Yuri Ancarani

Practicing Reality

I met Yuri on a warm morning of July in Milan, the city where we both live.

The original idea was to interview him with specific questions concerning his works, but it quickly became clear that our conversation would span way beyond the question-answer dynamic. 

Unpacking his extensive body of work means tackling a plethora of themes: from the idea of reality and imagination to the concept of truth, from language, symbols and the importance of sound to the overall theorization on aesthetics and the genre of the documentary. The core of his works lies, I believe, in his idea of reality, and the consequences that this vision entails.

In each of his films, from the oldest series Memories for Moderns (2000-2009) to his most recent work Atlantide (2021) Yuri’s depiction of the here and now is so dense in its realness that it manages to transform into its opposite: imagination.

Quoting one of his key inspirational filmmakers, Dario Argento, Yuri says that reality is the true source of horror. The horrific aspect of the everyday is, however, not always sinister.  The extreme simplicity of things, the daily life of the portrayed subjects, can be felt as scary if seen from the outside, but there is also an element of fascination, a strange allure to it.

Moreover,  instead of inserting imaginative elements from the outside, Yuri portrays things as they are, showing how it is precisely the ordinary that allows the otherness of things to emerge. Reality in itself is framed as intrinsically imbued with possibility: everyday working environments, with their specific set of rules and vocabulary, contain a certain mystery, a subtle touch of magic, which does not come from the outside but from WITHIN. 

The usual unfolding of regular practices, such as managing a marble quarry (Il Capo, 2010), the functioning of an hyperbaric room in an underwater station (Piattaforma Luna, 2011) or performative actions in a medical setting (Da Vinci, 2012) is filmed in its naked truth, each environment characterized by its specific language. The vocabulary varies, sometimes it’s gestures, sometimes it’s a list of orders, sometimes it’s silence. 

The construction of a world of symbols within the realm of the familiar is what generates this switch: a normal setting becomes fascinating, mysterious, not fully graspable. This lingering feeling is strengthened by the employment of close ups and camera shots that are carefully edited, delivering a strange dichotomy between the closeness of the subjects, whose gestures are filmed in detail, and the detachment of the viewer’s gaze, who observes as an outsider. Intimacy is suggested and denied at the same time.

In this context music and sound play a key role, carefully studied either as translations of the epiphanic moment partially reached (see the end of Piattaforma Luna, for instance, where the composition by Ben Frost represents a moment of freedom, an escape from the almost claustrophobic reality of the hyperbaric room), or as a suggestion, like the ironic employment of orchestra music in The Challenge (2016), hinting towards the classical pomposity of Hollywood Cinema. 

Some of his films, like Whipping Zombies (2017), a documentary on a dancing ritual in the tradition of a Haitian village, are entirely without dialogues. The faithful documentation of this cultural phenomenon relies entirely  on the registration of sounds and music produced by the local community. In his San Siro (2014) the stadium is filmed as a concrete entity that functions as the container of an almost mystical happening, its architecture framed in its curves and angles, inside and outside. The stadium is the protagonist, the game is never filmed. Here again the only sound is given by the footsteps and the roar of the exultant crowd, and the preparation towards the football match can be read, once more, as a ritual, punctuated by different practical steps.  

This idea of rituality, seen as a constitutional element of any society and fundamental in the construction of meaning, comes back often in Yuri’s works. 

Its most blatant form is seen in the short film Séance (2014) in which psychologist Albània Tomassini entertains a spiritual conversation with the deceased Carlo Mollino. Fulvio Ferrari, tenant of Casa Mollino, serves the dinner to the two guests, one visible and the other invisible. Through the voice of Tomassini Mollino speaks about the sense and the aim of his passed life, as well as the direction towards perfection. This agonized perfection is reached, in Mollino’s view, through the conjunction of idea and realization. The projectualization of a work and its actual form become one, in what is beauty and truth at once.

This precise correlation was at the core of Yuri’s working method in his latest film Atlantide. While talking about this idea of truth he told me about his choice of not using any script for Atlantide, the dialogues in the film consist of footage collected during the almost four years of research, in which Yuri followed the protagonists in their daily life around the Venetian lido. 

The entire creation of the film was an ongoing process, in which also practical elements such financing was collected throughout and not entirely beforehand. This experimental approach allowed for a unique challenge, in an attempt of capturing reality ‘’as it is’’, reflecting precisely Mollino’s conception of perfection in the work of art.

After our conversation I left with different thoughts in my head and the belief that a lot had remained unsaid, but the overall feeling I keep to this day is the full comprehension of Yuri’s desire:  to create a work in which truth unfolds in its totality, in a temporal frame that is both process and end. For a brief moment, entirely real. 


ATLANTIDE (2021) Video stills
THE CHALLENGE (2016) Video stills
SÉANCE (2014) Video stills

All images courtesy of the artist.

