ASFF Speaks with Simon Jenkins, Director of Experimental Film Jus Soli

JUS SOLI by Somebody Nobody examines the Black British experience, interrupting key events in Britain’s recent history to question attitudes, placing them in a wider context of what it means to be British. It also considers the emotional transition between generations, and explores themes such as alienation and marginalisation in British society.

The film has been showcased widely across the film festival circuit and most recently at BAFTA Qualifying ASFF 2015 in the experimental category. We speak to one of the directors Simon Jenkins about this work, which was collaborated on by Jenkins along with Michael McLeod and Joshua Llewellyn credited collectively as Somebody Nobody.

ASFF: JUS SOLI is being screened at four major film festivals this year, how does it feel to have your directional debut as a collective achieving such high recognition?
SJ: 
The most pleasing aspect of getting into festivals is the platform that it gives the film, especially with films like JUS SOLI because its subject matter is seldom discussed in society, and one which looks to bring attention to a forgotten British story.

The film’s power is in its ability to open up a discourse, hopefully leaving viewers with questions and challenges that allow them to assimilate ideas.  It’s vital that JUS SOLI reaches as many people as possible to enable that conversation which is ultimately what festival recognition brings.

ASFF: The film touches important issues regarding right of nationality or ‘right of soil’, do you think that this ambiguity of identity is still a major concern in Britain today?
SJ: 
I believe so, the parameters of what makes you British or the concept of Britishness is in a state of flux and nobody quite knows what being British means. You only have to look at the rise of both the SNP and UKIP to realise that the ambiguities of identity are still up for discussion. People are questioning both what it means to be British and who should be part of that Britain.

ASFF: How do you think your methods of cinematography and the use of 16mm film facilitated the overall effect of JUS SOLI?
SJ: Our approach to the cinematography was very simple: every shot had to be justified and work to enhance the experience. The use of 16mm very much feeds into that method, we had to be very precise with what we wanted and only shooting what we felt was necessary. Aesthetically 16mm gave the film a grittiness which matched the nature of the film, a timeless quality and authenticity which we wouldn’t have been able to achieve shooting digitally.

We always wanted to challenge the viewer, almost for them to be confronted by the film, so it was important to create a visceral piece that engaged people to feel rather than think. The cinematography had be be quite bold and unforgiving to achieve this – fortunately we work with an amazing DP, Annika Summerson, who understood this and was able to capture that mood perfectly.

ASFF: Did you find it a difficult task to portray the message effectively within the time constraints of short film?
SJ: 
Time was never something that we were bound to, our focus was on the emotional journey, specifically the changing emotions of Britain’s Black population and finding the right imagery or sounds that could effectively portray this. Understanding this meant we were more invested in feelings and mood than any tangible message, so the time constraints were actually beneficial as it intensified those emotions.

ASFF: What do you hope the viewers at ASFF 2015 will have gained from JUS SOLI?
SJ: 
We’ve always said that if anyone takes with them the names of the 13 British youths who were killed in the “New Cross House Fire” or goes away wanting to know more, we’ve achieved what we wanted. 2016 will mark the 35th anniversary of this shockingly ignored national tragedy and we hope JUS SOLI can in some way help raise awareness.

For more information on JUS SOLI visit www.somebodynobody.co.uk

To watch the trailer of JUS SOLI click here.

ASFF 2016 is now open for entries. To register, visit www.asff.co.uk/submit

Credits
1. Jus Soli, Somebody Nobody (Somebody Nobody Productions) UK, 2015.