Leo Asemota / EoTLA

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“I am a man measured in one sixteenth of an ounce.

What’s my name?”


And so it opens.


21 years ago I found myself in creative cahoots with Leo Asemota on ‘Spoonman’, the first of our many collaborations.


The film camera was Leo’s own. A Russian 16mm Krasnogorsk that was quite frankly terrifying. The actors flinched when it turned over, its coffee-grounder machinations so loud. It sounded like it was damaging the film, and it was.  Scratches are scarred all over the footage; ‘celluloid hairs’ weave nervously at the gate edges, having been shaved off by the clockwork mechanism’s hungry madness. And as each 20-second take wound down, the mechanism losing its will to live, the exposures would lengthen, flare and burn to white. These flashes remain throughout “Spoonman”, drowning its subjects in epiphanic light.


The average short film now looks pristine and clean by comparison. “Spoonman” was baked-in dirty. Eminently suited to the murky world of the heroin dependent it portrayed.

Spoonman

Work in focus

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The film revels in its formats. Granulated DV, course grained 16mm film, noisier still 8mm film and photographs all compete for narrative attention. Screens are layered within screens; frames push inward, noise, distortion and rolling frame bars. It’s a film as interested in its own telling as it is in any traditional narrative, in our addiction to the language of film. It begins with discord, both visual and aural, and then pulls back to a world of mixed colour temperatures, jump cuts and scene shifts...a willingly disruptive cacophony of mediums and imagery.


The film does not ask why or how “Spoonman” got there, or where he is going. He feeds his habit to the tune of ‘Over the Rainbow’ while we float off to watch a child take pleasure and sustenance from his mother’s nurturant “spoon”.  The mirrored ceremony and ritual that follows, of shooting up and Catholic communion, are still hypnotic. The lamb of God as heroin for the soul.


It ends confidently and without judgement, in a moment that might well have been the beginning of another film.


“I know my name, my name is Spoonman.”


A beautiful poem. Addictive stuff.


Brendan McGinty Cinematographer

Text © 2014

Revised 2020


London based cinematographer Brendan McGinty studied art, cinema and philosophy. His award winning work spans many genres including drama, commercials and documentary films. He is a creative partner in 16oz Studio, a highly regarded film and visual engineering facility in London.

On set

Photograph by Leo Asemota © 1999