The latest documentary by Zithelo Bobby Mthombeni, one of Ireland's most exciting up-and-coming film-makers explores Ireland's relationship with race, identity and immigration, plus different ways of experiencing "Irishness" and cultural identity. We were able to gather up some questions for the young cinematographer regarding past documentaries and of course the current one.
How would you classify your type or direction when it comes to photography/videography?
Ahhh, that’s a tough one really! I guess I try to capture honesty and candid moments. I find those two things reappearing a lot in my work. I try not to control what happens in front of my lens. Sometimes it’s best to let things be and I do find great joy in capturing unexpected moments. Such as taking pictures at a heavy metal gig, being on stage with my camera, looking at hundreds of people attempting to rush the stage. You can’t control moments like that! You can just sit back and document it all as it unfolds. I think that would somewhat describe the way I work. What made you interested in making series such as Up Next?
I try to talk about things people seem to be ignoring or start conversations people aren't having. The whole goal for that film was to introduce Irish Hip Hop to people who know little to nothing about it that where the interest came from me; The idea of someone stumbling across this one film and taking the time to look up any Irish hip hop artist right after they finish watching the film is somewhat fulfilling. What made you interested in making a series such as THIS LAND... It all goes back to the whole idea of starting a conversation! I found the idea of including people from different fields in one film and have them discuss one subject to be fascinating. It was also an opportunity for me to hear people from different backgrounds and different fields of work discuss race, discrimination and culture in Ireland and how they’ve dealt with it or in some cases how they are currently dealing with it all. On the topic of THIS LAND, What would your experience have been growing up in Ireland? Compared to the people I have talked to in this film; I'd say we all have similar experiences; on a different scale of course, but similar nonetheless. I think I've spent most of my life in Ireland with nothing but curiosity. I would say I spent most of my life observing how people of different backgrounds interacted with one another, or how different races dealt with any discrimination in their lives. I’m lucky in that I don’t have any grim tales! I have experienced what you might call “mild racism”, but I’m sure every ‘non-Irish’ person in this country has faced that too.
shot by: Derek Doyle
Anything from the folks you interviewed that you would relate to in terms of challenges or just similarities when it comes to growing up in Ireland?
There’s a section in the film that talks about the idea of being Irish. I had asked some of the people in the film “Do you consider yourself to be Irish?” at the time I didn't think too much of the question; It was there just to put the guest at ease after talking about some heavy subjects. However, this turned out to be the one question most of the people had some difficulty in answering. I won't give too much away but, someone says “I've always had trouble calling myself Irish, because everything I do is not considered to be Irish”. I found myself thinking about that one line a lot. I have grown up in Ireland, majority of my experiences have taken place in Dublin where I’ve lived since I was 10. I’ve got somewhat of a Dublin accent, and yet, I still find myself in the middle of either identifying as Irish or South African. After conducting different interviews with different characters in the community, how would you describe the youth of Dublin or Ireland?
It’s inspiring! Just look at the music scene, the fashion, culture, the new and different ways people express themselves. You’ve got guys younger than me reaching for the charts completely independently. You have the vibrant nights out where people of different backgrounds come together and have some unforgettable moments. You’ve got people creating their own businesses, running their magazine companies and successfully too may I add! I just think everything that is happening right now is inspiring and I can’t wait to see where Ireland will be in the next five to ten years. How’s the chemistry been with working with different platforms such as District, Soul Doubt and The Tenth Man. It’s really great! I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with the different individuals working within those platforms who are driven and inspire me to excel in my field. I've not only learned from the names you listed, but I've also learned something with almost every single person I have ever worked with. What do you have your eye on after THIS LAND, after the Quarantine/pandemic is over what would be your next area of interest? I wish I could use this section of the interview to tease a new project haha, but to be honest, I'm looking to take it easy for a bit. I think I'll spend most of my time reflecting on the previous projects I’ve worked on and see where I can improve as a filmmaker. But ideally, I just want to spend the rest of this year learning and experimenting before I set my eyes on the next project
Join The Tenth Man online for the first screening of director Zithelo Bobby Mthombeni's new documentary 'THIS LAND', a short film about Ireland's relationship with race, identity and immigration. The film explores new ways of experiencing Irishness, via discussions with chefs, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, journalists and activists. It also explores the impact of racism and Direct Provision on the outlook of the people interviewed.
The film features Felispeaks, Tara Stewart, Bounce The P.R.O., Senita Appiakorang, Pedro Ferraz, NUXSENSE, Beyond Representation, Dean Van Nguyen, Ayuba Salaudeen, Ivan Klucka, Gunmoo Kim, Footrocker, Black Pride Ireland and Jeremiah Moulonso, as well as work from Asylum Archive.
The film will see its digital premiere this Thursday, April 2nd, live on Youtube at 7pm. This will be followed by a Q&A with director Zithelo Bobby Mthombeni, producer Eric Davidson, poet Felicia 'Felispeaks' Olusanya & Senita Appiakorang of Shookrah.