia Jones-Woods and the Q-Kidz, and really the entire crew. I felt I learned a lot about myself and what type of leader I wanted to be because they were showing me what they needed along the way. I definitely feel like directing is the most articulate I’ve felt in any role in film so hopefully I get to keep doing it.

 

NJ: Sound plays an important role in this film. Why did you decide to say more with action and sound than with dialogue?

 

ARH: So much of how I communicate isn’t through words, and we use soundscape and the score to really be our lead Toni’s voice. We needed to give her a space to speak directly to the audience without that being on dialogue, so we used sound design to heighten her isolation, her sense of foreboding, and her internal struggle. We used the score to give the audience a clue about the quiet discomfort that is building, so that by the time the fits enter into the film you are almost prepared for them, since Toni feels out of place from the very beginning.

 

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Photo courtesy of The Fits

 

NJ: The theme of inclusion and diversity in the film industry is as prevalent now as it’s ever been. Is this something that you actively thought about when creating this film?

 

ARH: I co-wrote this film with two other women, and we are all from different backgrounds, so in the writer’s room we were all bringing different ideas about female identity, cultural backgrounds, and story aesthetics to the writing process, which I think bloomed on screen in this really beautiful way. Our crew was so generous and so giving, but in order for that to work the environment needs to be inclusive, which a really deep philosophy for us – every person who was part of this process had a voice that was valued.

 

NJ: What three films have had a significant impact on the exploration of your personal craft?

 

ARH: The first film I ever saw that made me want to be a filmmaker is a documentary called Streetwise, by Martin Bell and Mary Ellen Mark. Mary Ellen was really my lens into the world of film; I really wanted to be a Director of Photography so that was the first film that sparked this idea that you could tell a story, not just in a single frame like photography, but in a moving elaborate world. Au Hasard Balthazar, by Robert Bresson, is a film that really marked formal language, and Mad Max: Fury Road reignited a spark in me of pure love of cinema and kinetic storytelling. When I think about that film I get so excited to continue to make work.

 

NJ: What did you care most about when you were 10 years old?

 

ARH: My big brother was a big influence for me, he is four years older. I actually mirrored a lot of the relationship between Toni and Jermaine on my relationship with my older brother, Sam. I looked up to him and I thought he was the whole world, but there came a point when I realized I didn’t want to be exactly like him, that my identity was going to go down another path. But I loved playing in the woods with him, and building worlds, building forts, exploring. I cared a lot about my brother.

 

NJ: What is your motto?

 

ARH: “Why are the rules the rules?”

 

NJ: How would you describe the color green to a blind person?

 

ARH: Green is my favorite color because green for me is like the taste of the freshest herbs or lettuce coming out of the ground. I think about spring, I think about rebirth and growth. I think green smells like just after it’s rained and you can feel the ground seeping up those nutrients.

 

NJ: What do you think happens when we die?

 

ARH: I think some people make work so that after they die their work can live on in immortality, but I’ve been trying to practice releasing that idea of ego. It’s really hard when you create work to kind of erase that idea of yourself and that barrier, but I think that maybe in death that barrier is totally erased. But I have no idea.

 

NJ: What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

 

ARH: I am learning, more and more, not to ask for permission and that you don’t need somebody else’s permission to make work. Particularly as a woman in this industry you have to speak up for yourself, because no one else is gonna advocate for you on your behalf. Obedience or silence as a virtue has its place, but also asking for what you want and what you need is valuable.

 

Portrait Photography: Andrew Boyle for NeueJournal