Interview with Award-Winning Film Director, Christina Xing

Budweiser: This Bud’s For You (DC)

Hey, guys! Long time, no blog. Things have been crazy hectic on my end. Lots of moving, job changes, and general ‘adulting’. However, I’m back with another interview. An American blog called Oneul asked me to interview a great talent, and as someone that loves to get into minds of artists, I couldn’t say no. So unfortunately, this isn’t original and so the interview can also be found on the site. But sometimes I like to reshare the work I do on to my blog too, just to expand the reach. Read the feature below, enjoy!

Christina Xing has created an alternate world that everybody wants to be a part of. Saturated with youthful yet nostalgic imagery along with surreal dreamscapes, she has made it impossible to look away. Seeking inspiration from watching classic Americana and the French New Wave movement, the Asian-American director looks everywhere in hopes to find herself.

The director’s catalogue ranges from the most influential brands and companies, collaborating with Crayola, Snapchat, Tinder, and dabbling on the music side too, with Sony, Warner and Atlantic records, having created music videos for Kenzie, Frances Forever, Victor Internet and many more.

But her creative reach doesn’t end there. She directed her first musical feature, ‘How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed’ at only 17. The former garnered national attention on Twitter in Thailand, and it all snowballed from there. At 19, she was selected to be a ’Semi-Finalist’ for MACRO (the studio behind Oscar-nominated ‘Fences’) and The Black List’s episodic lab.

With nothing short of a bright future ahead, we caught up with her to discuss wanting to collaborate with Apple, coping with imposter syndrome and the value of friendship.

This Old Dog (2020) – Short Film

First of all, how have you been lately? Do you work according to how you feel?

It’s been really strange for me lately. There’s a lot of horrible things happening to my fellow AAPI community so I’ve been trying to navigate my emotions towards that. I’m also taking some time off of work to finish my vaccination rounds and also to write my newest short. It’s the first break I’ve had in over three years. It’s been so strange. I usually make a checklist of all the things I need to have done and organise my week that way. So often, my emotions don’t impact what I need to do.

When did you know you wanted to become a director?

I was always making little films around my house and telling stories ever since I was in 4th grade. I was always sure I wanted to be a screenwriter, but then I went to film school and completely realised I was a terrible writer and that the parts I was good at and felt the most at home doing, was working with actors and the more intuitive parts that come with making a movie. I dabbled in a bit of everything before that realisation sunk in because I always felt like the world didn’t need more directors (haha). But I think the moment I really knew was when I’d find myself reading screenplays and thinking about the ways I would execute them, rather than reading screenplays and learning the craft of how I’d write them, if that makes sense!

How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed (2018) – Featurette

How do you best come up with creative concepts?

My real life plays such a huge part in my creative concepts. I’ve written so many music video treatments for people from afar. I’ve used the emotions of being hurt and my dumb fantasy sequences as fuel to make creative things. As corny as it sounds, I would say real life experiences mixed with my love of old films and movies. I try to watch a film a day to expand that vocabulary.

What has been your favourite project to work on so far? And why?

“Space Girl” by Frances Forever was truly a passion project. I’ve loved the song for a long time and when I first heard the song I had a slight idea for a creative but never thought it’d be possible. But by some crazy miracle I got to work with Frances and their incredible team and amazing partner. It was such a blast.

That sure sounds like a blast! How did you come about working with Frances Forever on the music video of ‘Space Girl’ and how do you feel about it?

It was so much fun. It was really difficult because the idea was very ambitious for the budget we were working on along with a lot of my core crew being from LA having to go to Boston for the video. It’s def the first video I’ve made where I’m like, wow, that was 100% the treatment and came out better than what I saw in my head.

How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed (2018) – Featurette

If you could collaborate with anybody or any particular brand, who would you work with?

Apple! I love the risks they take in their commercials and I love how they value story in a lot of their work.

How have you kept inspired during these times?

My friends are everything. They keep me going through their work, advice and friendship.

You have a signature style of nostalgic, surreal yet dreamy landscapes and saturated visuals. How did you come to this creative conclusion? Will you ever evolve even further?

I think in my personal work a lot of my work has become quite the opposite of that, strangely enough. I think there is so much room for me to explore and discover more about my creative voice as I mature as a storyteller. I’m so young right now there’s so much more I haven’t tried yet. I came to that style of dreamy and saturated through my love of classic musicals and classic films. I loved how those movies made me feel and really provided a spectacle for me. I always hoped to do the same in my work.

How the Moon Fell From the Sky and No One Even Noticed (2018) – Featurette

How do you cope with imposter syndrome – if you have ever felt it?

I feel it every day. I think the best way to cope is to not look too much into your work and just focus on moving forwards. I find myself spiralling and hating everything I’ve made when I let myself think too much about it all. When I get in those mindsets I always try to push it to being productive and focusing on the next thing.

Your bio says that you strive to eat vegetables and always keep your nose clean. Is there anything else you aim to always be in life? What are your ultimate goals for the future? Where do you hope to be?

I’d love to make a feature in the next two years or start directing TV. That’s the real dream. But overall, I value my friendships and family above all. I hope to spend more time with them in the next few years.

Lastly, do you have any advice for young creatives who are interested in the film industry?

Watch as many movies as you can! The movies have taught me everything I know in film and in my life.

