Constructed from images and scenarios which had embedded themselves in filmmaker Adi Halfin’s (last seen on DN here) mind, yet felt like the interconnected parts of a greater whole, the Berlin-based director returned to her native Israel to shoot enigmatic music video Birthplace for singer/songwriter Kris Kelly. Watch Birthplace below, after which Adi tells us how unshakable characters and a late night desert experience led to this instinct driven promo.
My first intuition when listening to Birthplace was to create a film about travelling. Something about the music and the lyrics felt like a voyage through an enigmatic country. I wanted to give the viewer a feeling of encountering different people in different parts of the world – each one experiencing something strong, which connects them together subconsciously.
Birthplace felt like an external and internal voyage – a journey that could be both physical and metaphysical. The desert was the first thing that popped to mind. A few years ago I had an extreme personal experience in the desert. I was on a shoot and we were sleeping in the desert and I went for a walk at night. The million stars and infinite landscapes had a very strong impact on me. You feel so small on one hand, but on the other hand, this endlessness gives you an intense feeling that anything is possible. It’s a strong combination of danger and bliss.
I’ve never thought about it when writing the script for the video but thinking about it now, I realize this experience could’ve been the trigger to the image of the cowboy dancing alone in the desert. I’ve actually had this image of a man dancing alone in the desert for a while, and I knew that one day I’d put it in a music video. I envisioned this guy walking alone for miles in this vast landscape, in order to let some steam out – something that’s been itching his insides for years. Birthplace was just the place for this image. I felt like all the characters are trying to get back something they had lost, eventually returning to a basic primeval state.
What I love about creating music videos is working with instinct rather than common sense.
After the cowboy came the girl with the dog. I was walking in Berlin one evening, and in the middle of a crowded street was this girl, hugging her dog and crying. It was such a touching humane moment – it didn’t let go of my thoughts. I wrote it down somewhere and it found its way naturally to this video. Little by little, all these characters started revealing themselves and a surreal story unfolded, connecting them to one another.
At first, I wanted to see Kris travelling through these landscapes and meeting these people, but after talking to him about my ideas, he told me he personally identified with some of the characters. It only made sense to have these characters as an extreme physical expression of his emotions, as he unravels the story of a journey, that changes himself and those characters forever.
Since we had a tight release date, we had to film this in winter. Together with Producer Margo Mars (Lief, UK), we realized that the best place to shoot this would be in Israel since winter isn’t so harsh there. It is also my personal birthplace, so it all made sense – bringing this to my familiar childhood landscapes, after living abroad for so many years. Funny enough, the first word of the song is “Shalom”, so I guess that choosing the Israeli landscapes for the backdrop of the video was natural.
BTS images by photographer Si Wachsmann
Israel offers a diversity of landscapes within very short travel distances, so it was easy to create a feeling that these characters are spread out in different places of the world. We shot for three days – it’s the longest music video shoot I’ve had so far. It’s a 6:30 minute song so it felt more like making a short film than a music video.
What I love about creating music videos is working with instinct rather than common sense. I love the fact that I don’t need to explain anything and that people have their own interpretations of the story. I love working with actors on deep emotional levels, connecting to something visceral, rather than telling them a story of who their character is and what they want. I feel that this creates a deeper discourse and the results are more relatable on an intuitive level.
Birthplace is one of the many great projects shared with the Directors Notes Programmers through our submissions process. If you’d like to join them submit your film.