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Sampha 'Can't Go Back' by Saad Moosajee

Promonews - 11th Dec 2023

The latest video for music from Sampha's new album Lahai is a beautifully-realised piece by Smuggler director Saad Moosajee, who has taken inspiration from cameraless photography to create a mesmerizing dreamscape, untethered from time and reality, through which Sampha passes.

The video for the track Can't Go Back sees abstract scenes repeated and undergoing constant change - an African landscape, a sun's eclipse, a young man and woman in a white abstracted space. Sampha encounters them all, like a traveller through a dimension where anything is possible, although as viewers we can also sense that each scenario has its own special meaning for him. 

Moosajee, whose previous work includes acclaimed videos for Woodkid, Thom Yorke and Mitski, has employed a combination of live action and CGI and other types of VFX to craft this distinctive, highly abstracted black and white (and white and black) world. As he explains below, it is very much a creative response to the theme of the song and the challenge posed by Sampha's brief for the video. 

The result is throughly compelling. And for the viewer, one you want to watch again and again, for its stunning aesthetic and successive moments of visual beauty and to decipher the ambiguities and visual codes that lie within.

Mooajee points out that the song is a story about trying to get back to yourself, and his film was inspired by the idea of time traveling through memories – moving forwards and backwards through a metaphysical world.

Sampha gave our team ample creative freedom to experiment and to find something unique.

"Sampha’s initial brief was expansive, mentioning everything from wormholes to the spirituality of nature," he reveals. "I drew inspiration from both magic realism and Afrofuturist literature, imagining a visual style equally stark and surreal, centered around light and shadow. A key visual inspiration was cameraless photography – Infrared light, the photograms of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, [and] the black paint known as Vantablack. 

"It was through these types of natural visual phenomenon of light and shadow, that I attempted to visualize this interplay between the natural spiritual qualities of nature and the more scientific elements of the universe mentioned in Sampha’s initial brief. 

"It was an amazing experience working with Sampha, who is to me not just an amazingly talented and innovative musician but also such a grounded and curious individual. I have nothing but respect for the way he approaches music – how with each project he carves new sonic territories that are also emotive. He gave our team ample creative freedom to experiment and to find something unique. We spent a lot of time in the preproduction phase dreaming up visuals for the world, discussing the art direction and talking about these critical concepts of time, space and memory.

"I think the most interesting thing about the approach is the different explorations of light and shadow across the different mediums of the piece. It’s interesting to think about the initial seed inspirations of cameraless photography and photograms, and how those ideas of light and shadow are explored throughout the piece – whether in the physical tree elements painted in matte white, the black hole lens refractions, or the glitch inversions of Sampha that almost turn him into two dimensional linework. 

"At times Can’t Go Back is almost like watching an inversion – that very simple notion of black and white and white and black, flipping forwards and backwards across mediums that are tangible and intangible, is the most interesting thing to me about the film. 

"The approach in Can’t Go Back was to create a film where each scene felt like a photograph, or a piece of art. The piece is grounded in the performance of Sampha within the wormhole as a structural element, cutting back and forth between him and a series of vignettes throughout the track.

"A variety of mediums were used interchangeably in the different vignettes – of particular note was the combination between live action production design and CGI / VFX. Physical sets painted fully in white were built practically, then mixed and combined with CG to enhance the stark, surreal aesthetic. This approach was used to create environments that were textural and tangible while still having an otherworldly quality – at times the imagery almost feels entirely like CGI, while still being grounded in reality.

"This combination was further explored in the lens effects and distortions. To push the feeling of time and memory in certain scenes, In-camera distortions were layered with VFX based refractions and blurs."

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Promonews - 11th Dec 2023


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Saad Moosajee
Theo Hue Williams
George Dyson
Production Company
Executive Producer
Elizabeth Doonan
Production Coordinator
Georgie Dale
Maggie Curwin


Director of Photography
Maximilian Pittner


Steve Cameron


Production designer
Jabez Bartlett


Animation Company
Wobbly Way Productions


Dylan Edwards


VFX Company
Foreign Xchange
VFX Supervisor
Przemek Drosik
Post Producer
Luca Chapman
VFX Coordinator
Anna Dragun
VFX Distortion Artist
Maciej "PWEE" Przezak
VFX Artists
Andrii Suhoroslov, Maciek Kolesnik, Michal Serafin, Joanna Rutkowska, Natalia Rajszys, Lukasz Piatkowski, Przemek Drosik
Cousin Bizarre
Peter Clark
3D Scan
Felix Hair
Practical Effects Photog
Davy Evans


VFX Producer
Gosia Herman

Promonews - 11th Dec 2023

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