Celebrating human flourishing through film
I caught up with filmmaker Lee Gray to talk about his latest work.
The name of the film – εὐδαιμονία – translates as bliss?
The literal translation is bliss, though ‘Human Flourishing’ has been preferred as being a more truthful translation.
I liked the idea of flourishing – it has connotations with waves, large gestures, and change. There’s something about the description that I felt defined a feeling I’d get sometimes, a feeling of being homesick in a place that you’ve always known as home, if that makes sense.
You’ve described this film as partly being a response to the UK’s decision to leave the EU. Do you think we’re going to see a lot of artists trying to find a creative response to the changing landscapes of a post-Brexit world?
When making this film, I was studying at the RCA at the School of Communication and there was a great swell in responding to Brexit. Artists, for years, have been taking pain and turning it into art, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the events or effects roped in with Brexit stir in artists a need to respond.
Why is freedom of movement such an important concept for you?
I had quite a peripatetic childhood, where we moved around a lot – even the house I was born into had a rail track close to my bedroom window, which I often would marvel at when trains wooshed by at night – I love trains! So, travel or the idea of transporting from one place to another, has always been a state where I seem to think or process things differently.
The relationship between restriction and freedom of movement has always been a space I felt safe in – I loved being on the motorway, I’d always feel as though I became invisible, and as long as I kept moving I was untouchable.
Growing up in the North of England and being a closet gay was tricky, so I think the relationship between movement brought in some way a sort of temporary bliss.
Great works have been forged in restrictive conditions – Michelangelo and The Sistine Chapel, for example, as mentioned in the film. Ultimately, it’s the momentary flushes of freedom which bring about moments of clarity and possibility.
Why have you chosen to feature and collaborate with the four artists you’ve included in your film?
All four artists come together to form film practice. Ken – a writer, Jon – sound artist, Jenny – videographer, Rathna – designer. I was taught by all four tutors at the RCA when I was doing my MA.
There was a longstanding tradition there which has since vanished where you would give a piece of your work to the College after graduating. The point is that you are putting something back into art education. I wanted to work with those artists to do the same.
What was your creative and production process for the film?
I interviewed each person on their own for around two hours. I’ve always enjoyed getting into someone’s world, so for me this was a very interesting stage.
After each discussion, I’d walk home and replay the tape on my headphones.
I then sat down and started putting together everyone’s dialogue.
The new version emerged as a hybrid between a recorded lecture and an audio-book. Which, after packing some clothes and a stripped camera and recording kit into a camping rucksack, I listened to and began my journey in response.
How can people see the film?
The film has literally just been sent off for festivals, which I’ve been entering here there and everywhere – which fits with the ethos of the film.
Lift-off Festival will be showing it online on 18 March for a week, then after that, who knows were it could be.
What do you hope that people feel when they’re watching εὐδαιμονία?
I hope that people coming away from the film will feel more engaged with their own boundaries and a sense of how these can be changed.