It’s nearly impossible to open a social media link today that is not somehow related to the topics of gender or race. With the progression of time, and wider avenues for expression in the interest of equality, modern media is often prompted towards the illumination of long-ignored issues. In modern society, the reality of invisible privilege remains ubiquitous. Within creative industries, we are seeing greater admonition towards these continuously reconstructed barriers, alighting a new perspective for “the creative” persona.
The director’s chair has long been a space predominantly subjugated by the male, the white, the “one percent.” Through his deconstruction of modern ideals of black masculinity, and a trailblazing confidence, filmmaker Iggy London is gradually subverting posed ideals existent within the structures of invisible privilege. A young director from London’s east end, Iggy is the creative mind behind short films “Black Boys Don’t Cry,” “Fatherhood,” and most recently, “Silk.”
On a foggy Sunday afternoon, Iggy and I sat to discuss the importance of truth and how his work is continuing to help shatter societal expectations.
Jessica Gianelli: What projects are you currently working on?
IggyLDN: I’m really excited about this project I’m working on, but I can’t speak about that because it’s up and coming, and in my mind; it’s all there in colours, and it’s almost like if I speak about it, then suddenly it´s concrete, that’s what it has to be, and I want it to have much more room to grow.
JG: Tell me about “Silk,” the most recent projects that you’ve worked on before this upcoming film – what would you say it’s about?
IggyLDN: I’ve been fascinated with jazz all my life. Jazz emulated a certain type of attitude, like this carefree persona. However, unfortunately, the use of social media and the modern age of music, and how the industries function, we’re not able to showcase that essence anymore—there’s no essence, there’s no sense of self. I feel that all of those things have been lost with social bravado, and social presence and social media in general. So “Silk” is basically a representation and celebration of the qualities of the 1960s through the lens of the 21st century, using the symbol of the man. It represents this man who is in love with the idea of himself, not in a vain or egotistical way, but more in a sure, and confident way, able to project the best symbol of himself.
JG: One of the things that initially drew me to your work was your vision of truth. What brought you to create films around these topics of truth and masculinity?
IggyLDN: I believe we do ourselves a disservice when we try to pack common themes into one box as opposed to showing that there are so different layers we can look at. When you realise there are so many layers, you’re doing a service to younger generations who will see this and say “I can emulate this,” “It’s ok for me to be this,” and will eventually end up reinforcing and reproducing erroneous ideals and concepts, very often about their very being and identity. My aim was to further the wider discussion around this. Unless we have more complex conversations, I think people are going to see these things as just trends and I don’t want it to be the case. That’s why I’m trying to build an unspoken narrative with my films.
JG: What have been the biggest challenges for you?
IggyLDN: My main challenge was knowing my own privilege. Recognising the privileges that I may or may not have and understanding that just because you’re a minority, or that you may have a better social position it’s important to understand one’s privilege and understand one’s capabilities. I don’t want to impose that there’s one idea of “black male.” I was very conscious about making sure that men in other categories were able to relate to what I was saying and make sure that my work could join us rather than separate.
It’s difficult to call yourself a director in the 21st century. There aren’t a lot of black directors. Making myself known as a director was a tricky thing because it took me a long time to recognise that I was actually able to do it. Very often young people feel like they are not worthy of their place, and struggle to believe there´s value to their work, and that´s a problem. I can be a director, I can be paid for what I want to do, and I feel like a lot of people don’t know their own potential and that’s what stops them from following their dreams. If they were told that they were able to do it, then they would try. It’s really important to have good role models in your upbringing. I had those people to tell me that I could be whatever I wanted to be, and without them I think I wouldn’t be where I am.
JG: In recognition of the struggles associated with putting across a specific message, are there any aesthetic challenges that you’ve faced in the execution of concepts within your films?
IggyLDN: In “Black Boys Don’t Cry,” for example, the colour blue was really important to me. Because I didn’t want to change the dynamic of manhood so that aesthetically, other people wouldn’t be able to see and relate to it. I could have had the blue background be pink, to try to subvert the ideas of masculinity, but I owed It to my audience for it to be a much more thought-out process. Using this colour, but subverting the content was really important to me
JG: Vulnerability seems to be a strong theme in your work. What would you consider to be the strongest link between all of your films?
IggyLDN: A lot of my themes relate to manhood, and often my work is a response to social media at the given time. You know, people say “Iggy London is making black men look vulnerable,” or “He is telling black men to be vulnerable.” I’m not telling anyone they need to be vulnerable, I’m saying that in your vulnerability you can showcase the different sides of yourself, and that vulnerability is a key component in representing yourself. In expressing these emotions, you can be fulfilled, you can facilitate the feminist movement, teach your children about who they are as people, as men, about what it means to feel, and unload and unpack your insecurities.
Basically, most of my projects are about trying to pick apart and speak about things in a truthful way as opposed to just reinforcing socially accepted truths and expectations. That´s also a mark of privilege – to expect your views to be confirmed. What if they´re not? How will you react when you´re proven wrong? It´s really important to give a truthful message regardless of what popular brands and platforms say. I’d rather have truth be said as opposed to people just following click-bait, stereotypical messages. And that’s basically what my work is all about.
Words and Cover Image: Jessica Gianelli