Claud – Wish You Were Gay

KEEP UP WITH CHRISTINA XING:

Website : https://christinaxing.com/

Instagram: @christinaxing

Twitter: @christinaxingg

Has Black Feminism actually progressed in film?

Is Black female representation as presented in film just a trend?
Originally posted on The National Student.

Hollywood has come under a lot of scrutiny in recent years. Just last year we were finally exposed to the “open secret” of Harvey Weinstein, prompting the beginning of the #MeToo and Time’s Up campaigns, which challenged the status quo of the industry as a whole. And Hollywood hasn’t just been criticised its treatment and representation of women. In 2015 and 2016, the Academy Awards in particular were called out for being overwhelmingly white.

Despite the recent success of Black women on screen and the progressive message that their performances are depicting, many fear that the “Black girl magic” and the empowerment of marginalised voices is nothing more than a marketing tool for ‘woke points’. But being woke is more than being a political young person, it’s more than a hashtag, and way more than a trend.

While some might have feigned surprise that the 2016 Oscars were #SoWhite, anyone with an insight into the industry could have foreseen it. From whitewashing to nepotism, and the promotion of stereotypes, it’s about time that we as a society have a conversation about films, feminism, and race.

Across all aspects of life, society indicates that women are second-rate citizens, people who need to be dominated, and are incapable of succeeding in the ways men can. This is a belief especially damaging towards women of colour, who face discrimination due to their race too. Finally, especially within in the last few years, the presence of melanated heroines on our screens has been at an all time high. Particularly worth mentioning are Hidden Figures, Black Panther and A Wrinkle in Time.

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A Wrinkle In Time, 2018

In 2015, there were no people of colour nominated for an Oscar in acting. None. In 2016, once again, there were absolutely no people of colour nominated for an Oscar in acting. Suddenly in 2017, there were six. Among the films to tackle issues of race and to garner the Academy’s attention were Loving, Fences, The People v. O.J. Simpson, I Am Not Your Negro, Moonlight, and 13th.

With her documentary 13th, Ava DuVernay calls out the racist history behind America’s penal system and challenges perceptions about the War on Drugs. She has dared to reclaim history, and ended up making it as a result. Even though DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time didn’t excel in the box office nor did it do well amongst critics, the film itself is a game-changer.

And that is not only because it is a landmark achievement for inclusive science fiction and fantasy (SFF) films, but also in the way that it shows Black girls a young hero who looks like them. A Wrinkle in Time is an open love letter to Black girls, and addresses the uncertainties of girlhood, especially for girls of colour.

Hidden Figures, the 20th Century Fox film telling the long-forgotten story of the African-American women at NASA who played instrumental roles in some of their most iconic missions, promotes the message that “We shall overcome”.

But it’s more than just a ‘Black movie’ – it’s an intelligent movie. It forces us to revisit one of the most monumental events in American history and acknowledge the unsung heroes that made it possible. It’s not a story that many people have heard before, but it’s one we all deserve to. It is a feminist movie, one that demonstrates a triumph of progress and perseverance through the rampant sexism of the 60’s.

Hidden Figures Day 41
Hidden Figures, 2016

“The fight has changed, the stereotypes remain, and the cause will never die.”

A woman of colour doesn’t face racism and sexism separately. The sexism she faces is often racialised, and the racism she faces is often sexualised. Black Americans have endured innumerable hardships since their involuntary migration and subsequent enslavement from Africa to America. The game-changing book “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race” by British journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge details the equivalent Black British experience, which is far less talked about.

The labour of women, but especially women of colour, is undervalued and overlooked. We are glaringly absent from textbooks, and our whitewashed histories are only available during Black History Month or through elective courses.

The representation of Black women throughout history has affected the way Black people, as well as Western society, values, identifies and idealises Black women in general. There have clearly been changes in these ideologies over time, and they are heavily influenced by the way Black women are represented in media.

Black Panther is an important film for diversity across various spectrum’s. It’s a blockbuster movie that features a majority Black cast with major names attached to it, and the merchandising is aimed at Black children. Its existence in the pop culture scene and what it means for representation in media cannot be understated and yes, finally, it is a film that Black women can actually celebrate.

black panther women
Black Panther, 2018

The narrative places the women of Black Panther front and centre, making them the heroes of their own stories. From the start, the story avoids the sexist tropes we are accustomed to watching in film.

Black Panther contains powerful messages about gender roles. The Wakandan women’s sex appeal is obvious, but secondary to their personality and skill, and rarely do we see Black women who are as assertive and independent as they are in this Marvel creation. Furthermore, almost every significant female role is played by a dark-skinned actress. It’s amazing to witness.

Yet a YouGov survey recently found that most Americans still believe there are not enough film roles for women and people of colour. The survey of 1,220 adults found that 37% of respondents believed women had enough roles available, just 2% points more than people who believed black people had enough parts available.

On-screen representations of minorities, the survey found, are seen as sometimes inauthentic, though that depends on whom you asked. Nearly half of Black respondents (46%) said on-screen representation of black characters were inauthentic, about twice the rate of the respondents overall. The analysis reveals people of colour remained underrepresented, considering they comprised 40% of the U.S. population in 2016.

Just 13.9% of the year’s film leads and 12.6% of film directors were people of colour.
But what does this mean now? The portrayal of Black women has certainly changed since the age of Blaxploitation, and of course, the success of Black women should be celebrated on screens, but do a few big-budget films with a Black cast count as progress? Is it fair?

