Rob Ulitski - 21st Dec 2020

Movement and philosophy are explored in Ian Roderick Gray's spectacular mini-doc for Danny Keane. 

Remotely directed by Gray in London and shot in Mexico by DoP Pablo Rojo, the film focuses on Rojo's mother, the dancer Maité Guadarrama, and her philosophy on dance, intimately capturing her graceful movements and innermost thoughts in and around her beautiful house in Oaxaca, Mexico.

Celebrating rhythm and the joy of being alive, the six-minute piece incorporates Q+A style questions and answers, dance solos and intimate portraits of Maité, who is clearly enamoured with the artform and the freedom she has to express herself everyday. 

Taking on a documentary-style format and shooting style, Rojo captures the spontaneity of the movement with zestful energy, and the unique relationship he has with the subject allows a certain freedom and access that might not be possible under different circumstances.

Ajoyo is the first collaboration between Ian Roderick Gray and artist Danny Keane, and a film that transcends borders and celebrates diversity. Ajoyo shows that dancing is not restricted by environment, class or location, but can truly be performed anywhere, at any time and by anyone who feels rhythm - a true celebration of the power and universality of the artform. 


It became clear that Maité had a unique and fascinating philosophy on dance - that seemed to be a perfect thematic fit. 

“I was meant to be making a series of music videos for Danny Keane at the start of the year to coincide with the release of his incredible debut album Roamin'. But as 2020 appeared to hit it's bleakest period, and with the impact of COVID 19 being felt around the world and with lockdown in full effect, it became clear that any notions of filmmaking would be impossible for the foreseeable future, or at least in the conventional sense.

"A few months passed and I was still very keen to create some visuals for the album. My friend and cinematographer Pablo Rojo was in his home town of Oaxaca, Mexico, unable to return to London whilst the UK remained in lockdown and much like myself, quite desperate to try and make something.

"We set ourselves the challenge of trying to create a music video for Ajoyo, one of the singles from Danny’s album. No easy feat considering we were separated by 6000 miles and the world was currently being ravaged by a global pandemic.

"Pablo had the perfect location in mind and the perfect subject; celebrated dancer Maité Guadarrama who also happened to be his mother. The location? Her beautiful home in Oaxaca.

"After several conversations, it became clear that Maité had a unique and fascinating philosophy on dance and one that seemed to be a perfect thematic fit for the subject matter of the song. I pitched Danny the idea of trying to incorporate elements of her philosophy into the music video itself to create a kind of documentary / music video hybrid and Danny loved the concept.

It ended up being one of my favourite experiences and a creative approach that I might revisit.

"Directing remotely from the comfort of my living room in London was not an easy task. But it meant that the collaborative component of filmmaking shared between myself and Pablo Rojo was probably stronger than it had ever been before, in part because Pablo played a much more prominent role creatively than he might have otherwise, being on the location and with Maité in person. It ended up being one of my favourite experiences and a creative approach that I might revisit for subsequent productions.

"We had no budget to make this, we were separated both geographically and also as a result of the strict isolation rules brought about by the pandemic, and yet despite this, the need to create meant that we found a way to make it work. I’m very proud of what we achieved.”

PRO Credits


DirectorIan Roderick Gray
ProducerLucia Novoa Gil
Production CompanyGrayscale Productions
Executive ProducerAdham Hunt
Director of PhotographyPablo Rojo
Focus PullerArturo Lavariega
Art DirectorSantiago Rojo
WardrobeMaité Guadarrama
EditorIan Roderick Gray
ColouristDani Rotaru
Grading companyGlassworks
Post production companyGlassworks
Post production companyConvoly
Post ProducerMitchell Siermans
Post ProducerAthene Xenia
Lead actorMaité Guadarrama
Other creditsSound Design And Mix: Edwin Matthews And Decal Audio Interview Recorded By Pablo Novoa

Rob Ulitski - 21st Dec 2020

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