- 01 Dec 23
In the wake of violent riots in Ireland's capital this month, Irish-Zambian artist Denise Chaila has teamed up with filmmaker Brian Cross aka B+ to make their 2021 collaborative short film Energy: A Visual Mixtape available online.
In response to violent far-right clashes in the city centre this month, November 23rd, rapper, singer-songwriter and poet Denise Chaila, has made her short film Energy: A Visual Mixtape — a collaborative project with Irish filmmaker and photographer Brian Cross (B+) — available online.
A short film co-written and co-directed by Denise Chaila and B+, Energy is a visual essay, one the pair has often described between themselves as a “trust-fall" ; meaning complete surrender to the process of expressing truths neither of them had definitively spoken aloud.
An uncompromising evocation of their shared home of Limerick, the film assembles a constellation of ideas and interests shared between the two prolific artists; eulogising local spaces such as the Ardnacrusha Power Station, Mount Trenchard House, and the People's Park through a montage blend of archival and contemporary footage.
Powerfully marrying diasporan histories, racial discrimination, political ideologies, film and music, Energy was critically lauded upon its 2021 release, seeing inclusions in several film festivals, including a month-long screening at Ormston House in Limerick.
"Energy was ‘written’ as a love letter for everyone who understands the words of Amhráin na Bfhiann," Denise wrote of the movie. "For laundries and loneliness, anti-sodomy laws and repeals. Anti-immigration laws and waking up to find a brick in your living room window. For girls from villages who have lost their birth languages and are learning to be proud of their parents’ determination. For independence days and free states and the mess in-between. For women who are ‘troubled’ and trouble the world when they talk back. For men who are ‘soft’ and trouble the world when they talk back. For people with PHDs driving taxis because they’re ‘overqualified’ and the crushing defeat of trying to create a home away from your birthplace, knowing that now you risk being rejected by both."
Having photographed album covers for the legendary likes of Mos Def, Thundercat, Madlib, and Eazy-E, filmmaker Brian Cross studied painting at Dublin's National College of Art and Design, before leaving to study photography at California Institute of the Arts in 1990.
Cross was also the director of photography for the Academy Award–nominated documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, and has directed several feature-length documentaries (Keepintime, Brasilintime, Timeless: The Composer Arranger Series), as well as hundreds of short form music videos. Brian is currently working on a film about The Supremes on Tour in Ireland in 1981 — also set to star Chaila — and is an Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California. Energy, now available online for the very first time, marks Chaila's debut film.
"It would be wrong to say I ‘made’ a film with Brian," Denise reflects. "I submitted myself to be unmade by my own honesty. Writing the film broke my life, relationships, music and identity open. Every decision I’ve made since; pausing to assess myself, walking away from Narolane to embark on a solo career, traveling, resting, writing poetry again— all of it has been a pilgrimage. A recommitment to my sovereignty over myself in a world (and an industry) that has too often asked me for my silence or my submission."
"This film ‘made’ me. It’s still working on me, actually," Chaila continues. "In many ways I wouldn't say I’m ready to share it, but I have grown enough to understand that art and risk aren’t strangers. Apocalypse or revolution or metamorphosis. It’s ok."
"I might spend my whole life trying to break my ‘weird’ accent, cornrows and fascination with magic outside of the trócaire boxes and charity appeals my early years here stuffed my childhood into, but if that’s what it takes so be it," Chaila adds. "I'm an Irish woman. I know very well that dirty laundries don’t stay hidden. Wash-day is a long process."
"And I am tired, but my energy still cannot be taken..."
Watch Denise Chaila and Brian Cross' short film Energy: A Visual Mixtape below: