Director Jade Ang Jackman creates action film-inspired shorts about women in sport
“Through my films I can guarantee at least two of the following: hostile women, movement, fighting, or a decent dose of Ferrari red,” says the London-based director.
- 9 May 2023
- Olivia Hingley
Like many people over the pandemic, Jade Ang Jackman caught the running bug. Blasting the Matrix soundtrack in her headphones, or some other “suitably overwhelming sonic experience”, she would run seven or eight miles at night; it was a liberating and exhilarating reconnection with physical exercise. While she’d been a swimmer and ran cross country as a child, the director explains that she’d since “become a bit disassociated from the sports benefit aside from a way to lose weight”. It was around this time that Jade also became aware of a fact that changed her outlook entirely: in 2019, only four percent of sports media centred on female athletes. No wonder, Jade realised, that like her so many young women fell out of love with sports. From this point on, she set herself on using her craft to shed light on exceptional female sports women.
Later, Jade met Ayesha Hussian, a stuntwoman and weapons performer who she fast became friends with. From her she learnt about her journey into martial arts and becoming an athlete. While plans to make a film about Ayesha never materialised, Jade learnt so much from her like “how many rich stories relating to movement were lacking by marginalising women’s voices”. This led to Jade collaborating with world champion fencer Ysaora Thibus, and working on a Chanel 4 x Gay Times documentary about queer representation in boxing.
Luckily, Jade’s aesthetics very much align with her interest in sports. “I love anything fast and a bit chaotic,” she says. “Rapid cuts, the violent ballet of crafting fight sequences – that technique draws me to shooting movement.” Jade also finds herself inspired by legends of the action film genre like Michelle Yeoh and Donnie Yen. The action genre is similarly a place where female representation lacks, with Jade highlighting how in 2019 only 28 per cent of speaking roles belong to women and girls. Currently, Jade is working on a feature length film that involves facets of the action genre; a project that arose after the success of her period drama action short Young Hot Bloods, which was executively produced by Sir Steve McQueen and funded by Canon.
Jade’s journey into directing wasn’t exactly straightforward. She studied Law at university with the understanding that she would later go to the criminal bar. It was after seeing a short film directed by Asif Kapadia of Yassin Bey (formerly Mos Def) being force fed that Jade felt herself drawn to the art of filmmaking. Created as a means of drawing attention to the act of force feeding taking place in Guantanamo Bay, Jade was “stunned by the rawness and vulnerability” of the film. “At the time I was doing a lot of work to do with prison, and questioning what constitutes proportionate punishment in a society structured unequally, and that short film said so much more than I could.” Now, Jade legal roots continue to influence her film work. Her debut short is inspired by suffragettes learning jiu-jitsu in 1910 and coming head-to-head with secret police, while her developing feature centres on a female protagonist fighting against draconian legal loopholes in a dystopian future reality.
Last year, Jade worked on the film Speed of Sound, a film centring on Carina Edlinger, a Paralymic cross-country skier who lost most of her sight when she was 12 years old, and now registered blind with only two per cent vision. The film came after a grant from Aesthetica Film Festival and Audible grant called The Listening Pitch, which aims to tell stories about sound in new ways. With this brief in mind, Jade began researching and soon stumbled upon Carina’s story after reading an article about her gold win at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. Reaching out to Carina, they shared a “crazy 5am phone call” after which Jade “basically got obsessed with her”. Being an adrenaline junky, Carine told Jade that because her loss of vision meant she couldn’t drive, she chose to ski at 80kmph instead. “She is truly fearless and it was important for the film to reflect that energy too,” Jade states.
The film is a feast for the senses. Visually, Jade applies her trademark fast-paced style with rapid cuts from one scene to the next, all executed with a smoothness that somehow replicates the act of skiing. But naturally, the excellence of the film is in its sound. Not only was it a by-part of the brief, but Carina uses her heightened hearing to direct and guide her when skiing, listening for changes in the composition of snow, thus dictating her technique. For the audio element, Jade collaborated with Rob Taliesen Owen, who’s not only a “sonic wizard” sound designer, but her kickboxing coach too. To really capture the sound of Carina skiing, Rob covered Carina in microphones from head to toe, and physically chased after her to capture every sound. “Carina told us that she was super glad we didn’t use the recordings of people as she can tell from the sound they aren’t as smooth or fast at skiing as her!” Jade recalls.
Jade Ang Jackman: Speed of Sound (Copyright © Jade Ang Jackman, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.