3-fences
Fences, 2016

Investing in stories that center around people of colour without dwelling on their pain or oppression is a large step towards healing, particularly in this brutal contemporary political climate. It’s important not just to show tokenised images of Black characters, but to present diverse narratives of individuals with different stories and experiences.
It can be argued that in Hollywood, in an industry where everything is about marketing and making fortunes, that money is the only motivator. Therefore, Hollywood isn’t being progressive in including more Black actors and characters, they’re being tactical.

It seems that Hollywood has yet to understand what makes money, however. The last report on diversity in UCLA’s Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies shows that “films and television shows with casts attuned to America’s diversity tend to register the highest global box office figures and viewer ratings.” Yet the study still indicates that the industry could do better.

While the data notes that some progress has been made, it also highlights that Hollywood decision-makers still consider the presence of diverse talent to be the exception, rather than the rule, but sometimes things have to get worse before they get better. To reach a point where we can put marginalised voices on screens, and tell the stories of women of colour without any prescribed idea of what we should be, to find real examples of those like ourselves – this can all be attained.

A few extra nominations won’t undo years of exclusion of women and PoC, because we are as different as we are complicated. Hollywood has to actively work to give more opportunities to those previously ostracised and make sure a wider range of stories get told.

black feminism film
The Black Feminist Documentary, 2019

An album guide for when you’re going through it

This is more of a laid back July post. So right now we’re sitting in my least favourite season, summer. Yes, you read me correctly- summer is my least favourite season as I’ve mentioned previously in other blogposts. Anyway, the last couple of months have been rather tumultuous for me to say the least. There have been significant changes going on in my life and everything is spread messily like when you’re rearranging clothes in your closet resulting in a huge mess across your bedroom but then you know it will be tidy again, eventually? You understand what I mean?

Even as we speak, I’m writing this at a hostel in central New York after a totally bizarre yet fun night with a few strangers that I met along the way, but whatever it is that’s going on in your life that is making you feel anxious or stressed, one of the best methods for recovery (at least I have found) has always been through music. Corny and unoriginal? Sure, but it’s totally true. Whether it’s a tough break up or rejection from an opportunity that you really wanted, music is a brilliant way of helping you go through the motions of false confidence, happiness, sadness and everything more.

That being said, I have curated a playlist of just some of my favourite albums that I play for when I’m “going through it”. In other words, the phrase is a vague yet also a very specific way of referring to the aftermath of a temporary yet crappy event that’s taken place. As a mUsiC jOuRnALiSt, I decided to include various album genres from different eras that are important to me and my overall personal healing. Listen away folks and I hope this helps you too in some shape or form !!

 

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

In his review, famous music YouTuber The Needle Drop described Tyler, the Creator as polarising and uncompromising. However, within this latest album IGOR– Tyler single-handedly debunked all of that. With heart wrenching lyrics and nostalgic riffs, Tyler not only compromised, but unashamedly gave himself way entirely. Facing the aftermath of an emotionally tumultuous relationship, he’s exhausted- which is a universal feeling. I get that this album is recent. Like really, really recent. So it’s a little soon to place it in such high esteem as one that makes you feel better above others, but it really does. This album got me through my personal troubles in more ways than I can describe as well as being one of the only albums I can listen to in full- front to back. And trust me, that’s a big deal for someone with ADD.

Tyler, the Creator- IGOR

 

Best Coast- Crazy for You

This is an album that instantly takes me back to my over-journaling-teen-angst “no one understands me” filled days. That was a lot of words in one sentence, but you get the drift (I’m functioning on little to no hours sleep here so please bare with me lol). What I would like to say about this album is that despite some of its themes, the instrumentals are playful and overall rather euphoric. I know the title says that the albums listed are for when you’re going through a tough time, but in my eyes it’s important to not entirely indulge or fetishise negative emotional anguish and rather just revel in the more positive ones. Crazy For You absorbs all the simple pleasures that Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino’s fills her life- from her cat, to snacks and the overall feeling of being in love, but through a dreamy 60’s lens. I think we should all take note and do the same.

Best Coast- Crazy For You

 

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

As well as the being the debut album of the indie-folk band Bon Iver; this was the first Justin Vernon record that I listened to in full. The project in it’s entirety oozes with feelings of isolation, loneliness and longing through acoustic strums and nature, while mirroring these are common emotions that are- especially throughout the summer. Especially during a break up. For context, taken from Pitchfork, which is what mostly inspired it. In 2005, Vernon’s former band DeYarmond Edison moved from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to North Carolina. As the band developed and matured in its new home, the members’ artistic interests diverged and eventually the group disbanded. While his band mates formed Megafaun, Vernon– who had worked with the Rosebuds and Ticonderoga– returned to Wisconsin, where he sequestered himself in a remote cabin for four snowy months. During that time, he wrote and recorded most of the songs that would eventually become For Emma, Forever Ago. Anyway, in summary, the album relishes in feelings of melancholy that replicates hope and joy, and feels just as vivid.

