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Docu Style Music Videos (Part 2: Portraits)

In part 2 of our Top 5 Docu Style Music Videos we focus on portraits. Amazing music videos that revolve around the experiences and characteristics of real people.
Here is the first part of this Top 5, in case you missed it.

Declan McKeena Paracetamol Matt Lambert documentary music video


1. Declan McKeena – Paracetamol, directed by Matt Lambert

Paracetamol is partially inspired by the tragic death of Leelah Alcorn – a transgender girl who, misunderstood by family and society, decided to take her own life. Singer song-writer (and prodigy) Declan McKeena wanted to capture the dark tone media usually uses in the representation of LGBT people. And she wanted to portray an authoritative figure who often plays a role in these scenarios. Talking about the promo’s challenges in The Guardian, he admits “When making a music video, it becomes quite difficult to find a director who can put all your words into pictures and convey the same message. Paracetamol needed somebody who genuinely cared about what the song was trying to say. Trans music videos can be pretty bad and send out the completely wrong message.”

Matt Lambert, known for his thought provoking photographs and films (see also our 2012 interview with Matt), seemed a perfect fit for tackling such a sensitive subject. His protagonists were two real teenagers: one gay, one trans. The setting resembles a laid back after party. The shots look as if recorded by one of the participants. They captured the thoughts, youth and life-style of the two teenagers, together with some of their struggles and self explorations. Instead of being heavy and overly dramatic, the promo feels intimate and real. A six-minute taste of what it feels like to be in their shoes.

Declan further elaborates: “We wanted to make something positive, with people who are actively affected by the topics in the video. The teenagers that Matt and his team cast were from east London, and watching their friendship develop, almost in real time, was awesome. Those guys are 15, and the story resonated with them.”


2. BAYA – A Call To Say Hello, directed by Andreas Bjørseth

It’s not often we get a glimpse of the real story behind a song. The promo of “A Call to Say Hello” portrays a real meeting between the singer BAYA and his estranged father. It’s their second meeting in 27 years.

The lyrics are BAYA’s words dedicated to his father. But nordic filmmaker Andreas Bjørseth also explores only the father’s perspective, by inserting recordings of the father’s words throughout the promo.

The promo’s format lets the two protagonists ‘communicate’ and have a ‘dialogue’. We don’t know if they are actually saying these things to each other face to face, but the promo makes the conversation real. It also gives the father a chance to address his ex wife. Given his clumsiness, it’s probably the first time he has done this in years.

The music video also features a series of animations by John Christian Ferner Apalnes. (The two previously collaborated on “Gate 212 / Gimme That Dive”). His texts and drawings reinforce the realism. “Truth,” in this case, doesn’t come from the objective depiction of things. It comes from subjective perspectives which viewers need to compile together.


3. Augustines – When Things Fall Apart, directed by Jack Lightfoot

A sport almost unknown. A record breaking hero of only 17 who lives in a rudimental farm house with his family. Will Morphey is the 1300cc Stock Car World Champion. He has a house filled with trophies. He also still still stumbles on the chickens in his yard.

Director Jack Lightfoot perfectly captures the key elements Will Morphey’s existence. The daily routine, the preparations, and the actual race. Close-ups reveals his everyday life. There are car crashes. There’s a world record on the line. And we’re left wondering if Will is going to succeed and fulfil his dream. Perfect ingredients for drama, yet the ending stays true to the real nature of its protagonist: laid back and humble.

In an interview on PromoNews, director Jack Lightfoot explains, “I wanted to create (…) a raw, endearing promo that takes us inside a relatively alien sub-culture, and showcases passion and dedication within a completely different environment. I felt the track leant itself to such a story – the  the notion of dedication and staying focused on something, whatever else is going on ‘You gotta move on when things fall apart’.”


4. Subculture Sage – Gold, directed by Ricky Patel

You’re in for a visual treat! Gold deals with a heavy subject but the setting is rather exotic. Rather than ‘squeezing the gold’ out of the story and using the visuals merely as illustrations to the track, director Ricky Patel lets the protagonists have a voice. And the promo speaks volumes because of it.

We follow two gold diggers in the Zimbabwean woods as they go about their daily routines. Hearing their strategy right at the beginning suggests a happy ending. The protagonists might not be looking like entrepreneurs, but they have a vision and a plan. Surely it will all eventually be ok for them. They do find what they were after. But it’s far from enough. These people are hardly in a better position than at the start of the journey, and my initial expectations seem naively optimistic. It is not the tragedy of their story that impacts me, but the way the narrative builds up and squashed my expectations. And because of this, I am able to relate with these two men.


5. Oh Wonder – All We Do, directed by Mike Lee Thomas

An emotional video that speaks for itself. Mike Lee Thomas takes a break from his usual commercial works for Adidas, Canon, and Microsoft, and choses to focus on projects with ‘timely messages’. He started a powerful internet crowdsourcing campaign aiming to document people’s ideas on what it means to be human.

When talking to PromoNews, Mike Lee Thomas explained: “At a time when there are so many crazy things happening in the world, Oh Wonder are one of those few artists who are constantly pushing positive energy and this was such a blessing to collaborate on a project like this with them and several other filmmakers, as a team. This wasn’t about making the sexiest, visually aesthetic video we could. It was more about producing something that is honest, and that looked at core ideas of what it means to be human through a global conversation. Through the internet and Skype we were able to all come to together and have conversations with real people, which this film is the result of.”

All We Do is simultaneously humbling, intriguing and inspiring and most definitely worth reflecting upon.

By @ricutza

Former editor and now guest editor Maria Dicieanu is our right honorable movie geek. She is the living manifestation of a multimedia app and loves trawling the world wide web for the finest music videos, likes to get her digital mitts dirty with conversions, uploads and video edits for Submarine Channel, and also flirts with transmedia-related journalism, reporting from festivals like Cannes, Berlinale and IDFA for European Cinema collective NISI MASA and Submarine Channel.


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