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Friday, June 20, 2008


Since forever ago, we've been hanging out with Chiara Clemente and Waris (the BF and a Hint regular), hearing bits of bobs about her first feature documentary, Our City Dreams, for which she followed the lives of five women artists—Nancy Spero, Marina Abromovic, Kiki Smith, Ghada Amer, Swoon—who call New York home. (Chiara has also been busy working with Richard Tuttle and Mario Sorrenti on a short film for the first W Art Issue.) Now we're happy to say the film is finally here, screening last week at Art Basel Switzerland. We spoke with the filmmaker herself...

Dorothea Jaffe, Waris and Chiara Clemente. Photo by Waris, jewelry by House of Waris

What's the funniest anecdote from making Our City Dreams?
There were a lot of memorable moments as I traveled around the world with these artists, but some of the funniest may be in Cairo with Ghada Amer. We wanted to film the magnificent pyramids of Giza and somehow found ourselves, my director of photography, the trainer and all of our equipment speeding across the desert on a camel, holding on for dear life. There was also the time my director of photography and I nearly got arrested for filming on the streets of Cairo. I am happy to report we did not see the inside of a prison during this shoot.

Have you known these artists your whole life? Were they your friends before they were your subjects?
My relationship with each artist was different. The film was inspired by my first visit to Ghada Amer's studio, where for several hours she opened up about her work and life to me. Kiki Smith I knew and always have loved her work. Swoon I had to track down. She's a street artist and not the easiest to find, so I put my best tracker, Waris, on the case. I really had to woo all the artists into letting me into their lives and spaces, and capturing it all on film.

Who was the easiest and who was the most challenging artist to document?
They all presented different challenges. Some took longer to warm up to me and let me in, others it was more immediate. Kiki's real name is Chiara, she has lots of curly hair and grew up with an artist father—all these connections always made me feel close to her.

Do you think you could have made the same film without your family's background in art?
I was brought up with art all around me: growing up in my father's studio, learning to walk around his paintings, my mother's feasts bringing together all their friends. It’s who I am and cannot separate the two. I have a great respect for someone trying to tell their story, and that's what I'm doing now, telling a story. The film is the story of a woman trying to make it as an artist in this great city of ours.

You spent a lot of time in India. Is that where you met the one-and-only Waris?
I spent time in India when I was a child, every year till I was seven. Funnily enough, I didn't meet Waris there. He's a Northern boy, I'm a Southern gal and it's a big country. We met in Rome while he was filming Life Aquatic.

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