Bon Iver- For Emma, Forever Ago

 

Lorde– Melodrama

From the moment I came across Lorde’s debut album Pure Heroine, I listened to it in it’s entirety throughout the challenging years which were my adolescence. After that, I spent the next four years thinking “When is Lorde gonna drop another album and save me from this hell…..its been 84 years……don’t get me wrong i would listen to 400 Lux till the end of my days but damn gurl where u been”. Then finally, something amazing happened- around this time two years ago, Melodrama dropped and so I haven’t been the same since. At least, emotionally. There is a consistent tenderness in Lorde’s vocals that transcends you into a calmer place of healing that you never want to return from, a state that is between tender daydreams and brutal awakenings. It’s an album that sends me to and from therapy, it’s night and day, an album that hits you then hugs really hard. I know I’m being dramatic but it is so, so true.

Lorde- Melodrama

 

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Last but certainly not least, I’m going to add the ‘going thru it’ super group themselves… Fleetwood Mac. Prior to the albums release, there was a shed ton of drama from cocaine, to heartbreak and totally lunacy. The context to this body of work is as tumultuous as it’s content, but a beautiful one at that. The musicians’ personal lives permanently fused within the grooves, and all who listened to Rumours become a voyeur to the painful, glamorous mess. Drama aside, Rumours is among the finest work the band ever produced. “We refused to let our feelings derail our commitment to the music, no matter how complicated or intertwined they became,” Fleetwood later wrote in his 2014 memoir, according to Rolling Stone Magazine, quote- “It was hard to do, but no matter what, we played through the hurt”. I’d conclude with a positive quote about learning to dance in the rain or something but we’ve gotten the general consensus now of this post. You’ll be fine.

Fleetwood Mac- Rumours

Djuna Barnes, gender trouble and lesbian desire

A piece exploring the impact of Djuna Barnes in queer literature. Originally posted on The National Student.

Dying on this day in 1982 at the age of 90, it’s difficult to say that the poet, artist and novelist didn’t live a significant life with impact within queer literature.

Djuna Barnes was at various times a poet, journalist, playwright, theatrical columnist and novelist who then liked to be called “The Barnes.” A recluse, the writer’s avant-garde and “most famous unknown” literary work won wide acclaim in the 1920’s and 30’s, was once a writing talent of the Lost Generation era. The tag the ‘Lost Generation’ came from a remark by Gertrude Stein to Ernest Hemingway when she said, “All of you young people who served in the war. You are a lost generation.”

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Barnes’ work was mostly given attention to by academic professors and students. Other than fitting within a the category of being a modernist text, she got kudos from writers like T.S. Eliot, who referred to her “a living genius”, as well as Dylan Thomas who called her works “one of the three major prose works by a woman” (probably a back-handed compliment). These comments were made alongside the praise of Graham Greene, Samuel Beckett, Janet Flanner, Lawrence Durrell, Kenneth Burke and Sir Herbert Read, and The Spectator compared Barnes to Virginia Woolf, declaring ”It is clear that a writer of genuine importance has made herself known to us.”

Even the New York Times referred to her as “The American Woolf”; the work is an important milestone on any map of gay literature – even though, like all the best books, its power makes a nonsense of any categorisation, especially of gender and sexuality, this anti-categorisation tendency in Barnes is perhaps due to the ways in which society pathlogizes differences.

Au Café, famous photo by Maurice Brange, depicting Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes in Paris, 1922

However, Barnes never kept it peaceful. Though her works have remained obscure to the broader reading public, she started earning notoriety, starting with a preformative piece the New York World Magazine, where she was force-fed to illustrate the fate of hunger-striking suffragettes, and the accompanying photo shows her stoically being held down by three men while a doctor snakes a tube up her nose.

She also began using herself as a pawn in what she called “My Adventures Being Rescued,” in which she put herself in peril at a firemen’s training session, hanging several stories up in a long black dress. Barnes became a regular on the set of the women’s boxing beat. Her writing is full of misfits, eccentrics, socialists, free thinkers, immigrants and the homeless.

Djuna Barnes was never cautious, and so, because ”Nightwood” in large part concerns a doomed lesbian love affair, the novel would be highly praised despite claiming to not even being gay. She was quick to offend without even checking on herself, while continuously breaking barriers.

“So love, when it has gone, taking time with it, leaves a memory of its weight.” – Djuna Barnes, Nightwood

What sobriety taught me about being a better friend

Most of the blog posts I write are heavily influenced by events that have taken place in my personal life, I would love to say that everything I write about is thoroughly and thoughtfully planned out, but the majority of the time, it isn’t.

Why do I say that? Well, the other night (I would give specifics but I’m not sure which date I will publish this on) I met up with a longtime friend of mine from secondary school, and like all Brits so typically tend to do in the evening (any time after five, most of the time) we met up at the local student bar and had a few drinks whilst catching up with one another’s lives within the last six months.

Then while sitting at this bar with said friend, I suddenly realised that it had been six months since I even had a ‘proper’ drink, and even more surprising- I hadn’t actually gotten drunk in an entire year. My last honest feeling of a pounding headache, aching stomach, sickness, embarrassment, regret, overbearing self consciousness, and overall sense of self-loathing hadn’t surfaced (least, via intoxication) in a very, very long time.

I’ve always had a decent relationship with alcohol, especially recently. In secondary school I often exaggerated how drunk I really was and never suffered from severe hangovers. I’m not sure whether it was because my tolerance was significantly higher so I was able to drink vodka like it was water, or what. But I think students can universally agree when we say that from the age of eighteen onward, usually indicates a shift in everything, and hangovers become more severe.

