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Teeeezy C on Bandokay's Memories: "It's a dark expression of pain and street culture, and it needed a visual to match."

Teeeezy C on Bandokay's Memories: "It's a dark expression of pain and street culture, and it needed a visual to match."

Promonews - 28th Sept 2022

We talk to Teeeezy C about his powerful video for Bandokay's Memories, the young rapper's lament for his late father Mark Duggan - who's death sparked the London riots in 2011 - and his approach to the issues addressed in the track.      

 

Teeeezy C's new video for Bandokay marks a move into new territory for the director, presenting him with a different challenge to any of the many videos for hip hop and grime artists he has made before. How do you channel a genuine feeling of grief and loss into a medium that rarely deals with these matters?

Bandokay - real name: Kemani Duggan - is the son of a man who died in 2011: Mark Duggan. His death, after being stopped by police in North London sparked nationwide riots that summer. Thirteen years later, Bandokay has released Memories, focussing upon the father who died when he was ten years old; still grieved by him and his family.  

Teeeezy's video for Memories chooses a combination of symbolism and documentary reality to capture the dichotomy between personal feelings of loss and the environment in which both he and his father rose to adulthood. There are representations of both religion - the iconography of Christianity to be specific - and also the side effects of warfare, plus more footage of life in 'the ends', all captured in almost tactile grittiness on 16mm film by Henry Gill.

The video for Memories marks a notable new step for the director, so we talked to Teeeezy about the project. 

All those mentioned in the video... should not be forgotten.

PROMONEWS: How did this project start for you? ? Was Bandokay someone that you were aware of?

TEEEEZY C: I first worked with Bandokay back in the summer of last year. But this was the first time I had a chance to really sit down and delve into the meaning of the track. It’s quite a dark and ominous expression of pain and street culture. I felt it needed a visual representation to match.

Did you get a lead from Bandokay and/or the label about what they wanted?

I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to take the lead on this project and had creative freedom to take it where I saw fit. I worked closely alongside Mus who is part of Bandokay’s management team and when he sent me the track, I knew it was something special.

What was the key element in the treatment for Memories that won them over?

I think there are a few interesting themes that got their attention. Firstly, Bandokay mentions his late father, Mark Duggan on the track. It was that event that was a catalyst that led to the events of the London Riots in 2011 and a wider conversation on the legality and dark underbelly of the use of extreme force by the Metropolitan Police Service. I think management knew that I understood the ramifications and background to the song, and as such, I’d be able to capture the essence of what the song meant.

Shooting on film appears to immortalise what you capture.

Depending on who you speak to, some news outlets simply attempt to label Mark Duggan as a criminal, and as such a police execution is somehow just or acceptable. I wanted to show the flipside of this bigoted and counter-intuitive thinking. Mark was a father, a brother, a friend and most importantly, a person. Capturing the loss and void left by his father was one of the most important components in this visual.

When you watch the video, you can really see the pain in his Bandokay’s eyes. Losing a parent is heart breaking but having them stolen from you by an extension of the government is horrific. I think this sadness is reflected by the violin on the instrumental as well as the manner in which Bandokay is captured on camera. Many of the moments are natural and unscripted, it was important to just observe instead of choreograph.

Equally, the Church in the video and the biblical themes also corelate to the notions of life and death. The Last Supper setup was a nod at the Bible with an important twist. The table is laid with golden dinnerware, a symbol of status and wealth. It represents the material items in life that many strive for.

However, the blackened food juxtaposes that material wealth with the idea that in such pursuits, we can often lose ourselves, compromise our morals and damage our spiritualty. More specifically, it relates to the pursuit of materialism from a street perspective, sinning in order to acquire, which is no doubt toxic and erodes one’s wellbeing.