16th London Korean Film Festival

Collectors, Josée And Recalled: The 16Th London Korean Film Festival In Review

It’s been a good year for Korean cinema and TV, one would have to have been hiding under a rock to not have heard of Squid Game, the Kdrama which took Netflix by storm. In addition to this actress, Youn Yuh Jung became the first Korean actor to win an Academy Award this year for her portrayal of a Korean grandmother in Lee Issac Chung’s film Minari. Of course, we cannot forget Bong Joon Ho’s success with awards in 2020 for his film Parasite either, nor ignore the fact that other 2021 Korean dramas such as Hellhound or My Name have also seen international popularity.

However, due to the pandemic, many of us have had to witness this success on the small screen at home so the opportunity to watch some of the best of Korean cinema on the big screen at the 16th London Korean Film Festival was a pleasure in itself. Spread across nine venues in the capital the festival also allowed viewers to visit a variety of London cinemas such as Cinema in The Arches, Everyman, Screen on the Green and the Genesis Cinema among others. Of course, with such a huge lineup of films, it would be impossible to discuss all of them so NR Magazine chose three to review.

The first of the three was Collectors at Everyman, Screen on the Green. Directed by Park Jung Bae the film follows a group of misfit ‘tomb raiders’ on a blockbuster comedic heist. The two main leads of the film have also enjoyed success outside of the cinema this year. Lee Je Hoon, who plays a roguishly likeable artefact thief, also starred in the popular bittersweet Netflix drama Move To Heaven whilst Shin Hae Sun, who takes on the role of the beautifully cunning museum creator, also gained huge recognition for playing the chaotic Queen in the historical comedy Mr Queen. In Collectors, their chemistry and comedic timing is undeniable and leave the audience hoping to see them work together again in other projects. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast, several of whom also stared in Squid Game, gave spectacular performances of their own. Park Jung Bae creates a crown pleasing romp that keeps you guessing, and laughing, right to the end.

Next was a total change of pace with the slow bittersweet romance, Josée at Ciné Lumière. Kim Jong Kwan’s adaptation of the Japanese film Jose, the Tiger and the Fish was a quiet and soulful exploration of a disabled woman (Han Ji Min) whose life is obviously very lonely. When she meets a young student (Nam Joo Hyuk) it seems as if things might change for the better but the audience very soon realises that Josèe is an unreliable narrator and is left wondering how many of the events of the film are real and how many are simply figments of her imagination. This isn’t the first project Nam Joo Hyuk and Han Ji Min have worked together on and the pair have a very obvious chemistry albeit a morose and intense connection. Kim Jong Kwan makes the viewer question reality whilst forcing them to appreciate the beautiful mundanity of life.

Finally, we finished the festival with Seo You Min’s Recalled at Genesis Cinema. A dreamy but intense thriller that follows Soo Jin (Seo Yea Ji) who wakes up in hospital with amnesia after a serious head injury. Her doting husband Ji Soon (Kim Kang Woo) is with her every step of the way on her recovery but when Soo Jin begins to get prophetic visions she starts to distrust everything about her seemingly perfect life. The storyline leaves you thinking you have cleverly guessed the ending before pulling the rug out from under you. Seo You Min leads the audience through a rollercoaster of emotions before tugging at their heartstrings one last time as the credits roll.

While immensely enjoyable the London Korean Film Festival highlights the need for cinemas to diversify from their unfortunately stolid Hollywood fair. The popularity of Korean media in mainstream culture in recent years highlights that cinema is moving away from long-lasting Western hegemony. It would be great to be able to watch Korean movies in the cinema year-round but for now all we can do is look forward to the 17th London Korean Film Festival in 2022.

For further information and announcements visit koreanfilm.co.uk


Get Closer to Independent Cinema with

Global streaming platform, film distributor and production company MUBI has quietly positioned itself by word of mouth as the go-to film service for film lovers. Available in over 190 countries on the web, and from emerging directors to established cult classics, new films can be streamed on MUBI every single day. Additionally, it publishes ‘Notebook’, a film criticism and news publication, and provides weekly cinema tickets to selected new release films through MUBI GO. The uniquely curated platform has a refreshingly simple concept: each day, a film curator hand-picks a film. The platform offers a range of hand-picked features, filmmaker retrospectives, spotlights on major film festivals and more. This philosophy of quality over quantity is rooted in the belief that cinema should be accessible to everyone, from anywhere. MUBI’s catalogue is brimming with visionary films that appeal to both wider and niche audiences, as audiences can find subversive features alongside Hollywood favourites. 

Bringing you closer to independent cinema, NR has partnered with MUBI to curate a list of seven films that includes 30 days for free when you sign up. The features are as follows:


This work from Fellini is a semi-autobiographical, self-referential film about film. The 1963 classic follows director Guido Anselmi as he struggles in his search for creativity when creating his next project. Battling with his dreams and memories in search for inspiration, Anselmi is consumed with his visions, his artistic crisis leads him astray and we watch his life unravel around him. 

