An exclusive interview with Pablo Aravena, director
- 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
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
- 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
- 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.