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Next - A primer on urban painting

An exclusive interview with Pablo Aravena, director of "Next"

- Could you tell us what was the aim that pushed you to work on such a documentary like Next? The subtitle is “A primer on Urban painting”…

As a young immigrant to Canada from Chile, Urban Culture (hip-hop, club culture, electronic music) helped me to give me my identity. Being a young filmmaker working on his first big project, I wanted to make a film about something that was close to me. There had been films about the music side that inspired me like SCRATCH by Doug Pray, which covered turntablism but nothing on that level on graffiti that I had seen at the time. Very soon after graduating from film school I met the HVW8 crew here in Montreal. They were starting a design/painting collective. Two of the guys Gene Starship and Dstrbo came from doing graffiti and through them I learned about the visual side. These guys started travelling and painting with other people and I saw that there was this resurgence of graffiti-based artwork all over the world. I had seen Hip-Hop culture grow into a world culture having first come into contact with it in Chile and then seeing it grow in Canada and the rest of the world. So I got the idea of making a film on graffiti as a world culture. I wanted to see how these other countries were living this culture and where it was going.
While doing my research I started to see that people had been working with the language in new progressive forms and that graffiti was not just about painting your name anymore. So I got the idea of portraying the evolution of the form in the film. What was NEXT ? meaning to show how the language had evolved from the trains to walls to canvases, design, sculpture, photography, stencils and the new styles coming out.
At the end I wanted to make a film that would show the evolution of the form and also how it had become a world culture. The subtitle “A Primer on Urban Painting” is a play-on-words in English. The first meaning of Primer is like the first layer of paint you apply to a surface. The second meaning is that its like a basic book you read to learn about something. I hope that after watching the movie people will get a general knowledge of what graffiti is and also learn about what is happening now around the world and the new styles.

- The whole film is divided in chapters, based on geography of urban artists, why did you choose this way? And how did you choose the artist line up?

We divided the film into city chapters to reflect the process of discovery of the film as well as using it organize the material a little bit since we filmed so many different artist in so many places We played with different ways to edit the material but we decided to go with this method. Also each city became a sort of character that would contextualize the artwork going on there. . It gave the film a travelogue structure.
I chose the artists line-up by using my personal taste and by looking at their work to see if it fit within the idea of it being NEXT. I also spoke with many artists who would refer me to artists they thought were dope. So it was a combination of listening to the artists suggestions that I would meet along the way and using my personal taste.

- What has been the most difficult aspect, shooting this film? Did the artists played a major role in developing the contents and finding spots for the shootings?

The hardest part of making the film was getting the money to do it. I started with nothing just an idea and willpower. Then was able to get some grants from arts councils in Canada. I was able to get the film half finished with that but it was really Agnes B getting involved that helped me complete my vision and finish the film. With her support and co-production I was able to make the film I had in my head and do it right.
I always tried to develop relationships with different artists before going to each city so we had contacts and also a more personal feeling to the film. So once I got to a city I would have a few people that I would know through other artists I had met before or via email so they would then suggest things to do. Sometimes we had a game plan already and went with and other times we just would improvise and film things that were happening. I always tried to be present at art shows or events in each city to give us a launching platform. There we would meet people and things would happen from there. I especially loved bombing with artists. It was a nice rush and they would make it happen and we would get it on camera.

- What was the artists’ reaction, after having seen the film?

We have been lucky enough to show the film in many different countries already and it seems to be playing really well with the artists in Europe, North America and Australia. I always try to invite the local or visiting artists to our festival screenings in each city and I have been able to show the film to many of the people in the film. It is very important to me to play it to the artists so I can get their feedback on the film. So far I would say that we are getting love everywhere we have shown it.

- We know Next project has been pushed in various film festivals… would you like to describe us the audience’s reactions?

We have been lucky to have a really great festival run. I always wanted to show the film at good film festivals to give graffiti a serious platform to be seen. Again we have received good reactions. One of the things that I like the most is that we always have older people that you wouldn’t expect at the screenings and they are enjoying and learning from the film. Many times after the screenings I have talked with them and they had interesting things to say. The best comment I received was “I will never look at a tag like I used to, I see now what comes from tagging”. I am very happy that the film is working with a hardcore graff audience and also with people outside the culture. That was one of the aims of the film to open up the culture to people that didn’t know about it or wanted to learn more and its working. If the film can educate people about what the art form is the maybe they will start appreciating and supporting it more and maybe change the way cities react to it. It’s really a question of showing people the strength and quality of the work so they cannot deny it’s a valid art form.

- After Next, what will be your future plans? Anything related to urban art?

I have been so busy with launching NEXT that I haven’t had time to write down my new ideas. I will say I have some fiction ideas I want to develop and that they are all about different forms of urban culture.



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