You know when you stare at the sun for too long and your eyes turn everything dark around you? That’s the feeling that pervades Dawn in Luxor, Kahlil Joseph’s new short for KENZO, which falls alongside their Spring/Summer 2014 collection. The LA-based filmmaker is known for the “fragmentary, paradoxical and beautiful” lens he casts over the world he captures, and all three adjectives are at work here.
The film focuses on several disjointed, otherworldly scenes in Luxor; a young boy watching pensively over a beached dolphin on the sand, a dancer swathed in sequins in a ballroom performing a disarming routine, a beautiful woman looking majestically over the side of a cliff. But, disjointed though it may seem, it’d be foolish to assume that Dawn in Luxor is composed of a series of beautiful but meaningless situations. With both Carol Lim and Humberto Leon based in California, they dedicated their Spring Summer 2014 show to the cause of overfishing; a slogan T-shirt that reads “no fish, no nothing” being one one of many references among the clothes. The film’s scene, in which a man orders fish in a Jamaican restaurant to find that there are none, is a poignant and effective hark back to their cause.
It’s a weighty one, but Kahlil balances it with an atmosphere that’s almost mythical; the film feels tropical and rich without being too far removed from our reality to be identifiable, and scattered with a fantasy that seldom works as effectively as it does here. The fact that this is all wound together so successfully into a film that’s scarcely four minutes long is a testament to the filmmaker’s talent.