When I first moved to Nottingham I tried to fit into the culture by drinking everything in sight; which I did. It was bad, but only freshers week bad- I woke up with a massive receipt from Subway (yes, the sandwich place), I’d have other people’s clothes on (God knows how that happened) and at some stage I was spiked which resulted in me losing feeling in my legs for the night. I took it easy from then on onward, I mean, I got really messed up (accidentally) during a day drinking session once but that didn’t stop me.

On my 19th birthday, I got into a random mans’ car and didn’t get out of bed for over 24 hours. Then on my 20th, it was more or less the same thing. It was all okay, though. Right? I’m a young, university student, I’m British and it’s the way of life. Which is fine. But it’s about time we had an honest conversation about how alcohol really affects our mental health. In an era where drinking to excess has become heavily normalised, it can be difficult to navigate the culture; to see who is just like everyone else and who is actually struggling.

At the age of 21, I’ve come to a realisation that getting drunk casually isn’t for me. And, no. I don’t hold some sort of god complex (that’s exactly what someone with a god complex would say) and I certainly don’t look down on those that drink, at all. Especially as the summer approaches along with the alarmingly high temperature rise, causing people to crack open ‘a cold one’ before the afternoon. I can fully understand the urges. But the U.K. has a drinking problem. I don’t know anybody who doesn’t drink less than the recommended units and the shared mentality has always been “As long as no one is getting hurt then there’s no problem with it”. If alcohol were a new discovery, this wouldn’t be okay, but because this is what we have always known, heavy drinking has become glamorised and almost celebrated. Whereas drugs, understandably, are still a massive taboo. Depending on where you live.

The NHS recommendation of 14 units per week, which is about 6 pints or 7 glasses of wine. But who can keep track? Drinking is everywhere. We drink to celebrate, we drink when we are sad, we drink to relax – we drink on any occasion for any excuse. As a collective we normalise blackouts, frequent puking and humiliation. We need more awareness that alcohol affects our mental health as well as our physical health: while we may be enjoying ourselves, alcohol is also a depressant, the viscous cycle of feeling miserable and anxious was something that I personally couldn’t handle anymore.

Whenever I tell people that I once went an entire year without drinking (that’s a story for another post) it is always met with all kinds of strange reactions, as if I told them that I just won the lottery. Actually, more pitying than that. As if my dog just died. I mean, I don’t have a dog- but you get the gist. However, you never gain this sort of reaction when you tell people that you went on holiday and binged for an entire week? Last summer, I was the only one not drinking at a garden party and a girl there felt the need to tell me that staying sober was really sad and pathetic.

Look, I’m not trying to convince people to stop drinking. The total opposite, actually. However, the main point of this blog post is to explain how the idea of getting too intoxicated regularly is one that seriously needs to be looked at and re-evaluated. That we need to look at how much we consume and start being more responsible. I learnt a lot in my year of sobriety. Did I ever miss drinking? Absolutely. But I became more focused on my work and priorities, I saved money, I felt fresh everyday to the point where I just never wanted to turn back. And I felt like I was overall becoming a better version of myself. Believe me, I am far from perfect, but since leaning more towards regular sobriety I have just been happier. And as a generally rather unhappy person, I am continuously aiming towards that. It’s a peculiar feeling- like stepping from the clamour of a street riot, stepping into the house, and locking the door.

What I learnt from celebrating ‘Galentine’s Day’

The closing of a year is often lead with great anticipation. Halloween, bonfire night, Thanksgiving (for my American readers), Hanukkah, Christmas celebrations and then finally…the New Years build up. Then creeps in January, dragging its oversized shoes on the floor. January is like the Maroon 5 performing at the Super Bowl of months, despite my own birthday being during this month, I too, have to admit that it overstays it’s welcome. A guest that you were once looking forward to seeing, but is now refusing to leave.

Then, after this excruciatingly dull month of broken resolutions and “I’ll start tomorrow”-s, comes an infamously suffocating day for singles and even couples alike. Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of the day because it allows you to show appreciation to your significant other, plus the aesthetic of pink and red hearts everywhere may appear as obnoxious to some but I personally think they’re beautiful and uplifting. In a world that seems to forever filled with fake news and depressing headlines, then to suddenly be hit with flowers of all colours and love hearts is pretty encouraging to me. Lord knows we all need it.

But there is also a capitalist, ‘do it for the gram’ element involved which takes the real fun out of it. An haughty, pompous aspect that places couples to compare themselves to other couples. As though your relationships’ depth and meaning is measured based off of your financial income. A factor that is unfair and shallow to say the least. Personally, I’m a working-class student with low earning parents. Therefore, I don’t get any help from them. I simply rely on myself and how often I work, when I can. But with juggling a degree, a long distance relationship and other prospects; it can all get a little (VERY) strenuous. So with this continuous obligation to flex our lives on social media adds even more pressure on this particular occasion, minus the others- birthdays, Christmas etc.

In fact, just yesterday I was speaking to a work colleague who did not hesitate to tell me all about the expensive trips and gifts that her much older boyfriend so lovingly gives. Of course then, this was met with my own romance interrogation; “Where did you go?” “How much did they spend on you?” and “How much did YOU spend on THEM?” So whether you’re in a relationship or not, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a pain. Don’t worry single people, least you can treat yourself to a cheap bottle of wine and a Netflix marathon then call it a night, it’s not as pathetic as everyone makes it out to be. I promise.

