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HERE/NOT HERE

Written by British hip-hop legend Jonzi D, HERE/NOT HERE combines elements of dance with football, BSL and Visual Vernacular, looking at how movement is language.


Set in an urban warehouse where different groups are competing for use, HERE/NOT HERE explores how we all try to find our place - but with a mixture of so many communication and performance styles, what's the end result like?


Let's see what our writers thought!


Three of the HERE/NOT HERE performers, wearing puffer coats, look directly at the camera, surrounded by total darkness. The photo is surrounded by an abstract pink & orange border.

Tom


“Your blurred eyes have blocked your third eye,” a character signs to us, standing alone in a space as orangey as the fires burning our world. Here/ Not Here is one big flame, actually. It is a sea of spotlights on the so rightly enraged: deaf folks not heard; the countless dreamers caged; the marginalised fed nothing, their longing for a space to escape and call their own. Jonzi D’s script packs many punches, but most maturely of all it shines hope, making this half-hour short film requisite viewing. It can be, I imagine, eye-opening, cathartic – or both.


It is a story which impressively dances (quite literally Krumps) between various perspectives, but never leaves you feeling lost. The characters of Here/ Not Here are the ones searching for home; their felt abandon likely to break your heart, most so by the man who keeps pushing away a chance for family, his worldview shared with us last, and he who learns the shed’s future first. The shed, council-run, caretaken and church-like in its sanctuary-feel – an especially lovely sight is the couch and lantern at its rear – is, as with all good things on this planet, not forever. Neither can it exist without hosting several homeless parties at the same time (here three footballers and a band of hip-hop fans.) To share the space is far from practical. Trust me, as a theatre-maker searching for his own stage: tis reality, there not being enough roofs on the earth to house every artform under. Bim Ajadi’s fresh direction paints this truth through the tense interactions and frantic camerawork, but it’s the orangey shelter I mentioned, that the actors are allowed, which so brilliantly elevates their individual monologues to us about the heaviness they feel.


Afforded the opportunity, their reveals - one of an ‘obedient’ Muslim daughter, another the Krump choreographer - don’t mess about with words, using poetry to empower, a great example of this coming from the dancer who declares his medium a way ‘to release the beast and peace for the sanity’. So universal is that feeling - something you’re so passionate about, to do it is electrifying, a freedom of the soul, a life that’s truly lived. It’s less easy to feel such joy when still carrying your furies, and the film visually illuminates this through choice close-ups. Expression is, after all, possible to be phrased beyond the spoken word.


Here/ Not Here is sound, surprising and remarkable. Where protagonists confess to not feeling able to breathe with all the injustices surrounding them, they seize the moment when afforded the time – friendship and craft perhaps all they have left. As society’s ills continue to unravel, furthering our knowledge of inclusion can only empower us to grow and eventually come together. Amends can be hard to work through, let alone finally arrive at, but since my own exposures to community, I’ve wished artists use their platform to paint the possibility.


Nothing’s easy. Here’s a film understanding that – and still dancing.



A still shot taken from the HERE/NOT HERE film. Two performers square up to eachother, chests touching. One wears a green puffer jacket and a snapback cap, the other a blue hoodie and glasses. There is a shaft of light that illuminates them. The background is the wall of a run down warehouse.



Florence


Before watching Here/Not Here I had never heard of Bim Ajadi, the film’s director, nor had I watched any programmes commissioned by BSL Zone. Even though I didn’t find this film as engaging as I’d assumed I would when reading its description, there were still multiple aspects of Ajadi’s direction that impressed me, and I’m keen to watch more of BSL Zone’s programmes in the future.


As someone with a newly-budding interest in script, I’m all too aware of the restrictions that a small budget imposes on short films - especially in regard to location. Here/Not Here is predominantly shot in one interior warehouse space, no doubt in part due to these financial barriers, and it shines as an example of how much can be achieved in one location when the space is used inventively. I found myself frustrated at points by how dark some of the scenes were, even when I switched from watching on my laptop to watching on TV I still struggled to see some things clearly. However, this also had a positive effect as this frustration encouraged me to consider how this space must be for the characters, as their only community space is a claustrophobic, brutalist warehouse with little natural light. In fact, the scene where one of the VV-tellers uses the limited light to make shadow art was one of the most effective parts for me, especially when I took into consideration that the film seeks to explore different ways of visual communication. The community space becomes a part of the language between the characters here, which was thoughtfully done.


In regards to the film falling short of my expectations, I think that this has more to do with what I personally enjoy than anything necessarily ‘wrong’ with the film. The conversations fell short for me, and I am generally not a spoken word fan. Spoken word performances tend to stray into cheesy territory a lot of the time, so I’ll admit that it’s a form I’m prejudiced against. I can appreciate the rhythm and artistry behind the spoken word/VV segments in this film, but it’s still not my preferred way of getting to know more about characters. The dialogue between characters felt stiff and repetitive at points, reiterating information in such a way that made it feel more functional than it did emotive. Coupled with the spoken word segments feeling like a lot of exposition packed into a small space, I found myself being hyper aware of the fact that I was watching people acting and felt bored where I should’ve been drawn in. It’s not that I think that the spoken word segments took away from the film, but that I wish there’d been more space given for the characters to be expanded within their conversations with each other.


My criticisms are largely wrapped up in location choice and time constraints, which only speaks to how important it is that the space given to more diverse media continues to expand, so that they can have the time and money needed to fully flesh out those narratives. Whilst Here/Not Here just wasn’t the right film for me, I appreciate its vision and the spotlight it gives to non-verbal communication.




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