‘Saudade da Gaia’ is a new collaborative short film featuring the music of Joep Beving, poetry by Liza Boston, and imagery of the mysterious, abandoned Soviet town of Pyramiden – beautifully captured by photographer and director Jonathan May.
ZoneOut’s Paul Dougherty spoke with Joep Beving, and Liza Boston and Jonathan May of Wolf Tide Films to learn more about how this incredible international collaboration came to be, and how life in the isolated town of Pyramiden mirror’s own lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Joep, how did you come to find yourself working with two Australians on a short film shot on the arctic Norwegian island of Svalbard?
Joep Beving: Simple. I just had to fly to Melbourne and play a gig, and meet Liza Boston.
Liza just hit me with this ray of incredible energy. And I was like, “I don’t know what to say at this point, except that I want to hear more”. We went back to the hotel and she showed me the video in the making, and it made me cry.
I’ve been trying to make clear what my last album was about, the spiritual aspects. That’s difficult to put to visuals, but this was just spot on.
Jonathan, you had already figured out that Joep’s music would compliment the visuals you had captured at Pyramiden while you and Liza were in Svalbard for the Arctic Film Festival.
Jonathan May: One of the best things about being in Pyramiden was that it was completely isolated and cut off from society. I had downloaded some music prior to going on Spotify because I knew I was going to be over there for some time, and music is a huge inspiration. I downloaded three of Joep’s albums. It’s pretty much been on high rotation for me.
I was over there, wandering around, listening to music, and shooting. It gave me goosebumps.
Liza Boston: Arriving in Pyramiden is like ripping out a part of your imagination. I just recently lost my little sister, and it was kind of a metaphysical representation of what was happening inside of my heart.
It was this grand place – there were ballrooms, big cultural spaces and swimming pools. You could see that life there was once so rich. And then one day people left, and it was destroyed. For me it represented losing someone that you love.
I can’t describe listening to Joep’s music and having these feelings of love and loss. It’s just so powerful.
So I went to meet Joep in Melbourne, I lined up. I thought, “I don’t care what it takes!”. I think I bought one of every piece of merch just to prove that I was serious about this conversation. I said, “Last time I listened to this song, I was chased down by polar bears.” And Joep was like, “What?!”.
The international set of circumstances that had to conspire for this film to exist is incredible. From Melbourne, to the Netherlands, to Svalbard. And somehow, here you all are.
Liza Boston: It took us three and a half days to get to Pyramiden from the south coast of Australia. So, I think it’s just magic. As an artist we’re channeling something bigger than us, something that brings us together.
REMOTE CORNERS OF THE WORLD
Why do you think we’re so fascinated by remote places?
Liza Boston: There’s something about being on the fringe. Pyramiden was the purest expression of communism anywhere in the world. They made 5,000 meals a day, they all shared, they all lived in the same kinds of quarters.
The people that still live there have a totally different perspective on the world. When we arrived in Pyramiden I thought, “You guys are the Russian baddies from the films I’ve watched!”.
But then in trying to crack inside the mindset of people living in a place like Pyramiden you learn a lot about what it is to be human in a different part of the world. Which I think evolves our understanding of each other.
If you could pick a remote island to live, where would you choose?
Joep Beving: Actually, Mark, my manager traveled to Tasmania when I traveled back home after my concert in Adelaide this year, and he started sending me pictures of land and houses that I could buy.
He was like, “Dude, you got to buy a place here. When the shit hits the fan, this is the place where you want to be with your family, bring your parents!”
We’re all experiencing some level of isolation now due to COVID. How has that impacted your day-to-day lives?
Joep Beving: The first phase was one of joy and bliss. There’s no alternative but to push the pause button. So, that makes for a very, very relaxed state. Everybody’s paused, so we’re not missing anything.
That was the first phase. The second phase is being very scared about how people are reacting to it. And I’m seeing an uprise of fear and fascism, and polarization due to panic. But also deprivation – people actually suffering from losing their jobs.
So, that’s impacted me a whole lot in the sense that I feel more fear, and I haven’t had fear in my body for a long time. That’s the phase I’m going through at the moment, and I have to reinvent myself in my art as well, which is good.
Johnathan May: Very similar to Joep. I think my day-to-day life hasn’t changed too much because I work as a creative, a photographer and director. I work on large jobs – I’ll be away for a week, and then I’ll come home and I might not work for a while.
So, day-to-day it hasn’t been too disruptive. But similar to Joep’s experience, the initial phase was amazing. I was learning piano, doing water-colors with Liza, and taking a writing course. There were so many different creative outlets that I never really had the time for. And I’ve always struggled with time in general, feeling like I never have enough time.
Liza Boston: There’s no better time to create. And it’s a matter of life or death now – to continue to create art, and to continue to write, and to make music, and to make films. We have to remake the future.
Follow Joep Beving at joepbeving.com
Follow Wolf Tide Films at wolftidefilms.com