Coppola’s 2009 drama details the adventures of 17-year-old Bennie, who travels to Buenos Aires in search of his long-estranged brother Tetro. Along this journey, he meets a troubled soul who has abandoned his career as a writer. After his brother rejects him, Bennie takes it upon himself to finish one of Tetro’s plays and secretly submits it for a prize.

Shot in black and white and set on the streets of Buenos Aires, Coppola’s film is a spirited and complex tale of a family feud – one that is brimming with fabled archetypes and generational trauma. 

Shot during the summer of 1968 in Oakland, California, this documentary short explores the meetings organised by the Black Panthers Party to free Huey Newton, one of their leaders, and to turn his trial into a political debate. 

Documentarian and activist Agnès Varda dives headfirst into the conflict of the 60s and emerges with a provocative film that captures vital speeches from the movement’s leaders – something that is all too relevant today. 

A decade after the ‘social-democratic war of liberation’ in near-future New York, groups of women organise a feminist uprising in search for equality. Preserved by Anthology Film Archives with restoration funding from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association & The Film Foundation, this 1983 film is a unique example of feminist provocation and grungy, science-fiction futurism, charged with the energy of revolution. 

Confrontational and discursive, this documentary portrait of James Baldwin, subverts the expectations of a group of presumptuous white filmmakers in this rarely seen, Paris-set short film that explores the towering figure of 20th-century American literature, Black culture and political thought, filmed in Paris. Director Terrence Dixon crafts an illuminating snapshot of Baldwin’s intellectual worldview. 

This 2009 LQBTQ+ drama details an English professor mourning the loss of his partner. Unable to cope with his typical days in 1960s Los Angeles, the professor finds his life increasingly difficult to face, and he is faced with a decision about his future in this world. 

The first film from the iconic designer Tom Ford, ‘A Single Man’ is a highly stylised exploration of love and loss, and established Ford as a talent to watch.

This 2020 short drama follows a woman who watches time passing next to the suitcases of her ex-lover and a restless dog who doesn’t understand that his master has abandoned him. Both living beings are dealing with abandonment.

Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar has teamed up with Tilda Swinton for a loose adaptation of Jean Cocteau’s timeless play and for the filmmaker’s English-language debut.


Discover · NR x MUBI here

Willem Dafoe

“when you aren’t trying to accomplish something that serves your goals and you start to consider some else’s point of view, that becomes creative and that becomes fun”

Willem Dafoe connects to Zoom from Rome, where he lives with his wife, Giada Colagrande. The actor has just returned from filming in Budapest – where last week, the shoot for NR took place. For the shoot, Dafoe wore exclusively Prada, a brand he says he likes very much. “There were some crazy colours, but I like to stick out my neck a little bit. Sometimes I put on clothes I wouldn’t normally wear in life, but I enjoy doing it to shoot with.” As one of the most prolific actors in cinema for some forty years, the actor must have some familiarity with stepping into clothes he might not otherwise. “That’s the idea, and that’s the pleasure,” he says. Whether he steps into Prada attire for a magazine or spends countless hours in make-up to embody the legendary Nosferatu in 2000’s The Shadow of the Vampire, Willem Dafoe is a master of using costume and his surroundings to capture the emotional profile of a character. 

And his characters are vast and varied. The actor has played a red cap-wearing ship engineer in Wes Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004), a weather-beaten lighthouse keeper in The Lighthouse (2019), and as Sergeant Elias in the career-launching 1986 film, Platoon. From voicing the world-weary Gill in Finding Nemo (2003), to courting controversy through association with Lars von Trier’s provocative arthouse films Antichrist (2009) and Nymphomaniac (2014), Dafoe’s career is difficult to pin down. It’s not surprising, given the kinds of roles the actor has undertaken, that he is often asked if he has difficultly in leaving his characters behind. The answer is no, he can shut them out and return to his life, being Willem Dafoe, without problem. But are there elements of characters, perhaps some more than others, that stick with him regardless? 

“When I do a project, I have an experience. It’s part-social, part-artistic, part-life experience, and you learn things,” he explains. “When I learn things, I don’t unlearn them – unless I really make a concerted effort to. So certain things do stay with me, or certain things surprise me.” That, for Dafoe, is part of the adventure and the pleasure of stepping into the shoes of a character he hasn’t previously met. “Other possibilities occur that didn’t occur before in your life,” he adds, “like new skills or different sensibilities. “Those are the things that stay because I return to that feeling.” Besides the lasting impact that playing a role can have on Dafoe as a person, I wonder if he ever looks back to a previous character in order to shape a new role? “I hope not! You know, the idea is really to start from zero every time.”

The reverberations of previous performances can linger, but Dafoe is careful to avoid revisiting the past. His process involves “trying to steer away from that, not to repeat yourself – not that that’s a sin, but it might suggest that you aren’t going deep enough, or you’re leaning on something.” Delving into the unknown is where Dafoe finds his energy. The actor has also made a career-long effort to avoid being typecast. Despite his distinctive face and a persisting misconception amongst some that he almost exclusively plays ‘bad guys’, it’s difficult to see the same person twice across his oeuvre. 

