The term multidisciplinary seems to have been coined to describe Nelly Ben Hayoun, whose creative practice is impossible to pigeon-hole. A experience designer, educator and director, among many things, the latest string to her bow is a record deal with The Vinyl Factory.
She’s not moving into music (yet) but instead, the full audio of her feature length documentary I am (not) a monster, premiering at the BFI London Film Festival, has been recorded on vinyl to be released in tandem with the film. This pioneering collaboration with The Vinyl Factory could open up a new form of experimental content that Nelly thinks could intertwine the film and music industries in a more supportive relationship.
The film, Nelly explains to It’s Nice That, is about “hunting for the origin of knowledge, and hence the origin of thinking. It’s a platform for pluralistic thinking in an increasingly polarised society, not just black and white perspectives but multiple perspectives on culture and ideas”.
Her research took her around the world, interviewing well-known activists such as Noam Chomsky, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova, robot maker Hiroshi Ishiguro, cyborg artist Neil Harbisson, Noh Theatre master Hisa Uzawa, and Lord Mayor of Sheffield Magid Magid, about “what thinking means at this point in time,” she continues. In true Nelly fashion, the film is far from a straight-up interview format, but instead sees the designer dressed up as German philosopher Hannah Arendt (who coined the concept of the “banality of evil”) and armed with puppets.
“At the moment, authoritarian views and ideologies are coming back to the fore. You’re either pro or anti Brexit, pro or anti Trump. You’re a monster either way. We need to practice pluralistic thinking, we need to all be sitting at the same table discussing these things.” The film is “controversial,” she says, “but urgent”.
I am (not) a monster is premiering on 10 October, already nominated for the Grierson Award for Best Documentary, and on the same date The Vinyl Factory will release the film’s full audio on vinyl with hand-drawn artwork by Nelly. People can either buy the vinyl and listen to it like a long-form podcast, or go to see the film and get the vinyl for free when they leave the screening. It also features extra interviews and bonus content from the movie.
“It’s a whole new distribution model for filmmakers,” Nelly says, “and it means the film and music industries can support each other in making independent content. At the moment, you can’t get funding for a film unless you know exactly what audience you’re targeting. It’s a colonial, hierarchical way of thinking. We need to rethink the industry from scratch. This idea brings film and vinyl audiences together.”
Watch the trailer for I am (not) a monster below.