Lunch with Heaven Reaches Down to Earth
What a poetic film and title. Can you explain your choice for the latter?
The title is taken from one of the last pages of André Aciman’s Call Me By Your Name. Guadagnino’s film was of course an influence, but after we decided on the setting of our film and found that quote in the book, it just felt like the confluence of everything we wanted to say. These two men on an unexplained journey high above civilization discovering their feelings for each other.
Can you tell us a bit more about why you chose to treat the subject matter in such an abstract, stylised manner?
The treatment of this film was somewhat a reaction to how we treated the subject matter of our previous film. Our previous project was extremely grounded and almost a shot-for-shot remake of an event that happened to me. Heaven Reaches Down to Earth attempts an abstraction of that. My co-producer and I became interested in deconstructing just what it is we like about “story”. This film is a mixture of thoughts and experiences lived through by my producer, the lead actors, and I. Editing this felt more like stitching together a memory. Riding that wave of experimentation and making sure the film was vivid and experiential was important to me, it felt like a fitting treatment to depict a first romance.
What do you hope to convey to your audience?
I don’t want to prescribe answers to the audience, but rather, convey my interpretation of the electric rush of romance. This film is a ten-minute ode to those small realizations we come to when we have feelings for someone (or when they have feeling for us). I think audience members board and alight the interpretations in this film at different points, depending on what they bring to it and what they want from it. We were happy to take that risk with this film. It felt dishonest and overdone to try to bake a conflict into another queer romance piece. Instead, our treatment depicts two black men letting those feelings wash over them unprompted and largely uninterrupted.
As a filmmaker, what sorts of subjects are you keen to work on in the future?
I’m interested in both the past and future of the continent but from a grounded, singular perspective. As opposed to the catch-all that would be “afro-futurism”, I’m more interested in the minutiae of, “what would my mother’s family home look like in 100 years and what kind of people would live there? What would they discuss?” or “how does the mining industry still cast a shadow on the particular part of Soweto that my father is from?” Exploring what these prompts mean to those closest to me through the lens of all the cinema and art we now have access to excites me. Themes of generational memory, magical realism, and dysfunctional families (all interwoven with the ever-changing currents of the continent) find their way into my work.
What do you think the future holds for short films?
I think audience expectations towards short films are only growing more loose. The form feels like a lab where filmmakers can try to catch lightning in a bottle, and even if it’s not completely successful, there’s still a lot to learn from and see. I believe the form is largely absent of many of the restraints that (sometimes) necessitate “safer” longer form content because the stakes are so much lower. These experimentations will only multiply as the access to technology to create art becomes more readily available. The ability for so many festivals to take place remotely will also invite many new voices into discussions about the work and I hope it’s integrated with in-person attendance when the pandemic subsides.
If we were to go back into lockdown, what cultural delights would you recommend to alleviate our boredom?
I’ve been loving Steve McQueen’s Small Axe, Michaela Boakye-Collinson’s I May Destroy You, and Over The Garden Wall. I’ve also been revisiting the filmographies of Céline Sciamma, Kelly Reichardt, Djibril Mambety, Hirokazu Koreeda, Frederick Wiseman, and Charles Burnett. Frank Ocean, Billie Holiday, and MF DOOM in heavy rotation.