The surface characteristics of a role are something that Dafoe specifically tries to mix up, in order to avoid repetition. “Sometimes I’ll approach a character and look for a trigger for your imagination – so I’ll change my external appearance in some way.” That might be a prosthetic or a hairstyle. It might, for example, be a moustache. “The style of that moustache, in my head, is owned by a certain character, so if I have a moustache that looks a certain way, I think ‘Oh – that’s too Bobby Peru!’” 

Dafoe has spoken previously about playing the lecherous gangster Bobby Peru in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart (1990), recalling that the director handed him the character’s costume without discussion. How much of the process of bulking out a character is a collaboration? That depends on various factors: the character, the project and the personalities involved. Part of what Dafoe calls the “beauty of working in film” – and to a degree, in theatre too – is that “one must figure out what they think their area to explore is, their area to perform in, or what their responsibilities are.” Those boundaries aren’t fixed, but perennially shifting. “Sometimes one has to support other aspects of the story to get it on its way; sometimes you are the story.” 

“And in a similar way, some directors want talent to collaborate, [while others] want their actors to inhabit what they’ve created.” In At Eternity’s Gate, the 2018 biopic of Vincent van Gogh, director and painter Julian Schnabel taught the actor how to paint in preparation for the role. Writing in The New York Times in 2020, Schnabel recalled how early scenes from filming didn’t make the final cut: “He was wearing the same clothes, had the same hairdo, but he wasn’t the guy yet. Then there was a certain moment when all of a sudden he was. He was transformed, transfigured. He was somebody else.” Dafoe says that he likes a flexibility of approach in order to not take himself too seriously or get stuck in the belief that there’s only one way to go about the acting process. “It makes me feel more fluid and energetic somehow.” Figuring out how to navigate a role or a collaboration is also where the pleasure lies. “Once I feel comfortable in that mode and I’m working with people that I trust, then the sky’s the limit.”

Dafoe’s response intrigues me, in part, because of an interview he did with fellow actor and Mississippi Burning (1988) co-star, Frances McDormand for BOMB in 1996. “That’s another age!” he exclaims. It is, but there is something he says that is particularly interesting. In the interview, Dafoe refers to actors as “serving someone else’s construct,” before asking McDormand the extent to which she finds that position frustrating or liberating. In 2021, how would Dafoe respond? In order to answer, he asks what McDormand replied. I can’t remember, I confess. But going back to her answer – that “actors are in the service industry” – it is undoubtedly similar to Dafoe’s. “Part of an actor’s process is serving [the] idea and being able to articulate and inhabit what [the director] is trying to do.”

“I think I say this a lot,” Dafoe continues, “so maybe I’m getting stuck in a certain kind of idea, but I still think it’s true – it probably was true in 1996 – when you aren’t trying to accomplish something that serves your goals and you start to consider some else’s point of view, that becomes creative and that becomes fun.” In doing so, one is “let of the hook” in a way because the actor is not responsible for the film’s meaning, or its framing. “But the quality of being there, of what someone is doing, and the pretending is an actor’s responsibility – and I can do that if I’m doing that for someone else. If I’m doing it for myself, I sometimes have a little voice in the back of my head that’s always asking how I’m doing; ‘Is this what we want?’ ‘What’s this going to get me?’ And you want to get away from that.” To let the experience wash over Dafoe in this way allows him to “feel looser and more open,” and to forget himself in that moment. “You’re not there anymore, you’re someone else. And that taps you into a whole other world that’s not based just on your experiences and the things you want.” It’s in that state that allows for “something pure and intuitive – beyond your understanding,” shutting out a self-consciousness that can (dis)colour the action. “That’s usually where the most interesting things happen.”

Dafoe may be deemed one of Hollywood’s leading actors, but he rarely appears there – preferring films shot on location. In the case of Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Dafoe headed to Morocco to film, only to return to the US to encounter a backlash. The actor’s all-too-human portrayal of Jesus was deemed blasphemous by some religious groups, but it demonstrates the extent to which Dafoe seeks out real emotion during the filming process. “Shooting on location is a lot of fun because my life experience working in that place informs [and roots] what I am doing.” In a more extreme way that some of Dafoe’s other films, The Last Temptation encapsulates how the environment and emotion interact in order to shape the character that appears on screen. 

In Sean Baker’s critically acclaimed 2017 film, The Florida Project, Dafoe plays Bobby, the overstretched but unflappable manager of the Magic Kingdom motel on the periphery of Disney World, Florida. Filmed at a functioning motel, many of the film’s stars were, unlike Dafoe, non-actors. In order to master his role, Dafoe learned the ropes of management from the Magic Kingdom’s real-life manager. It catapulted Dafoe into another world, shaped by the surrounding characteristics and quirks of the location and its weather system, the lifestyles of its inhabitants, and so on. “I spent my time working with people that are actually living there, so it’s super rooted. Hollywood does not exist for these people,” he explains; “after a couple of days, they’re over the fun of the circus coming to town [and] it becomes life for them. And also, for myself.” If that made the film’s situation “easier to enter” for Dafoe, it also contributes to the uncomfortable truth portrayed in the reality of the characters and their experiences. 

