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It was the second of two nights Kendrick Lamar sold out at the Barclays Center – a date added after his first one sold out instantly. A date for Kung Fu Kenny to celebrate the biggest success of his career so far: a two-times platinum-selling album and a number 1 single in Humble.
It was a different show to the one he last put on in NYC at the Panorama festival, which I just realized I saw on exactly the same date a year ago – 23 July. Aside from this being his first big headlining arena tour, there was a different atmosphere. That show was more political, coming in on the weight of the presidential election and the rise of Donald J Trump. Videos of George Bush and police brutality played in a black and white backdrop to Kendrick’s rhymes. It was a moving and urgent and felt more like a conduit for outrage and support.
Last night’s show felt lighter, even if Kendrick himself felt more formidable. He had more bravado, which – granted – he’s earned since releasing a big-on-swagger track like Humble, and he seemed to grow to fill out the arena. With just his rhymes and only two guest appearances (Travis Scott for Goosebumps and 2Chainz for a frenzied rendition of his new single, 4 am), Kendrick demonstrated his prowess as the greatest rap talent we have right now. His words, his stories are all he needs. He wove them altogether into a kung-fu story, wearing a yellow and then red tracksuit that looked like Bruce Lee’s iconic jumpsuit. Short videos played in between the tracks, as “Black Turtle” made his quest through songs like DNA, ELEMENT, LOYALTY, LUST,  and LOVE, and then older material like Swimming Pools, Levitate, Backseat Freestyle, and of course the Collard Greens cover. It was most thrilling to hear him jump from XXX to m.A.A.d City at the part where Bono usually comes in.
He made sure to thank his Day Ones, as he always has, and remembering the love the East Coast showed the West Coast when he first started playing here, noting his gigs at SOBs, before ending with an encore of GOD. Stay humble.

Ever since Sundance earlier this year, the song I Get Overwhelmed by Dark Rooms has been on high rotation on my list of favourite songs. In the film, Casey Affleck plays a music producer who makes this track and then plays it for his wife, Rooney Mara. The images of him giving her his headphones to let her in on his creation is one of the intimate moments they share during the film – before he dies in a car accident. The film only plays snippets of it, but they were enough to burrow into my mind and come along with me when I left the cinema, and Utah itself. For me, the song was one tangible thing to hold onto after seeing the film, which is about all things intangible.

 

At its basic premise, after he dies, Affleck’s character becomes a ghost, who haunts the house he and his wife lived in. It’s such a simple premise that the ghost even looks like one a little kid would dress up as. A big, thick sheet, with two eyes cut out – no fancy film tricks at play. And yet the sheet acts as a blank canvass for director David Lowery’s meditation on life – on love and time and memories and hardships and joy.
I struggled to describe this film then, and I still struggle somewhat now. I remember walking out the cinema and bumping into a friend who didn’t like it, and I physically had to turn away from her because I couldn’t bear to hear that she didn’t get it. I had such a visceral response to this film – in as much as it is an ephemeral film. It’s the kind that needs to be experienced to be appreciated – in a way, to let the spirit of it take hold of you. Its final moment quite literally took my breathe away.
But it remains a film made up of things hard to describe, hard to grab a hold of. That the film’s distributor A24 has created A Ghost Store, in a small building on NYC’s Lower East Side, feels like a way to make the intangible a little less so. I do feel the mini-ad for the store does somewhat give away a little of the film’s magic, but it’s nonetheless a memorable experience to take part in – and, just like experiencing the film, very personal. You go in and literally “get fitted” for a sheet of your own, by answering questions. It’s a clever way for the film to team up with a brand, yes, but it’s also a great way to build up anticipation ahead of the film’s release, when it comes to life on big screens across cinemas.

Me, “checking out” the store.

A Ghost Store is currently open in NYC and you can find out more about visiting it here. In the meantime, the film comes out July 7th. 