Finally, the Russian Roulette setup develops on the Last Supper scene as a metaphor for risking ones’ life, represented by the spinning gun. Involvement in street life can come with consequences - it’s essentially a gamble. In conjunction with the Confessional setup, I think the video offers an honest and truthful outlook on the song. It does not glamourise the subject matter, but instead captures it as it is.

Broadwater Farm... holds a presence like no other council estate I’ve ever been to.

How much of the content came out of trying things out on the day, or was everything storyboarded? 

Probably around 85% of the video was storyboarded prior to the shoot, perhaps a little more. I knew exactly what I wanted from many of the setups, reinforced on our recce and tech recce.

I always like to leave a little room for experimentation and improvisation because I definitely feel some golden moments you cannot anticipate; you can only react to. Given that we shot on 16mm + 35mm film, having a really solid plan was important in ensuring the edit flowed correctly.

What inspired the decision to shoot on film?

I was working alongside my good friend and repeat collaborator Henry Gill who has DP’d quite a few videos for myself. If you know anything about Henry, he’s one of the best DP’s on film around at the moment, so that was a factor in shooting on the medium.

My main focus this year has been to develop my skills in the craft of filmmaking.

Equally, I’ve been getting the ever-increasing sense that shooting on film appears to immortalise what you capture. When I watch the work of others on film, the projects always age well, they never feel dated or out of touch. Instead, I feel like I’m right there with them in that moment, it gives for an incredibly immersive viewer experience.

Henry also DP’d Bru-C’s Playground for me earlier this year and we had some really positive feedback on that. As such, building on that foundation and keep the momentum going felt natural.

When and where did you shoot the different elements of the video?  

The video was shot across two days in London. We used a stunning Church dating back to the 1600s as our main shoot location. The architecture and styling of the building felt grand but still gritty, a reflection on the track itself.

On our second day of shooting, we travelled to the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, where Bandokay hails from. It was built in the late 1960s and holds a presence like no other council estate I’ve ever been to. The roads within the block are like a maze, once you’re in its very easy to get lost and very hard to get out. The urban decay of the area provided a powerful backdrop for the block performance scenes, presenting Bandokay as a refined artist - a stark comparison to his surroundings.

We also filmed the cemetery scene at Mark Duggan’s burial site. This was perhaps one of the most powerful moments for me on the project. It was a very humbling experience to film at such a location, and a reminder of how very human we are. Just a stone’s throw away from the cemetery was a park, where the sound of music and laughter could be heard. It was quite poetic in many regards, the contrast of life and death was so simply poignant.

The aim was to bring awareness to the issue as the recent events sadly echo those of Mark Duggan.

You have addressed the political controversy and feelings of injustice that followed Mark Duggan's death in a restrained way, at the start and end of the video. What was the thinking about taking this approach?

The initial message at the start of the video and tribute at the end was something Bandokay wanted to incorporate. This song was very personal for him, even more so given it was released on the birthday of his father. It was a touching note and a very pure moment in the video.

It just so happens that the timing of the video falls in line with the recent incident involving Chris Kaba, very much a tragic coincidence. The aim was simply to bring awareness to the issue as the recent events sadly echo those of Mark Duggan. All those mentioned in the video and indeed all those that lost their lives at the hands of police deserve to not be forgotten, instead we hope that spreading awareness can help motivate social change and promote reform.

There appears to be quite a development in your own work since the start of the year. Where does that stem from?

Since the start of the year my main focus has been to develop my skills in the craft of filmmaking. I’ve been spending a lot more time researching different directors and videos, as well as the technical side of blocking, storyboarding and using symbolism to simplify ideas yet still conveying a message.

Equally, spending more time working on fewer projects has really allowed me to get the best out of my team and myself. I’m always asking myself 'why are you doing this?' or 'what motivates this setup?'. If I’m unable to answer, I force myself back to the drawing board. Motivation is so important as a driving force in telling stories, and questioning my own reasoning helps as a self-regulator.

• Watch more of Teeeezy C's work here

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Promonews - 28th Sept 2022

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