Then there’s the overwhelmingly morbid The Lighthouse by Robert Eggers, in which Dafoe and Robert Pattinson feature as two nineteenth-century lighthouse keepers on a remote island in New England. Shot in black-and-white in square format (recalling the silent films of the previous century), the film is uncomfortably claustrophobic. The lack of theatrics gives The Lighthouse a terrifyingly real atmosphere – except for very brief uses of special effects that blur the realm of ‘real’ versus ‘surreal’. “The isolation was so complete,” Dafoe recalls; the film was shot in Nova Scotia under terrible conditions. “The weather was so extreme that that put us there right away. There’re certain things that are very difficult to act, you know, extreme cold, runny noses, flush skin from brutal wind. These kinds of things put us in a state that allowed us to be there in a very full way.”

The strife and struggle that burdens Dafoe and Pattinson is rendered visible by the circumstances under which they filmed. Not least, as Dafoe adds, in the moment of filming something like The Lighthouse “I’m not thinking about how the movie is going to do. I’m not thinking about my career. I’m not thinking about any of these things because I’m in it.” Shooting on set, meanwhile, is fundamentally different. “I go into make-up [and] there may be movie magazines around, which I don’t like very much because I don’t want to be reminded about those kinds of things when I’m making a movie.” Inasmuch as Dafoe seems to resist the ‘cult of the movie star’ when it comes to being an actor, though, it’s inevitable that he cannot always control how he is perceived.

Given the nature of some of the characters the actor has played, I wonder whether other’s perceptions of him, as Willem Dafoe – the person, are shaped by a particular film role. And if so, which characters tend to be referenced the most? “You know, I can tell. I can tell what films people have seen when they approach me.” Because Dafoe has undertaken so diverse a range of roles and films, it’s easy to demarcate one type of movie watcher from another. He says that he often feels that people who watch the higher-pace films have “no awareness of the European movies or the auteur movies, and vice versa. Someone will come up to me and say, ‘I’ve seen all your movies,’ and they’ve probably seen 10%.” That’s normal; it’s a reflection of different tastes. “Spider-Man, The Lighthouse or The Florida Project – those are three distinctly different movies.”

The actor has identified, for example, a middle-aged audience who watched his earlier films before getting caught up in life as they got older; “they stopped watching movies and if they did, they tend to go to the more available, the more commercial. They were less cinephile.” So, there are different camps of the Dafoe-phile (‘fandom’ does not seem to be an appropriate way to describe it). “Sometimes you see people that are stuck in another time of your career because it reflects their viewing habits. People do see you depending on the films they watch and the characters they see.” It’s curious how this then feeds into preconceptions about the kind of person Dafoe might be. “Some people think I’m, you know, some crazy nut. Some people think I’m eccentric. Some think I’m a normal guy. Some people think I’m athletic. Some people think I’m an old guy.”

Dafoe talks compassionately about the encounters people have with him. He recognises that the interaction is not always specifically to do with the actor himself, but rather the characters he plays, in order for people to make sense of themselves. “I am touched by people’s need to make some sort of connection, and when they see actors and films, it connects to some prior feeling or experience they’ve had.” In that moment, “that world in their head came together with that world that was up on the screen.” Talking to Dafoe, however, he seems to embody neither the Green Goblin who lurked in the corner of my bedroom for some time after the release of Spider-Man in 2002 (“yes he is – so behave yourself”), nor does he have the pained visage of van Gogh, battling demons in his latter days, as in At Eternity’s Gate. Instead, wearing black-rimmed glasses and Bose headphones, Dafoe appears to be, well, himself. The actor’s portrayal of van Gogh is one that, nonetheless, leaves a lasting impression.

In Vincente Minnelli’s 1956 biopic of the French painter, Lust for Life, Kirk Douglas takes on the role of the ‘tortured genius’; the artist misunderstood by his peers, only to be discovered in death. The enduring legacy that exists around van Gogh created the appetite for a depiction of the life and suffering of an artist in a film like Lust for Life. But in Dafoe’s portrayal, what is so compelling is not its ‘authentic’ depiction of ‘true’ events, but his haunting portrayal of human feeling. In one scene in which Dafoe’s van Gogh explains how he cut off his ear, it isn’t the uncanny recreation of the artist’s Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear that makes it such an affecting scene. Rather, it’s Dafoe’s arresting ability to convey a person caught between certainty and confusion with pained restraint.

But by playing a real artist, with whom the world ‘identifies’, some criticism is inevitable. Over the course of a career defined by such a range of characters – real (a motel manager), ‘Real’ (van Gogh and Jesus Christ) and fantastical, where does Dafoe locate and connect with the essence of a character? And how does he decide whether or not to take up a role? “I read a script and I say, “What does the person do? Do I want to do those things? Am I interested in them? Will it be fun? Will I learn something?” 