Andrew Dosunmu
I cannot get the film Where is Kyra? out of my mind. I saw it on Saturday night as part of the BAM Cinemafest programme, and it had been one of the films I wanted to see at Sundance earlier this year, but just couldn’t make the scheduling work out. I’m learning more and more that things happen when they need to, so it seemed like Saturday’s screening was the right time to catch the film.
I went with my friend Mathoto Matsetela, who was once an actress in Yizo Yizo, the critically-acclaimed youth drama series Andrew Dosunmu used to direct when he was in South Africa. The Nigerian-born director has since then cemented his reputation, based here in the US, with Restless City and Mother of George – films that paint vivid portraits of identity and desperation, through his fruitful collaboration with cinematographer Bradford Young. For Where is Kyra? Dosunmu re-teamed with both Young and South African composer Philip Miller, who consistently adds his voice to some of the best films coming out of the country.
I think that’s part of the reason I can’t seem to get the film out of my mind – the music and the images left their mark on me. The sharp, staccato audio illustrations of the lead character’s state of mind, combined with the bleak yet striking way her world is visually composed in the film made quite the impression. It’s the story of a woman in her 50s who returns home to New York to look after her ailing mother, but cannot find a job to survive and is pushed to an utter extreme out of her despair. Michelle Pfeiffer is excellent in this role – Dosunmu told us later it was her first indie part, and they shot the film in 17 days. She gives it so much, immersing herself into a woman, past her so-called prime, whose face has etched into it memories of being married and employed and part of the normal running of life, who now just doesn’t know what to do.
As we go along with Kyra’s job search and the half-hearted relationship that’s unfolding with holding-down-two-jobs Doug (Kiefer Sutherland), we see what it’s like to age in a city that requires non-stop energy to keep going. Dosunmu said he wanted to ask what it’s like to grow old here, in a society where people don’t really honour their elders, and many of them end up being kept pretty much out of sight. It made me think of the old people I see on the streets of NYC, slowly pushing their shopping carts or hobbling from one corner to another. Dosunmu spoke about the cultural differences in how the elderly are perceived in Nigeria, where aging is celebrated, versus what he’s come to see here in the US.
There’s another reason the film struck such a chord. It’s because I’ve come so close to that desperation that I saw in Kyra’s – Pfeiffer’s – eyes. Living in this city, where I’m a freelancer subject to the whims of whenever people see fit to pay my invoices has put me in many a tough financial situation, and it’s a terrible feeling. I’ve never had to resort to Pfeiffer’s methods but she and Dosunmu touch that nerve so closely that it’s unsettling. Luckily, I still have enough energy to keep bouncing from my setbacks. Dosumnu’s film will no doubt inspire empathy and a little more compassion towards those who perhaps don’t.
BAM Cinemfest runs until June 25. Make sure to catch A Ghost Story – one of my Sundance faves!

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Here’s to the 70th edition – and my 11th – of the Cannes Film Festival!
– to sharing teeny-tiny apartments with teeny-tiny flights of stairs and no elevator
– to forgoing late-night parties for early-morning miles with breathtaking views
– to Tilda, and Jake, and, Will, and Isabelle
– to dancing to Justice with a recovering knee
– to a 33-year old street artist & an 88-year old film legend taking a moving road trip together
– to being blown away by Inarritu & Lubezki and the possibilities of VR
– to red carpets for porta potties, and in the press room, and outside churches
– to drinking rose while on deadline & eating fresh outta-the-oven pain au chocolat
– to watching restored classic African films on the big screen, hoping others get to do the same very soon.
And here’s to the winners of this year’s prizes!

I popped back to London for a day, from Cambridge on my way to Cannes, to make a must-do stop at the V & A Museum for their Pink Floyd exhibition, wonderfully titled Their Mortal Remains. It opened on Saturday, and will run until the end of October. 
Let me start by saying that there are many things I do not know about Pink Floyd. But I know enough to know Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason, Richard Wright – and of course, Syd Barrett – are the stuff legends are made of: audacious, strong-willed, visionary musicians, who are responsible for some of the most impressive songs ever written. As a child of the 80s, and growing up in South Africa, I never had the chance to see them live, and only ever really knew of the band on records my parents owned.
So, going in, there was much I stood to learn from the exhibition – and Their Mortal Remains does them so much justice.
It outlines the band’s collective trajectory – with a section dedicated to founding frontman, the late Barrett, before mental illness caused him to leave the band. Each album is given careful consideration, with large sections for albums like The Dark Side of the Moon, Animals, The Wall and The Endless River.  And all the while, song snippets and interviews play over the Sennheiser headphones you are given upon entering.
The beauty of this exhibition is relayed in the words of Storm Thorgerson, one of the graphic designers who was so important in the visual representation of the band, that’s written next to a blown up image still from the Learning to Fly music video.
“We often stage these things for real and don’t do them [on] a computer because the reality has its own attributes. What you see is what you get. If you were to do it as a drawing or an illustration, or on the computer, it would always remain a fantasy, not the real thing. And it’s really fun to do the real thing, let me tell you.”
Well, let me tell you how much fun it is to see the “things” that make up Pink Floyd “for real.” The poster for their first show at the UFO, the handwritten lyrics for Another Brick in The Wall, and hilarious rider notes calling for a key to lock away all their food and drink while they were performing – indeed all of these are fun to see. But even more so to stand in front of the animatronic puppets, based on Gerard Scarfe drawings, used in their massive stage shows and feel them tower above you. To see the original clipping from the newspaper about the day a pig flew over Battersea Power Station, down to Kent, scaring the cows on a farm there. Or beds stuck to the ceiling and walls, used to recreate the music video for The Endless River. Or a 3-D rendering of the famous Dark Side cover art. Or a life-size replica of The Division Bell cover, with the two faces, I’ve come to now learn, representing the absence of members Barrett and Waters, in a later-era of Pink.
All of this is superb, a real treat, to be sure, but actually, upon walking into the last room of the exhibition, I found my most jaw-dropping experience of the band in reality, so to speak. A multi-camera, multi-angle, guitar/drums/bass/voice enveloping, wall-to-wall rendition of my favourite song, and one of music history’s best guitar solos, Comfortably Numb, performed in all its glory. 
I came away from this exhibition, not only with a greater sense of appreciation for the band itself, but for Thorgerson and Hipgnosis, the duo he formed with Aubrey Powell, that gave Pink, among so many things, their iconic Dark Side of the Moon cover. And I came away, more in love than ever, with the epic beauty of this thing called music.
The exhibition is on until the end of October, so if you find yourself in London, do yourself a favour and go!