Anyhow, so due to my long-distance relationship circumstances, this year I decided to celebrate my first ever Galentine’s Day with my single friends. Because being single doesn’t mean that you’re alone, at all. This is a holiday that, among other things, highlights the political power of female friendship: Galentine’s Day. To quote main character Leslie Knope, “What’s Galentine’s Day? “Oh, it’s only the best day of the year!” So for context, back in February 2010, NBC inaugurated the holiday on its sitcom Parks and Recreation, starring Amy Poehler’s iconic character Leslie Knope, a described ‘civic crusader’ and ‘friend extraordinaire’. As Knope explains it, each year on February 13th, she gathers together all her best female friends, including her mother, to celebrate what she loves about her female companions over waffles.

However, the biggest lesson that I learnt from Galentine’s Day isn’t to only challenge hetero-normative romantic relationships and gross gender roles and forever pining over ‘the right one’ but of also finally normalising the idea that being single IS NOT something to be distracted from. As someone that is currently in a relationship, I can understand why you’re reading this whilst rolling your eyes. Or how this advice would fall on death ears. Take this with a pinch of salt if you must, but the most significant rule to remember is that you’re able to be by yourself and not hate it. I know right, wild(!) I apologise if this sounds patronising, but you’re allowed to be single on purpose and enjoy it.

Galentine’s day doesn’t have to be surrounded by the concept of filling some sort of ‘romantic void’ otherwise you’re not full. That’s a complete lie. People speak to me nowadays as if by having a boyfriend, I have been “blessed” and that I have been changed for the better. As much as I love being in a relationship, I can be strong and empowered whether I’m in one or not. Galentine’s Day is for all female-identifying folks celebrating themselves, no man-dominated underbelly included, please.

As well as this, Galentines Day should be as inclusive as we can possibly make it. Not everybody has this Sex and the City and Pretty Little Liars-esque girl group. Sometimes our closest friends live in different parts of the country and so seeing all these cliquey squads can emphasise on the loneliness. I often feel it. So another lesson I have learnt is to keep open-minded and productive when it comes to this kind of thing. Galentine’s can be a beautiful day, but always remember to show love and support for women throughout all the other days to.

💚

Still I Rise: ‘Feminisms, Gender, Resistance’ Exhibition review

On October 26th, the Nottingham Contemporary art gallery launched a new effervescent exhibition titled ‘Still I Rise’ which runs until 27th January, 2019. The name stems from Maya Angelou’s empowering poem from 1978 which tackles subjects of prejudice and injustice.

Similarly to the poem, the exhibition showcases themes of resistance, gender, feminism and resilience as well as exploring the roles that women played in the history of resistance movements. It also refers to artists spanning centuries and continents who are protesting and exploring new, alternative forms of living.

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Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 1, Nottingham Contemporary, 2018. Image credit: Stuart Whipps

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Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 1, Nottingham Contemporary, 2018. Image credit: Stuart Whipps

Coinciding with the centenary of women’s suffrage within the UK, this major group is a demonstration of endurance around the world, spanning across the time periods between the late 19th century to present reforms.

The exhibition also references key historic moments including the Civil Rights Movement, resistance against dictatorships in Latin America in the 1960’s–70’s, independence movements against colonial rule in Africa, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the AIDS crisis and the Stonewall Rebellion, exhibiting pieces from a multiplicity of perspectives, from minor cases on the domestic sphere to larger scale uprisings.

Since opening in 2009, the Nottingham Contemporary has been the city’s chance to make a larger cultural mark in the global art scene, highlighting social upheavals and movements through art.

What is most compelling about this new exhibition is how it captures such a pivotal era, showcasing art as a form of protest, declaration and revelation. The exhibition itself signifies the abuse of power by those who sit in high government positions, as well as the judiciary and people within the police force. For the public, it sends out clear, repeated messages of hope. For those who understand the meaning of repeated wrongdoing, the title ‘Still I Rise’ becomes an anthem, a beacon of hope for the oppressed and downtrodden.

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Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 1, Nottingham Contemporary, 2018. Image credit: Stuart Whipps

Upon arrival, spectators are immediately faced with a giant board with pens and coloured paper on the side. On each piece of paper, visitors are addressed with questions such as “Blank page – Share your thoughts and feelings about the stories and themes in the exhibition” and “What does resistance look like to you? Share your acts of resistance”.

Not only do these types of statements engage viewers into the exhibition and facilitate individuals to involve their personal input, but they also help to widen conversations for future observers, opening up a much-needed discussion. This form of interactive art enables visitors to build their own versions of the accompanying publication, reflecting a history of self-publishing as a form of resistance. Answers were often playful but pressing, with answers written in permanent marker such as “TRANS RIGHTS R HUMAN RIGHTS” and “BEING WHOEVER THE F@#& I WANT TO BE!”.

Within the exhibition, there are different rooms for each gallery, and each one of these rooms is arranged thematically across different practices and waves of feminism. Above the artworks themselves, the exhibition displays have been designed by f-architecture, a research-based architectural practice which explores issues surrounding the spatial politics of bodies and subjects.