The pandemic allowed Dafoe the chance to stop temporarily and spend time with his wife, Colagrande, who as a filmmaker and musician has a schedule to rival his own. Dafoe scrambled back to Rome from New York and recalls how volatile and scary those early days of the pandemic were. There was the aggressive jockeying in the run-up to the US election, misinformation surrounding COVID and the point of view that Italy was, besides China, the “worst place in the world to go”. By July, however, Dafoe was able to get back to work, something that he says he is grateful for. The circumstances, though, were different. “The idea before Nightmare Alley [director Guillermo del Toro’s forthcoming carnival-based thriller] of spending two weeks on entering Canada in an apartment unable to leave, having your food delivered to you, was basically like prison – actors’ prison.” 

If the pandemic slowed down Dafoe’s usually busy schedule, the actor is now regathering pace. And Poor Things, based on the 1992 novel of the same name by Alasdair Gray, is one project that is worth keeping an eye out for. “Listen, it was a great experience and Yorgos Lanthimos is a real talent. It’s got a beautiful cast, and you get self-conscious. I don’t want to blow my own horn by association saying how great things are, but it’s very special.” Given the nature of the story, it will be fascinating to see how it is realised on the big screen. Dafoe is, equally, intrigued – but shuts himself up before sharing any potentially revealing details. “Since I just finished, I’m still high off the experience. I’m excited about many things, but this one is high up on the list.” I don’t ask Dafoe whether the rumours are true that he will be resurrecting the Green Goblin for this year’s highly anticipated Spider-Man: No Way Home; he certainly wouldn’t tell, and, for the sake of my younger self, I don’t really want to know. 



Creative Directors · NIMA HABIBZADEH AND JADE REMOVILLE          
Photographer · LUC COIFFAIT          
Fashion Stylist · SAM CARDER          
Interview · ELLIE BROWN

Dhillon Shukla

“I need to know the mood of a space before I can start to imagine who occupies it”

In the yellowy November gloom, a young Londoner tries to scrape together enough money to take his crush on a date. Money Up, named after the schoolyard game, is a film that captures the “spirit, grit, and resilience of young Londoners in a lighthearted and poetic tone.”  The film has been garnering attention for Dhillon Shukla, whose previous works range from photographing young Sri Lankans who have adopted Californian surfer culture to collaborating with music artists such as Jessie Ware, Disclosure and Gorillaz. NR Magazine joined Shukla in conversation.

As both a filmmaker and a photographer how do you think your previous experience with photography projects informs your filmmaking process.

I think it’s changed over time. When I started taking pictures I was a teenager, I used to walk around and shoot locations I thought would be interesting to set a film in. I had this massive archive and I used to look through it and try to imagine a story. Then a couple of years later I started to work with musicians who were quite established, a lot of them had really creative personalities and sometimes our visions wouldn’t aline so I had to learn how to navigate that. After a few of those experiences, it began to feel natural to work with talent and for sure that’s fed into directing and working with actors.

You have stated that you predominantly worked with music and documentary. Do you find that you include those elements in your fictional works and if so how?

I take a lot of influence from music when starting a film, for me, it’s one of the best ways to find an emotion or feeling and put yourself in the headspace of a character. Then recently I completed a documentary which was shot over 4 year period and in a really observational style when I started it I only planned to shoot for 3 months, I had quite a rigid idea of what it would be but then there were a lot of surprises and the story told me it wanted to be something else. I had to listen to that. Looking back that was probably one of the best projects I could have done as it taught me to really think about an edit while shooting, I was always reacting to a moment and simultaneously trying to capture it whilst thinking of questions to ask and how I would build that into an edit. Creatively I became a lot sharper and able to generate ideas a lot quicker than I used to which helps with fiction work and to not be too attached to the script as it’s always evolving.

What was the most exciting filmmaking project you worked on?

I’d probably say Run Outs – the short film I’m making with the BFI at the moment. Like Money Up, it’s set in London but it’s darker, more ambitious and also quite impressionistic. I’m excited by how it’s developing, it feels quite fresh and more in line with the direction I want to go in.

You stated that you wanted to show the lighter side of London in your film Money Up. Do you find that people tend to have a negative stereotyped view of London and do you think your film works to change those perspectives?

I just felt that a lot of youth-orientated stories in London revolved around drugs and violence and while that’s obviously a reality for some people they’re also a lot of peoples experience that doesn’t reflect that. The intention of the film was to reframe that for sure and also show multicultural London kids in an innocent way.

You mentioned you are working on a script for a large scale work set in the future. Can you tell me more about this project?

Not really at the moment, just that it’s finished and the plan is to make it my first feature film.

What filmmakers and directors do you draw inspiration from and how do you apply that inspiration to your work?

I think when I’m writing I’m more inspired by music or locations. I need to know the mood of a space before I can start to imagine who occupies it. That’s where most ideas come from for me. They’re not many films I would say are perfect but the ones below are and I find it hard to not think about them from time to time.

