A Conversation With HERE/NOT HERE Director Bim Ajadi For Companion Documentary LOOK HERE/NOT HERE
HERE/NOT HERE, a brand new British, Deaf hip hop drama exploring British Sign Language, Krump street dance, football and Visual Vernacular – the choreographed and poetic form of sign language – will have its TV premiere on Film4 and Together TV on Monday 11 May and will also be hosted online on BSL Zone where it will remain available to watch following the broadcast.
HERE/NOT HERE brings together a diverse creative team and company from Deaf and hearing communities and is directed by award-winning film-maker and Deaf artist Bim Ajadi whose recent works include docu-drama Dot and short film 4. Written by Jonzi D, Artistic Director of the annual hip hop dance and theatre festival Breakin’ Convention, the film is a unique collaboration with the film’s professional and non-professional, Deaf and hearing cast. The music is composed and produced by Torben Lars Sylvest a long-time collaborator of Olivier Award-winning choreographer Botis Seva.
HERE/NOT HERE is an urban, funny and thought provoking hip hop drama film which sees three rival groups – Deaf VVers, footballers and Krumpers – clash over who should use an abandoned warehouse space. Despite their differences, they find and inspire a common language through movement to communicate, collaborate and come together.
In our interview, The Fan Carpet‘s Sophia Jessica spoke to Bim Ajadi about his career, his inspirations to make HERE/ NOT HERE and what the future holds for HERE/NOT HERE….
1. What made you want to become a film director?
To be honest, it was never my original intention to become a director, this was a fortunate shift in my career that happened purely by accident. At the time I was working predominately as a video editor, on various productions. One day a director was ill so couldn’t direct a short piece in a programme I was working on. As a result I was asked if I could take on the role of Director for that piece, which I did and the feedback I received was positive. At the time I looked at the industry and realised there was a distinct lack of BAME Deaf directors and so I felt that it was my responsibility to step up,and represent those communities whose voices had yet to be heard.
2. What or who inspired you to direct this particular film?
My desire to make this film really stemmed from my love of urban culture; street football, music, urban sign etc. This was an area I felt I had never seen represented on screen, most certainly in regards to that side of the deaf community. In addition to that, the subject of space and ownership was a matter that I felt needed exploring and is an element inherently linked with the communities I am aiming to portray. My experiences of these topics and the lack of representation was really the jumping off point for creating Here/Not Here.
3. Were there any particularly memorable parts you’ll take with you in filming this movie, or from behind the scenes?
There are so many positive memories related to the making of this film. If I was to pick one in particular, I was really affected by one of the final scenes where we see our characters all come together and collaborate in one sequence. This was both in the narrative sense and in the creative sense. Here we had an ensemble of artists who didn’t know each other prior to the production, all with varied backgrounds and methods of communication, being organically connected, working together to create this scene and in turn truthfully portraying the experience of the characters they perform. It was nice to see this message of connectivity and collaboration I wanted to state with the film, being demonstrated in the working reality of the production.
4. Who or what inspires you?
There are two directors in particular that inspired me when I first set out on my direction career, they would be Ray Harrison-Graham and John Maidens. With them being Deaf directors, I was in awe of how they worked in the industry, on an equal level to those who could hear. I remember shadowing them and observing how they would work with a hearing cast and crew without any barriers. This was honestly something I thought wasn’t possible at the time but they opened my eyes to what I could achieve and inspired my journey to becoming the director I am today.
5. What do you like most about directing?
The aspect of directing I enjoy the most is undoubtedly the opportunity to connect with people and collaborate. This collection of skills, ideas and talent, all working together towards a common goal, to create something, is what I enjoy the most. More recently I have worked in a more fiction based environment which has given me the opportunity to work more closely with actors and learn more about that relationship and how to harmonise with their process. That’s a process I’m really enjoying and seeking to develop further.
6. Do you have future projects in mind or an idea of what else you’d like to accomplish in your future works?
The next project will actually be a live iteration of Here/Not Here for Unlimited. We are planning to take this narrative and tell it in a variety of spaces and stages in quite an exciting way. Separate to that, there are discussions being had about my ideas for a new film, which tells a very different story. Exciting times are on the horizon, hopefully!
7. How do you prepare for directing a movie?
Research is absolutely vital. In terms of Here/Not Here, there was a lot of background research into movement, dance and vv (visual vernacular). This research included workshopping material, such as the different aspects of movement, and exploring how stories can be told universally through movement. In addition to movement there were the real stories I wanted to tell, the experiences of real people that could be carried by our main characters. This entailed the gathering of real life accounts and experiences and having open discussions about matters of race, discrimination and communication. In terms of my technical role as Director, I immersed myself in video essays on directing & cinematography. I also expanded my knowledge and intake of world cinema and absorbed as much as I could.
8. Where is your happy place, either mentally or whether that’s a favourite location
At risk of sounding cliché, it would be on a set. After every shoot, when it’s wrapped, I immediately get the blues.
9. Do you have a favourite genre and why?
I wouldn’t say I have a particularly favourite genre. I have been fortunate throughout my career to have worked in so many, from music videos, to documentaries and drama etc. In terms of my taste of what I enjoy watching, it’s equally a mixed bag, though I do enjoy science fiction and biographical films.
10. Do you have a favourite quote or saying?
Quite a well known one, ‘Everything for a reason’. I’m a big believer in fate, and adopting a positive attitude. In this industry it’s important to have such a mindset, as there will undoubtedly be numerous closed doors and missed opportunities. However, those experiences can unknowingly open up new doors and send you on a journey that benefits you greater in the long run. So really, it’s about having that positive mental attitude, and upping your game.
Interview by Sophia Jessica @SophiaJessicaRose
Keep up-to-date with Bim Ajadi at his official website.
Here/Not Here is available to watch now online at BSL Zone.
Look Here/Not Here, the accompanying documentary, is on Film4 on 18 May at 8am and Together TV at 7pm & 10pm, and online at BSL Zone