Berlin In Focus: Meet Documentary Filmmaker & MA alumni, Mira Seisembayeva
With more technology and platforms at our fingertips, modern creatives have the ability to innovate like never before. MA Documentary & Factual graduate Mira Seisembayeva‘s work embodies such boundless potential – pinballing between different visual forms and mediums in search of something new.
Like many of her generation, Mira’s exact creative role is fluid. Whether she’s creating within the realms of moving image, stills photography or visual art, her projects are unified by an experimental, expressive and contemporary style – all gently exploring rather than defining. Beyond her independent work, she also collaborates as the Art Director and In-House Designer for the European music label, Artefax Movement.
We caught up with Mira to discuss the motivations and curiosities behind the art that she makes…
What attracted you to study for your Masters in Berlin?
After finishing my BA in London I had to go back home to Kazakhstan for a gap year because it was hard to stay there and find a sponsored job as an International person. When applying for a Masters I wanted to go back to Europe, but also to experience and live somewhere new. Berlin seemed like a good alternative with a good film school that taught in English. Another point that was very important to me is the immigration process: how easy is it to get employed and get a visa after your studies. Germany happened to have better Immigration Policies with more opportunities offered for International students.
How would you describe the city’s cultural scene and where do you like to spend your time?
I had to stop and think about this question for a moment here – it has been a while since I experienced any kind of culture (hello 5 months of lockdown). What I know from the good old days is that Berlin has amazing art and music scenes. That’s what I miss the most: going to a museum or a gallery, watching a film in the cinema, experiencing an Audio-Visual show or sitting at a concert. Off the top of my head, my favourite places to go are Gropius Bau and Berliner Philharmoniker.
Having previously studied fashion photography, what motivated you to pursue documentary filmmaking?
During my second year of studying BA Fashion Photography, we had a two-week documentary filmmaking workshop, after which I fell in love with the craft. I was so intrigued by the realism and the actuality of storytelling, of the way documentary filmmaking worked and was made, of the power you possessed as a filmmaker during montage and editing to tell people’s stories. I wanted to expand my knowledge. That’s why, in my final year of uni, I wrote a dissertation and did my first documentary film as my Diploma Project.
As someone who creates within various mediums, how do you decide which form to use for a project?
I think it really depends on the project and its concept. I am very fond of different mediums and especially intersecting them together. I did a documentary film where I told other people’s stories and it was important for me to show them as they are: in movement, talking, breathing – as real as they could be. Sometimes, when I do portraits or take still photos – I just want to stop the moment in time and remember the ‘everyday’.
Mira’s first documentary Almaty – about her hometown of Almaty, Kazakhstan and the post-Soviet millennial generation of people that live in it.
How would you describe your work and what interests you creatively?
The topics of Place, Identity and Representations are very important in my work. I tend to explore the subjects rather than to find definitive answers or leanings. I like to tell people’s stories, observe life as it is or look into my own personal experiences and express them through art.
Last year you shared IRL v Online – an inventive, honest and personal short documentary. What was the process for putting it together and what do you hope viewers take away from it?
I did this short doc as part of one of the modules during my MA called ‘Passion and Obsession’. I wanted to explore Social Media Beauty Obsession with Face Filters and Editing Apps. After an extended research process, I started exploring it through a very personal lens and how Beauty Standards affected and influenced my life and ideas of beauty. I wanted the final film to be very personal yet very experimental, hence the format of the film being only the screen recording of my phone and laptop.
I didn’t want the viewers to particularly take away anything from my film – I just wanted to tell my honest story in hopes that people will connect to it and know they’re not the only ones who feel like that.
Mira’s latest documentary IRL v Online explores the topic of Digital Beauty Obsession and its influence on the director’s life.
Tell us about your work with Artefax Movement – what’s it about and how did you get involved?
Artefax Movement is an electronic music label and a collective of five people, based in Berlin, Utrecht and Brussels. We believe in arts as a medium for change and means of communication, and our main focus is not only on the sound but also on the visual experience. I joined Artefax in 2017 in London, where I met the guys. I first started doing Visual Installations for the events, then moved on to doing Artworks and eventually became a full member and an Art Director.
Finally, what are you excited to be able to do again once lockdown restrictions have eased?
I am excited to travel. The first destination is my home (Almaty, Kazakhstan). Haven’t been there since August 2019. I can’t wait to see my family and friends again 🙂
Read our Berlin In Focus interview with Director and MA alumni, Dean Marriott here.