As well as the catalogue, which is by OOMK (One of My Kind), the London-based collaborative publishing practice that has produced a book with rearrange-able pages to allow the reader to structure their own thoughts.

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Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 1, Nottingham Contemporary, 2018. Image credit: Stuart Whipps

The first artist to be gazed upon is none other than feminist artist Judy Chicago, with a pink-peach background for a wall, Chicago’s explosive colour pieces are complimented marvellously. It’s been over 50 years since the artist debuted her flame, fireworks and smoke performances on print, yet the pyrotechnics of Smoking Bodies in the Californian desert still ignites the same passionate reaction today. Chicago created this body of work as a reaction to the male dominance of land art created in the 1960’s.

Other standout pieces were displayed proudly within another gallery room titled ‘A Rumour’. This area features an array of protest posters showcased a decade later, during the 70’s, by the See Red Women’s Workshop, covering topics from abortion rights to Margaret Thatcher’s benefit cuts. There are also Suffragette Mary Lowndes’s detail-orientated and crafted banners that were designed for the 1908 National Union of Suffrage Societies procession, alongside a selection of prison photographs of female anarchists affiliated with the Paris Commune of 1871.

Queer artists, however, made the most significant impact in this particular area; a tower of Zoe Leonard’s infamous poem ‘I WANT A DYKE FOR PRESIDENT’ was distributed to visitors of the exhibition. The piece highlights the need for a wave of politicians which represent marginal voices across the spectrum. Despite being published in 1992, it recently regained recognition and relevancy as it was performed as a rap by Mykki Blanco for a video, during the run-up to the 2016 US Presidential Election.

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Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 1, Nottingham Contemporary, 2018. Image credit: Stuart Whipps

The erasure of minorities and the outvoted isn’t uncommon within history. There have been many examples in recent years which show that many important movements and advancements within biographies involved more than the white men who were accredited. I recently read a line inside the Stanford Daily about representation which said “Representation can make disadvantaged groups become real people” and I think I’ll continue to use this quote in the future because it’s true, and that’s why exhibitions like these are so engaging: they help us to realise that there is a lot going on outside of our echo chamber.

There are patriarchal hierarchies and that’s the brutal truth about the world we live in, within all sectors. Whether we agree or understand it all or not is irrelevant because not everything is our story to tell and a lot of the time, we want to be heard more than actually understood. Isn’t that what Maya Angelou fought for her entire life anyway?

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Still I Rise: Feminisms, Gender, Resistance, Act 1, Nottingham Contemporary, 2018. Image credit: Stuart Whipps

Sarah Close: an interview

From struggling undergrad to YouTube mogul and up-and-coming pop sensation, Sarah Close has passed every checkpoint in record time and is flying towards the finish line.

From struggling undergrad to YouTube mogul and up-and-coming pop sensation, Sarah Close has passed every checkpoint in record time and is flying towards the finish line.

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Thanks to the internet, making your dreams a reality can all begin with just a single upload, and for Sarah, it all started way back in 2010 with a cover video of Katy Perry’s pop nostalgia hit ‘Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F)’. Since then, Sarah’s channel subscribers skyrocketed, and in March 2017, she was able to release her debut single ‘Call Me Out’, and a debut album Caught Up, the following month.

Growing up on the small island of the Isle Of Wight, Sarah has admitted that the size of her hometown limited her options creatively; “I think feeling so isolated was one of the reasons I got into music, I didn’t have other kids in my village to hang with so I had to find things to keep me busy! I don’t think my home area has an obvious influence on my songs and writing, but I do have a couple songs that explore growing up and feeling like a bit of an outsider because of a different childhood to other people”.

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Fantasising about a what life could be past the small island, Sarah got light of the idea of putting herself out there through by pure coincidence from her covers rival Taylor Swift. “I was hugely inspired when I found out that Taylor Swift wrote and performed her own songs, that made me believe that I could do the same! That and ‘Naive’ by the Kooks is what made me pick up a guitar and start teaching myself.”

Sarah was inspired to follow in Swift’s tracks but found herself held back by a feeling we all know a little too well. “I’d known I wanted to do it for a while, I’d been watching other singers on YouTube and saw that they were doing what I wanted to do. What worried me most was people at school finding out and teasing me for it, I told a friend what I wanted to do and she encouraged me so much that I just did it. People at school found out about my channel earlier than I expected them to, but luckily everyone was super nice and supportive which only spurred me on more!”

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The confidence to put yourself out there, exposing your innermost thoughts online, is by no means easy.  Since the whirlwind success of her debut album, she’s encountered both sides of the social media beast – good and bad – but remains positive in tackling comments head-on. “I like to think that there are two different Sarah Close’s. There’s me, that wakes up in the morning and phones her parents and does whatever I do, and then there’s the Sarah Close that is making music and putting out her songs. When I see negative things, they’re commenting on who they perceive Sarah Close to be, they don’t know me so they can’t hurt me. Creating that distance is important and really helps, and criticism is sometimes healthy. I would say, do what you wanna do and deal with anything negative as it comes!”

As an individual that has explored the industry in all its glory, Sarah does not shy away from being vocal about her frustrations within the belly of the beast. “I think the industry is lacking in diversity, especially in the behind the scenes roles. I’d love to meet more women and PoC working as A&R’s and managers.” However, that’s not to discredit her experiences to date – having worked alongside Parlophone Records and now coming back to a point where she’s in full control of her own music. Releasing independently through The Kodiak Club and self-directing her own music videos can be intimidating, but Sarah takes it all in her stride. “At the end of the day no one really knows what song is going to bang or not, so trust your gut and put out songs that feel right to you!”

