If you’re yet to see Romain Gavras’ video for Jamie XX’s ‘Gosh’, try to imagine what you think a dystopian Paris, populated by tracksuit adorned Chinese school children and albino gangs in Subaru’s would look like.
How did your imagination match up to reality? Romain Gavras is one of the only directors of today who could pull off such a dramatic and visually compelling music video. The true mastery of his work is in the contextual meanings hidden behind the big budget stunts and impressive scenery. The location for the video is Tianducheng, China. This, however, is not your typical Chinese city, Tianducheng is an empty, ghost-town replica of Paris, featuring its own Champs-Élysées and Eiffel Tower.
With talk in the media turning to acculturation practices more and more, it begs the question – is stealing an entire city’s design cultural appropriation? Romain, who is originally from (real) Paris thought the location asked more questions than it answered, “Everyone is talking about cultural appropriation and I was like, ‘That thing is the most insane fucking cultural appropriation.’ It’s almost like you don’t put it on a moral level – it’s not Iggy Azalea singing like a black woman, it’s fucking insane. It’s like a cultural appropriation vortex.”
“Most of the time I felt like I was on acid, basically, you walk out on the street and you’re in fake Paris and you have Chinese kids saying hello. The whole thing is very fucking meta, very weird, and very confusing.”
The music video starts off in a familiar environment to most young people, the nightclub. Nightclubs are hives of social trends and cultural hotspots the world over, and this one is no different. Rather than sitting chatting and dancing, the club is mainly populated by people in VR headsets, having a virtual time rather than living in the moment. Is this a taste of the future? Or a warning about a world we’re heading towards. It’s never an easy task to try to predict what the future looks like, but now as we see technological innovations 2/3 years in advance of their release, people such as Gavras can see where we’re heading.
The new behind the scenes video directed by Kim Chapiron shows the true scale of production for the video. Backstage with the 400 Chinese school children gives us a glimpse into what the kids got up to on set, sneaking off for a crafty cigarette, swearing at the camera, and generally doing what kids do best. The mass hair bleaching session is a personal highlight, along with the military style rehearsals. No CGI or 3D effects were used for the video, as you can see from the behind the scenes film the incredible camera angles are down to skilled drone work.
When Gavras was asked about whether he considered his videos to be political, “Yeah. Again, I think everything is fucking political. Everything is political because it pushes a view on culture. But I play with stuff that is more symbolically political, I guess.”
The main character is an albino black man, it was created by a Greek director for a song by a British producer, and was shot in a French town in the middle of rural China. This is acculturation gone mad and I love it.