The Glorious Eight: questions Piercing Brightness director Shezad Dawood might have been asked; answers that might have been given.
What has Shezad Dawood been reading?
On the train to Preston to shoot Piercing Brightness (PB), hauling cameras, lights, sound equipment… nevertheless, Shezad did not stint on reading material carrying as many Philip K Dick novels as he could. Seeking to embody the greatest and most prescient of timetravelling, genre-mashing writers, he sought to instil in his film the qualities of accessible otherness and narratively-fuelled speculation so beloved of the high priests of pulpparanoia.
He also sported the fine recent hardback edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead because, when you travel to a new place, especially one whose soul you wish to capture, you need a map for the places the satnav can’t reach. PB is off-road work, in style and content. We’re going somewhere new; we’ll likely return changed. They say you can’t go home again; but you can try.
What has Shezad Dawood been watching?
Unjustly overlooked works – Alien Nation; Brother from Another Planet; Hugo Santiago’s Borges-scripted Invasion. Pillars of the medium – The Man Who Fell to Earth, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Chris ‘Sans Soleil’ Marker; in fact, a whole lot of Chris ‘La Jetée’ Marker, a whole lot of love for the man who brought us such memories of the future we might not want to come back. And, lest we forget our streets, our straitened times, our ways out and through the tangle we call community, and identity, and cities in their flux, My Beautiful Laundrette, Last of England even, sci-fi soap operas of the streets and spirits wandering this beautiful world we slash and burn so readily, seemingly sometimes without so much as a thought…
What has Shezad Dawood been listening to?
Acid Mothers Temple. A lot. The Japanesesonic shamen are to the film’s sound design what Preston is to its mise-en-scene; now it’s unimaginable without their avant-garde attentions to the ambient audio. They’re so central they’ve been afforded their own edit, an earlier abbreviated version designed only to be shown when they can play live alongside it. And in a strong sense, their own name shortcuts to the chase when it comes to summarising the thematic and aesthetic strategies: the film’s a strange, fuelled vision; it’s about origins and relations, the home grounds of earth and elsewhere; and it’s soaked in a sense of the mystery and wonder of things - the sacred grove to be found in a flat above a corner shop - beyond the often hard-edged first encounter.
What has Shezad Dawood been doing in Preston?
It really is the mother-ship; the lodestar; the prompt and point of purchase for all his various intentions in the film. Here, the first mass Mormon baptisms; here, the greatest number of UFO sightings in the UK; here, near, a key military experimental systems facility; here, a Brutalist bus station, a strong sense of collective involvement in the fate and fortune of the town and now the film – people came out for it – they mucked into the movie and found their place re/visioned.
What has Shezad Dawood been thinking about?
The whole damn thing; first and second and third generations; (un)settlement, migration, (be) longing faith, belief (they’re different); the transmigration of souls; how life is, that it’s experienced in fragments and shards of variant hue and beauty and pain and sorrow and all the shades in between and that it’s not some template, off-the shelf product, all neatly packed and cornered; that grumpy genius Jean-Luc Godard was probably right, stories have a beginning and a middle and an end, but you don’t necessarily need to tell them in that order; and that maybe he was right again, that all you need is a girl and a gun, or, in this case, two aliens who look like a girl and a guy, contemporary urban life, architecture and community; societal fears of youth and groups; the nature of hope in a commodity culture that only wants to sell you more, always a future perfect, never a present ‘enough’, and so this selling machine seeks to erase any idea of history, and especially any histories of ‘difference’…
What has Shezad Dawood been thinking about race / relations and migration?
He’s been thinking that they’re good things; that societies can only thrive in their mixed and mongrel meeting places; in the hybrid havens of the tolerating towns and cities. That belonging is both being and longing, who and where you are and who and where you might wish to be. We are the aliens if we’re alienated from the majority world and, not least, from the international future being built faster than we can document.
What has Shezad Dawood been up to with the visual approaches of PB?
He’s been catching the luminous collisions of the city, the palettes of angled, neon surprise; startled encounters between concrete and rain, the green breath of a parkland moment; the international local of the street-level and the surprised interiors; in short; the place we almost all live in today, filmed as it is perceived, not simply as it looks. Imagine you’re a visitor from somewhere else altogether, opening up your gaze like a street map for the first time, like that and then things look different, and so you become different too… PB is a difference engine.
What has all of this to do with us?
We live here; we need to see the places that are not the normally viewed places; we need to understand how the people that we are might live better together; we breathe as dwellers on the threshold – between then and now, and now and soon to come; between here and there, and us and others – and so we need the dispatches that come from the doorways between worlds.
By Gareth Evans Shezad Dawood is present for a Q&A at the opening screening of Piercing Brightness, on Friday 7 June, 7pm.
Keep hold of your ticket to claim a free drink at the ICA Bar for the after-party with DJs including musician Alexander Tucker, who contributes music to the film.