Words: Charlotte Harding
Director, producer, journalist, spoken word poet, founder of POC (People Of Colours) collective and budding DJ, Nadira Amrani fiercely defies definition.
GIF met with the multidimensional visual artist and our Social #7 panellist to talk about the importance of collaboration, and her mission to promote diversity in the film industry.
Amrani is an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with. As we sit down over tea, she effortlessly exudes an unadulterated strength and confidence way beyond her 23 years. She has carved out a unique oeuvre which weaves magical realism to genuine experience, imbued in everything she has put her hands to.
While studying Architecture at UCL, Amrani quickly became disillusioned with the industry’s capitalist confines, gradually gravitating instead towards filmmaking as a way to explore her own personal ideologies and to combat the current discriminatory systems holding up our society. Graduating in 2014, she trained at Pulse Films, cementing her passion for the moving image.
Her recent collaboration Seeview/Rearview, with Sierra-Leonean, Black British artist Hadiru Mahdi, aka Brother Portrait, has secured the emerging Algerian British filmmaker as one to watch. The music video explores the migrant experience through two narratives: dream and nightmare, and reflects Amrani’s focus on collaboration and cultural identity.
Dealing with the limbo dichotomy of the here and there that those who identify as migrants constantly face, Seeview/Rearview’s visuals play on outdated memories and dream worlds to question the reality inside a migrant’s head.
“I’m really interested in blending the genre of the documentary and the music video, capturing a story that’s from a real experience, visually, through music, with music as a stimulus for the visual,” Amrani explains. “When I work with artists to do music videos, I always find out the root reason of why they wrote the song to develop a visual language that links in some way.”
Brother Portrait & his sisters in Seeview/Rearview
The video is rightly making waves, and speaks to conflicting notions of belonging. A blissful scene showing Mahdi surrounded by his real life sisters is slowly replaced by disorientating movement, signaling the burning book, a pivotal moment in the narrative when colour drains from the screen in the transition from dream to nightmare through black and white performance, hinting to the stark reality still facing those living in multicultural Britain.
“Being Algerian British, cultural duality is something I really relate to. I grew up in British culture, and I go back to Algeria ideally once a year, so this idea of going back to a place you are part of that you are separated from more than geographically, a distance that’s more than physical, that crosses time, is where the idea from the video stemmed from, but it is truly a collaboration,” she says. “I really feel that, even though in the film industry you employ a director to create something for a record label, to promote an artist, at this moment in time I see it as a collaboration with artists to create something that communicates a story.”
The combined vision of Amrani and Mahdi is both breathtaking and lyrical, opening conversations; a veiled critique directed towards the UK’s simplistic systems of representation for migrants, whilst celebrating the multi-faceted experience.
Still from short documentary music video Darkest Hour, produced by Amrani
Amrani’s new venture seeks to put these ideas into motion. People Of Colours (POC) is a creative collective that seeks to promote diversity in the film industry, to showcase and support POC talent in a non-competitive, encouraging space.
“I’ve noticed that we are living through a creative renaissance, where everyone does a bit of everything,” Amrani explains. “There is a huge amount of talent on all levels that aren’t penetrating into the industry, that aren’t quite making it into different rooms, different doors, to commissioners, and I suppose the premise of POC is to help nurture and broaden the horizons of people of colour who are extremely talented and want to do well in the industry.”
Amrani acknowledges the gains that have been made by women of late, but says more needs to be done, especially to tackle the huge gaps in employment, visibility and diversity in the film industry. “I think we are doing a lot better in terms of women, you can tell GIF is an absolute credit to that, there are absolutely incredible female directors out there, but if you look at the statistics of directors, women are very, very low, but women of colour are particularly low, so POC is meant to amplify and elevate us, to be heard.”
“We live in a time when there are a lot of intelligent young people that have clocked onto the idea that if you come together you are extremely powerful, and if you pool resources you can make what you want happen, there’s no boundary, there’s a huge amount of opportunity there for people, it's just getting through those doors, so I’m hoping it’s a supportive network to help promote people that deserve really good promotion.”
Coming to the end of our conversation, I ask Amrani what pearls of wisdom she can give to other girls out there hoping to break into the business. “Work out what you are doing, what you would like to be doing, and why you want to be doing it – and then work towards it and literally listen to no one. I think fundamentally it is about having a genuine self-belief that you can do what you want to do, or if you can’t do what you want to do, you will be able to do what you want to do.”
“Instead of concentrating on the fact you’ve never done something before, concentrate on what are the next steps to be able to make what I need to make,” she adds. “I think a lot of people spend a lot of time waiting for validation, but I think particularly in groups such as women, POC, or non-binary groups, that validation isn’t instantly there, and it’s not instantly there in the industry either, so you need to focus on what makes you exceptional, and just strive for excellence. And once you strive for excellence you can create that excellence. It might take certain people years to do, there’s plenty of obstacles, but I think if you concentrate on what you are doing and why you are doing it, people will notice you.”
“The only thing that sets you apart is opportunity, so you just have to create your own.”
As a filmmaker, I leave feeling energised and motivated having spoken with Amrani, and as a woman I am inspired and blown away by her sheer determination and drive to fight for what she believes in. Amrani truly is a testament to never letting anything stand in your way, regardless of the stigmatic attitudes of society. And with so many projects in the pipeline, 2017 will see great things to come from this young, talented luminary.
Follow Nadira's work here.
Charlotte Harding is a filmmaker and writer for British Journal Of Photography, Twitter @ce_lott