VIP - VideoChannel Interview Project

Zaidi, Ali

Ali Zaidi
UK based filmmaker



Interview: 10 questions

1. Tell me something about your life and the educational background
Indian by birth, Pakistani by migration and British by chance, Ali Zaidi draws upon this cultural displacement to pursue creative explorations of commonality and difference through art. Zaidi creates fresh participatory experiences for new audiences by inviting them to collectively reflect on issues around identity and question static perceptions of culture. Moving fluidly between diverse art forms, including film, live art, installation and digital technology, he fuses them with great ease and ingenuity.

Zaidi leads the artistic vision of motiroti, which he co-founded with Keith Khan in 1996. motiroti is an internationally acclaimed and award winning organisation that makes and produces interdisciplinary arts and creative projects working with a range of participants and collaborators across continents and cultures. For over fifteen years, complex socio-cultural interrelations and divides have been made accessible to global audiences through motiroti’s multiple perspective and vibrant artworks.

2. When, how and why started you filming?
My father directed films in India and then in Pakistan.The film genre is currently referred toas Bollywood. It is no surprise that I joined the arts college in Pakistan and proceeded to work in the world of advertising. But after a short span of five years, I ditched advertising as fundamentally the idea of consumerism didn’t agree with my personal philosophy. I lectured in photography and then did masters in Alternative Media. Hence the journey of moving images is a natural progression.

3. What kind of subjects have your films?
I seldom use film in its purest form, as a film. Broadly speaking it is some sort of a story that has to be told, whether autobiographical or one that involves other people’s stories or fiction for that matter. The stories change hence subjects change. At the base line there is always a questioning or curiosity about identity and the politics of representation. 60×60 Secs is a perfect example, as the subject matter is an investigation to what ‘home’ means to us in the 21st century and notion of belonging and nationhood – and motiroti created this opportunity to commission and distribute the films far and wide. Subject is ‘identity’ yet the interpretations are many.

4. How do you develop your films, do you follow certain principles, styles etc?
My visual sensibilities are informed by a wide range of influences and styles ranging from the old to the contemporary and from all parts of the world. 60×60 Secs is a good example of extending the personal to commissioning one-minute short films that encompass a huge variety and style from sixty different practitioners.

5. Tell me something about the technical equipment you use.
Depending on where the work is to be shown, the equipment has ranged from animations created from drawings to high definition video to 16mm and any thing inbetween. There have been incidences where large sections of material is generated digitally.

6. What are the chances of new media for the genre film/video in general and you personally?
Not sure if I am understanding the turn of the phrase here, but personally I want to see more development in user generated material that can not only be accessed easily but also allows audiences to have a say in how a linear narrative can be disrupted and new narratives created. The use of film in contexts beyond the cinemas and multiplexes is an exciting one – not where advertisers exploit the consumerist tendencies yet again – but as a creative expression for telling stories and social change.

7. How do you finance your films?
motiroti is an Arts Coucil of England’s RFO (regularly funded organistaion). We seldom make film for the sake of film and the funding and finaces are secured in a variety of ways depending on the context within which the project is created.

8. Do you work individually as a video artist/film maker or do you work in a team?
Indeed there are times where both ways of making is applicable – mostly I would say it is in collaboration with a larger team of creatives.

if you have experience in both, what is the difference, what do you prefer?
I don’t have a particular preference. There are contexts where it makes sense to work alone and likewise where a larger, more collaborative framework is neccessary.

9. Who or what has a lasting influence on your film/video making?
Guru Dutt, Satyajit Ray, David Lean, Sergei Parajanov, Federico Fellini, Paolo Pasolini, Wong Kar-wai, Michael Gondry, Ang Lee, Jan Svankmajer, Guillermo del Toro, Miyazaki, Akira Kurosawa… among many others, whose names i am forgetting right now.

10. What are your future plans or dreams as a film/video maker?
An absolute dream is to make a totally immersive cinematic experience using old and new techniques and technologies together. A telling of many tales, a contemporary Thousand and One Nights. This dream is in the making as we embark on ARL ( Artist Research Labs) and a new collaboration 360degrees, between artists from Britain India Pakistan, which will premiere in 2010.

360°is the programme of which 60×60 Secs is the first project.

Can works of yours viewed online besides on VideoChannel? Where?
List some links & resources