One-on-one with multi-disciplinary artist Charles Jimenez on their short film Keratin, and more.
Charles Jimenez (They/Them) is a British filmmaker, artist, and performer based in England (London, UK) whose work revolves around the invisible worlds of memory, dreamscapes and spiritual experiences through liminal, surrealist, and metaphysical settings. Charles is in their second year of study at Central Saint Martins (UAL), studying BA "Performance: Design & Practice".
iFilmFestival: Tell us a bit about your most important film so far.
CJ: “My most important film so far is Keratin, the film was a course project by myself, Catarina Dias Silva, Scarlett Wang, Stella Rosenkvist, and Isobel O' Gorman. We were commissioned by London Sinfonietta to create a film response to one of their pre-selected songs, we were struck by Gavin Higgins - 'Dacw Nghariad i' which we structured our film around. Keratin is about a spiritual connection between two parents and a recently separated third who they try to reconnect within their primordial womb, each of the spirits are bound by their keratin and through the spell of their elements connect.”
iFilmFestival: What were the key challenges making it?
CJ: “Weather, time, equipment, and finance are always challenges when shooting a film - the cold-windy brew of November, 2021 proved to be the biggest challenge. To direct and act in a naked role was difficult for me and the cast, particularly at a point in which most of us were facing hormonal struggles. Yet our team was completely committed, I was eager to serve the frame no matter how uncomfortable the condition was. Generally, outdoor shoots are subjected to the world's biggest diva – nature! Nature can be a good guiding force, we were graced with incredible serendipity, the entire middle section was shot after a beautiful full-moon appeared, I remember us thriving past the numbness of our cold bones to shoot a moment which enthralled us.”
iFilmFestival: What’s one aspect that you’re particularly proud of?
CJ: “We prioritised our visual responsibility first and foremost, as our sound was covered. I wanted our film to visually capture an ethereal sense of otherness evoked in the ancient cold-warmth of Higgins' piece; we wanted our film to feel like a universe that existed primordially. I am so proud with how we managed to capture this tone; we shot the film at 100fps on Sony A7's with vaseline which made for a dreamy soft-edge, which enabled our oneiric ambience. There was this serene visual sense of a frame being captured as if in a dew drop.”
Trailer: Keratin (2021)
iFilmFestival: How did you get involved in filmmaking?
CJ: “Being born as a neurodivergent Gen Z meant that screens and images were my means of processing information, I naturally gravitated towards filmmaking as films synthesized the two. I was first interested by stop-motion and painting and loved creating surrealist spaces. When I was 18, I watched L'Ange (1982) a film which taught me that images could immerse dream states. I studied Animation at Weymouth College, and for my final created 'A Fugue' - the film went onto win First Place for Best Experimental Film at PHYFF which was insane for me, and inspired me to keep going in the face of lockdown. I am currently studying Performance: Design & Practise BA at Central Saint Martins, with hopes of growing as an established filmmaker.”
iFilmFestival: What new projects are you working on or are you hoping to work on in the future?
CJ: “I am very excited for an upcoming short film we finished shooting in August. The working title is 'Bed & Breakfast', the film follows the inner-world of four paralysed dreamers who cannot awake from the purgatory of their sleep, the film is about the liminality of nightmares and inertia. I also have many scripts I am hoping to find funding for in the future, one is an adaptation of Armando Allen's poetry collection 'Bed of Uneasy Stars' which we are currently crowdfunding.”
iFilmFestival: What role do film festivals play?
CJ: “Film festivals spotlight and share a platform for both films, filmmakers, and people to connect, they serve a sociability most crave when behind the silence of a screen, because it's a space where everyone can meet and converse with each other. I feel that film festivals truly allow the connection of film to resonate, it is also a great opportunity to meet producers and distributors.”
iFilmFestival: What is your advice to filmmakers tackling the festival circuit?
CJ: “In all cases - stay committed, resilient, patient, and proactive as you were with your films - try to meet producers and distributors, stay alert and away from festivals that scam and look to exploit artists, which there are sadly a lot of. Talk and message the festivals you submit to, if you are struggling don't be afraid to be vocal about your situation, there are many festivals which will offer waiver codes for disabled, marginalised, and people facing financial struggles.”
iFilmFestival: How do you see the future of film?
CJ: “One can never see enough films, but one can certainly be able to see more. Which is what I hope for in the future of films, I think with the increase of digital, physical distribution, and to some degree pirating, there is room for more audiences. Websites like Letterboxd and Mubi have been super helpful, in allowing audiences to reach independent films. One could argue that digital distribution has made cinemas more sacred, like churches. But if you think of cinema like Peter Greenaway as a "dead" medium, I think it would be worth more for this, I think films will nourish more liveliness in their weird purgatory - I don't think films can ever die as a medium, rather through these challenges that most filmmakers face, we are encouraged to seek new languages, and I am excited for the explorations to come!”
iFilmFestival: Which filmmaker do you admire and why?
CJ: “The work of Chilean creators Cristóbal León and Joaquin Cociña continue to inspire and heal my creativity. Their film 'La Casa Lobo' (English title: 'The Wolf House') healed my depression for stop-motion by using stop-motion to tell stories which could express the inner-psychology of the medium itself. The two create films which are highly liberating in their ability to let mistakes serve their expressions, embracing the medium like an autonomous poetic creature. To see filmmakers embrace mistakes is a highly enabling motivating when most of us fear them, and it was this element in 'La Casa Lobo' which encouraged me to let what doesn't work to guide something completely unplanned, to experiment, fail, and most importantly create.”
iFilmFestival: What film have you recently seen that you have admired in one way or another?
CJ: “Lucile Hadžihalilović's Earwig (which is streaming on MUBI) is a masterclass in audio-visual atmospheres sculpting, I admire how Lucile is able to capture the ephemeral sensualities of memory in the tactility of sound and image, the film captures this hypnotic reverie most of us feel when daydreaming. I would highly recommend this film to foley artists and sound designers, I admire how much character, depth, history and emotion is generated out of the films' sound design and image, details which the film keeps alluring in its mystery and secrets, I felt as if they carried primordial energies that could tell different stories each time I watched the film, a quality which connects me spiritually to films.”
iFilmFestival: Thank you Charles for answering our questions!
Interview by iFilmFestival on 4 January 2023.