Swimming dreamily through beautifully ordinary footage of south London suburbia and Sierra Leone elevated by moments of cinematic surrealism, director Kahlil Joseph’s film Process says so much about Sampha without saying much at all. That is, dialogue is sparse, even musical performances take up just a small portion of the film, but instead Process tells a visual story, sewing together a filmic portrait of the musician.
The film begins and ends in Freetown Sierra Leone, where the musician’s parents came from, and features snippets of interviews with his family there and in Morden, London, that give a subtle glimpse into his personal life. He is also shown singing to empty venues, including a Morden bandstand from the singer’s childhood, and the Globe Theatre, Freetown. Process is described as a “love letter” to Sampha’s mother – who died in 2015 – and features a highly moving performance of (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano, an ode to her.
Interspersed with the documentary elements are more conceptual scenes: an empty swimming pool at Freetown’s National Siaka Steven Stadium occupied by a troupe of perfectly still dancers who slowly come to life throughout the film; and a woman in a spinning cocoon, seemingly travelling through time and dimensions.
The whole film constantly jumps from the past to the present to the imagined, but seamlessly and with a hazy, dreamlike quality. It is described by the team as “at once broad and specific… suggesting the greater power and magic of one’s soul and the closeness of one’s ancestors once those relationships are acknowledged”.
Over half an hour, the film seems to delve into Sampha’s mind, presenting his memories and creative muses in an enchanting patchwork.
Process is out today on Apple Music with Young Turks, produced by Pulse Films and Gamma Wave Films.
Watch a short clip below.
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