Chungking Express

A Prophet

The Tree of Life

Barry Lyndon

Apocalypse Now

You shot Money Up on a small budget. What was the process you had to go through to see the film to fruition?

I wrote the script for an open call for the BBC and got selected. My exec producer connected me with an amazing casting director. They’d worked with people like Nicholas Winding Refn, Lars Von Trier and Gaspar Noe but they’d also cast all the seasons of Top Boy which made me feel they’d be perfect for the film. They were great and found all the actors in about 3 or 4 weeks. We shot in November during a lockdown so it complicated things a bit, we weren’t able to rehearse or even meet each other before we shot it. Then for all of the post-production, we had to work via Zoom as well. It was quite a different way to work but I think in the end everyone who was in it and worked on it was pretty happy with the result.

How do you think Covid will affect the indie film scene in the future?

I’m not sure but it’s been a shame all the film festivals have moved online because they’re really important for indie filmmakers to connect with people and continue to keep making work so I hope they’ll come back soon.

What advice do you have for young creatives looking to work with film and documentaries? 

Start by making something independently where you can have creative control. It’ll allow you to develop your style and attract the right collaborators for you.

What are your plans for the future?

As I mentioned before I’ve recently completed a 40-minute documentary called The Prodigy which follows 23-year-old Muay Thai world champion Greg Wootton and his 9-year-old prodigy Jimmy Clarke, they both fight out of the KO Gym in Bethnal Green which has produced over 25 world champions. It’s about two young Londoners’ pursuit for greatness in the sport which leads them to find a deeper meaning in their lives. It’s been quite an epic project so I’m really excited about releasing that later this year and also completing Run Outs. Then beyond that, I’ve got another short I’m going to make before doing my feature film.




Logan Rice

“It has to feel right, otherwise it’ll drive me crazy”

Logan Rice is a photographer, filmmaker and cinematographer based in Los Angeles, California. The young artist has established himself in the creative industry as one to watch, with an impressive body of work that includes cinematic and light-hearted collaborations with high profile clients, alongside more impassioned and personal projects.

Growing up filming skateboarding, it is only natural that the artist would make the move to Los Angeles, where his inspiration from day-to-day culture, music and fashion has now come to inform his eclectic and ever-growing practice.

Largely focused on fashion campaigns and editorials, Logan has also worked on a variety of music videos, documentaries, and exclusive content for the likes of Nordstrom, Pull&Bear, Fender, Columbia Records, L’Officiel, Adidas, Flaunt Magazine and more, as well as filming artists including Grimes, Lykke Li, Alice Glass and many others.

NR Magazine speaks with Logan to discuss the versatility of his work and how he has come to develop his style over the years.

A lot of your personal work channels feelings of nostalgia in your depictions of youth culture – is this something you consciously aim to create or is it something that just comes through naturally as part of your creative process? 

That’s definitely something people have mentioned to me before. I would say that it comes naturally. I aim to capture moments that just are and that feel real. The nostalgia element isn’t something I intentionally seek out, it just kind of happens that way.

How have you come to develop your style? 

I grew up filming skateboarding and I think that style of shooting and editing transitioned over heavily when I started creating a lot of content in the music world and eventually into all the fashion projects I’ve done over the past few years. I never noticed until fairly recently when people would point it out and be like, “You used to film skateboarding right? I can see it in your work.”

I definitely use some of the same shooting techniques that I used as a 14/15-year-old filming skateboarding. It has obviously improved over the years but it’s the same method. The same goes for editing – I’ve always edited skate videos to the mood and beat of the song and I let that dictate how a project comes together. I never understood how people could make a rough edit with no music behind it. The music dictates the entire flow and feeling of the project, and I just let the feeling take over rather than looking at something for what technically makes sense. It has to feel right, otherwise it’ll drive me crazy.

How do you juggle your more commercial work alongside personal projects? Do the two influence each other at all or do you have clear separations between your personal and commissioned pieces? 

It gets hard to balance both, honestly, but commercial work always comes first. That’s the work that allows me to be a freelance artist living in Los Angeles and it funds my personal projects and editorials.

Personal work is very important, so whenever I get an idea or have free time, I definitely try to push myself to do something that’s meaningful to me. Those projects take a long time to complete though. I always overthink it or get busy with something else but eventually they’ll all get done.

The personal projects I’ve done are still some of my favourite things I’ve created. Even if they are 2, 3, 4, 5 years old, they still hold up in my opinion. Whenever I watch them now, I’m like, “Yeah, this is it. This is the kind of work that really keeps me going.”

Commercial work shows me what I’m capable of with a bigger team, budget, and resources and pushes me on a production scale. But with that being said, personal work shows me I don’t need a huge team or budget to make something that I really love or that I think is great.

What’s important for you when directing? What sort of things inspire a narrative and help you tell a story? 