And that’s exactly what she’s been doing, and with huge success. The singer-songwriter has hit number one on many global viral Spotify playlists, accumulated over three million streams in a year and has completely sold out her debut UK tour, but is staying true to herself and her big ambitions: “I want to perform all over the world, I’m really so excited to be doing some more live shows soon and I’d love to do them in places I’ve never been to before and I hope that becomes a reality for me! In 5 years time, it would be great to have a second album out, and I’d like to have ticked off some of my dream people to work with!”

Drama Films about PoC by Women of Colour that everyone should watch

A small list of some of the most talented women of colour directors within the film industry telling important stories.

Today is March 8th so we celebrate the political, cultural, economic and social achievement of women all around the world! Yay! 👭👩‍❤️‍👩👩‍❤️‍💋‍👩

So to mark Internationals Women’s Day, especially now during the post-Oscars period where there has been a buzz surrounding women and marginalised groups with Greta Gerwig being considered the best director in that category, Daniela Vega of ‘A Fantastic Woman’ became the first openly trans woman with a lead role in history to win an Academy Award and Get Out, which satirises the hidden racism of ‘good white liberals’ also won multiple awards making Jordan Peele the first Black director to win best original screenplay- the thirst for films made for and by PoC are at an all time high.

(Hold the applause guys, Historic achievements are a slippery thing: A ceiling is shattered, but the noise reminds us that the ceiling is there in the first place)

It’s time to recognise the extraordinary work of women behind Hollywood’s cameras; and, though this list is only a tiny portion of those contributions, these women’s creative achievements are certainly worth the celebration so I thought to create a list of films I personally find inspiring and empowering about the journeys of PoC made by WoC.

 

Real Women Have Curves by Patricia Cardoso (2002)

Real Women Have Curves is a charming and warm-hearted look at a Mexican-American teenage girl coming of age in a boiling cauldron of cultural expectations, class constrictions, family duty, and her own personal aspirations that defies popular notions about immigrant families. Brown girls, this is for you.

 

Watermelon Woman by Cheryl Dunye (1996)

“I’m working on being a filmmaker, the problem is I don’t know what I wanna make a film on, I know it has to be about Black women because our stories have never been told”. Cheryl Dunye tells us on the trailer as she’s candidly speaking into a camcorder about how queer women of colour should be represented in movies. And she does just that, writing and directing the first feature-length film to focus on African-American lesbians 20 years ago. So if you fancy a very 90s film, shot in a very fun style by a black lesbian specifically about black lesbians (even more specifically black lesbians in film) then add this on to your list.

 

Monsoon Wedding by Mira Nair (2001)

Following her sexy yet controversial Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, Nair releases her strongest film yet, shattering stereotypes while being colourful, loud, feel-good and fun as hell. Sharing traits from Bollywood yet not being Bollywood at all, it’s a refreshing look at Indian life and is in a league of its own. Even better, it addresses globally relatable themes and concerns including the bonds of family and, most importantly, love.

 

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night by Ana Lily Amirpour (2014)

Just when you thought there was no gas left in the tank of revisionist vampire cinema, along comes this feminist semi-Iranian masterpiece. Combing horror, westerns and film noir, Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is a unique take on feminism, sex and obviously, vampires.

 

Belle by Amma Asante (2013)– Discussion about race, especially when you’re bi-racial is not something that is Black or White- literally. The mention of biracial people in history is seriously lacking and left me asking a lot of questions growing up about what certain time periods were like for those that were mixed race for years with no real feeling of belonging. Luckily, Belle is a very good historical piece tackling slavery, race and the class system in Enlightenment Era Britain. It’s also based on a true story, some closure for y’all.

 

Pariah by Dee Rees (2011)-

A personal favourite of mine; this movie tells an involving story that’s both urgently progressive and skilfully relatable. Although it adheres to the formula that comes with its genre, “Pariah” is a compelling and necessary study of a black, gay woman having to fight against prejudice to find happiness and acceptance. Dee Rees beautifully tells the story through pictures that is sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking and always tender.

 

Women Without Men by Shirin Neshat (2010)

This Farsi-language novel adaption gives a glimpse at Iranian women’s history and the richly cosmopolitan, intellectual culture that you never see on screen, it tells a story about a bunch of women with different background stories in Tehran during the 50’s who manage to a escape a life dominated by men throughout Mohammad Mosaddegh nationalist government’s power. One woman leaving an arranged marriage, a prostitute whose driven frustrated by her work, another leaves her home to join the street politics she hears outside, and eventually joining the Communist Party and an upper-class woman, married to a general, leaves her husband to live in a house in a fruit orchard she has bought. Go figure.

 

Thank you to all the women (trans women, femme identifying, queer, etc) who continue to work every single day – even by just getting up. Some days it’s hard, its always been hard – these past couple of years especially. You and your feelings are valid and real. But here’s a thank you to those who have opened up about their lives, who’ve been vulnerable and brutal and honest. This world couldn’t go on without you so keep telling your stories because they’re viral and there are so many of us who need to hear them and will miss them immensely if they’re not told. I know I will.

Jessie Maple