Shot on the scorching streets of New York, I.D. from David Findlay – who previously dropped us into the whirlwind schedule of Olympic middle-distance runner Charles Philibert-Thiboutot in 72 Hours – sees the Canadian director collaborate with Gabe ‘Nandez to explore the hip hop artist’s Malian roots in a performance driven celebration of African culture. DN invited Findlay to explain how he used emblems of Western Africa to explore the connection between ‘Nandez’s heritage and his current day to day reality.

I was working on another project in Vancouver this time last year when Gabe called me. He had a very strong vision for the video and wanted my input to realize it.

From Gabe: “The song takes on the concepts of identity and knowledge of self and is an ode to my Malian roots. It also touches upon societal turmoil related to cultural differences between groups.”

I was such a fan of his music for so long and genuinely listen to it on a weekly if not daily basis, so it was easy to say yes.

His ambition was to bridge his ancestry with his day to day existence in Brooklyn, which he nailed sonically, so the challenge was to match that visually with, notably, portraits of friends and the appearance of Dogon/West African iconography. I immediately knew my place here in supporting Gabe’s vision, following his lead and putting an emphasis on capturing his persona and energy in creating a performance driven video – a bit of departure for me, but a new challenge I was keen to take on.

Gabe insisted we shoot on super 16mm Kodak film (250d and 500t), which I was more than happy to do. Brock Newman was the DP as well as Steadicam operator. We shot with my Bolex for 2 days all over New York in July 2018, in sweltering heat – I was surprised Brock never passed out… But at least we had scheduled the soccer world cup final match into the shooting schedule, so he caught a bit of a break haha.

Since the Bolex doesn’t have a video tap, we velcroed an iPhone on the back of the camera to use as a reference. We recorded each take on the iPhone as well to then easily sync sound in post. The film was developed at Kodak in NY and scanned at Met Post.

I immediately knew my place here in supporting Gabe’s vision, following his lead and putting an emphasis on capturing his persona and energy.

I edited the video with Gabe closely involved with every cut. Sam Gilling was the colourist and again was able to correct a lot of the imperfections that come with shooting on Bolex.

Since completing this project Gabe and I have shot a new, more narratively driven video for a song off of his new album Diplomacy (out July 23) – so I’m in the middle of editing that now.

I.D. 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.

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