Representations of strong positive black male relationships (aside from a handful of recent exceptions) are conspicuously absent from our screens. And so it is a great pleasure for us to welcome Jiajie Yu back to Directors Notes to discuss the creation of Soul, his new music video for indie rock band The Prussians which makes its online premiere today, and celebrates the complex but powerful fraternal relationship of two men of colour.
Soul is an independent music video I made for my friends The Prussians. I met them a long time ago and I’ve always wanted to make them a music video. The process of creating the concept of the video was long and tough. I had at least 3 or 4 ideas until I found the definitive approach 5 days before the shoot. I thought up the final idea with my Cinematographer Daniel Damanti and we had to produce the project really fast.
We started to develop Soul with some movie references, such as Mother of George and Moonlight and some music videos from The Blaze, for instance Territory and Virile. I wanted a powerful story between two brothers, something visceral and strong. Soul is a story about loneliness, resentment and forgiveness and these concepts built the narrative sense of the music video.
I wanted a powerful story between two brothers, something visceral and strong.
One of the biggest challenges for this project was the casting. When I listened to Soul for the very first time, I imagined two men of colour in a car. Bendita Profesión Agency helped me with the casting call and I was so lucky when I met Omar Djalo and Dosel Kamana. They are such photogenic, charismatic, good actors and had a special connection that I needed for the role.
I shot Soul from the point of view of Omar Djalo, the youngest brother, in a very claustrophobic way. The camera was really close to the action, I just wanted to show their personal world, their microuniverse. These two characters only have each other, so I wasn’t interested in showing other people or their environment. I used the handheld camera all the time because I needed freedom of movement and a feeling of dynamism and vividness. I didn’t choreograph the movements of the actors, instead I gave them the freedom to move and had the camera follow them in order to get a sense of freshness and spontaneity.
We shot with the Arri Alexa Plus and Zeiss Compact Primes, all kinds of lighting equipment and a quite big crew. I used to shoot in a opposite way, with a small crew, light equipment and no budget. Although we had a small budget I could still make the music video how I imagined.
My intention was to create a story of sensations and emotions.
We created the music video during the editing process. I used to edit and do the color grading on my own and Soul is my first project where I was part of a postproduction team and could work with an Editor (Emilio González) and a Colorist (Yulia Bulashenko). Emilio did a great job, he perfectly understood the tone and the mood of Soul and created an emotive and dynamic montage, while Yulia contributed a beautiful cinematographic look to the piece.
Soul was created with care for the visual aesthetics and the drama between these two characters, in order to introduce the viewer to their personal world. My intention was to create a story of sensations and emotions and less of a strict narrative. The scenes are decontextualized and there is no continuity between them because I want the viewer to fill in the gaps in the story. I was interested in creating a realistic world but in a dreamlike and melancholic way, where the claustrophobic atmosphere catches and envelops you.