The most important thing to me is capturing moments that are real and that feel real. Pre-visualized shots are great, and you always need to have a game plan, but I think I’ve always created the best content from just trying random things to see what works. Also, a lot of the time I roll a bit before and after the main take and those little off moments can sometimes be the most beautiful and unique.

“Storytelling is much less important to me than having a project that makes you feel a certain way.”

What aspects of your own life influence your work? 

I think just living in the moment and going with the flow of things. I really try not to overthink and not do anything that doesn’t feel right. That’s how I’ve always been as a person and it’s how I tend to approach projects. I just have to trust my instincts and usually the outcome is better than anything I try to force.

How have you managed creatively during the pandemic? 

The first few months were absolutely brutal, but over time I started doing shoots for brands my friends owned or worked at and I started doing music videos a lot because it seemed like the majority of the fashion industry was on hold. That kept me busy for a while until everything came back full swing August 2020, and it’s been pretty steady since then. Some months are slower than others, but I always have different things to work on.

I do wish I had picked up new creative hobbies during my time off but to be honest with you,

“I just ate pasta, drank wine, played a lot of video games, and binged a ridiculous amount of TV shows… and I’m ok with that.”

Are you working on any projects at the moment? 

I’m in post-production on about 3 or 4 projects right now and I just did a shoot over the weekend that I’m really excited about. I have a few really cool editorial projects coming out in July and I’m always making content with my really good friend and artist Hudi, so we’ve got some music videos and other things in the works.




Ekow Eshun

An Infinity of Traces, a selection of work from eleven Black women and non-binary artists

Walking into the airy gallery space from a quiet London side street, one is immediately struck with a powerful sense of joy, exuberance and pride in an exhibition that discusses incredibly serious topics surrounding Black identities in the UK. An Infinity of Traces, which showcases a selection of work from eleven Black women and non-binary artists, was originally planned to open shortly after a summer of intense discourse surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement and subsequent protests but was delayed due to Covid restrictions. The delay is not a bad thing as the exhibition serves as a compelling reminder of the ongoing nature of this discourse. There is always work still to be done. 

Immediately Jade Montserrat’s series of work draws the viewer into a discussion of Eurocentric beauty standards and colourism and how Black women are forced to navigate their bodies and thoughts within these structures. 

Across from this stretching line of mixed media drawings is Liz Johnson Arthur’s work, Spring… Times, which dominates the space. Three images from Johnson’s archive are blown up in black and white on banners that hang above the viewer. Anyone who took part in the BLM protests in London last summer will be immediately drawn to the image on the left. A Black Muslim woman stands on the seat of a car, holding on to the frame for support with the door flung open behind her, her fist raised in salute. 

During the London BLM protests, there was often a buildup of traffic due to the sheer amount of protesters that filled the roads. However, this traffic became a part of the protest as motorists would blast their horns and raise their fists in support. This sense of powerful community and strength was both incredibly touching and a potent motivator, something this particular image encapsulates perfectly. 

An Infinity of Traces contains a large number of video works, a medium which is often overlooked by gallery visitors who tend to briefly pause in front of the screen before zipping off to the next artwork, seemingly unwilling to commit to placing earphones over their heads and immersing themselves in the artwork. In the case of this exhibition it would be a mistake to do so as, with the exception of the forty one minute film by Alberta Whittle, it is quite possible to watch the entirety of all the video works in under half an hour. 

Alberta Whittle’s work, Between a Whisper and a Cry, is well worth the extra time though, exploring, through the mariner’s rhyme: “June too soon, July stand by, August it must, September remember, October all over,” Britain’s historical, cultural and political relationship with the Caribbean. Whittle’s practice is rooted in the history of the transatlantic slave trade, however, one is reminded of Britain’s treatment of Caribbean immigrants, in cases such as the Windrush Scandal, which is still an ongoing issue. 

Ayo Akingbade’s Tower XYZ film is full of bright colours and youthful hopefulness, following three young women around London neighbourhoods and featuring 1970s Brutalist landmark, Trellick Tower. A young female voice raps the words “Let’s get rid of the ghetto.  I hope I don’t die for a long time. I still got things I want to do and look at and boys to talk to. I wanna see an African spirit or like sleep on top of a volcano.” The work simultaneously invites you in, as an older Black man, holding a sign saying ‘All is well’, smiles welcomingly at the camera but then pushes you away, as the camera follows three young Black women into a lift and they turn to stare, making the viewer feel like an unwelcome voyeur into their private lives and thoughts. 

The last artwork in the exhibition is a film by Rhea Storr titled Here is The Imagination of the Black Radical. Exploring the Bahamian Junkanoo and recontextualising it as contemporary art Storr’s work discusses ideas of Afrofuturism and radical imagination alongside such practicalities as what happens to carnival costumes and floats after the event. Interspersed with these discussions  is archival footage of carnival, with performers in elaborate costumes dancing to infectiously upbeat Afro-Caribbean music.

The exhibition will run from the 13th of April to the 5th of June at the Lisson Gallery on Bell Street and visits can be reserved here

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