The Winner’s Circle

As promised, we’re going to spotlight the creative efforts from our last three Barclay Award winners (there was a tie in June, hence two winners) and isolate some of the singular elements that contributed to their victories.

Director: Roma Kong
Artist: Lady Gaga
Song: “Bloody Mary”
Category: Narrative

It’s not always necessary to make a spectacle, but here director Roma Kong successfully crafts a big-budget blockbuster that cunningly combines costumed pageantry with a horror movie sensibility.

The madhouse setting is reminiscent of the Peter Weiss play, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. Like its thematic predecessor, the narrative illustrates the fundamental divide between the idea of helping or “rehabilitating” humanity versus simply exploiting our suffering for the entertainment of others.

The presence of a Jesus and a Mary Magdalene embodies the conflict of divine aspirations with all-too-human desires, and the result is madness, apparently. The burden of creating art and images that stand on their own is simply too much for ordinary mortals. A once noble vision is transformed into something grotesque, a horrific symbol of our inability to grasp what’s truly important.

Director: Román Reyes
Artist: Oh Wonder
Song: “Technicolour Beat”
Category: Performance

Now this is a performance video, perhaps the best we’ve seen. Román Reyes takes a very different approach to storytelling and boils it all down to the artful positioning of dancer Nora Peinador in a number of shimmering tableaux—and it succeeds brilliantly.

We often bandy the term “commitment” when reviewing our videos and here is a sterling case in point. The subtle movements of Ms. Peinador are in stark contrast to King’s Freak Show cabaret, but no less expressive, as each gesture is delivered from the soul, and carries myriad meanings.

In the hands of artists like Reyes and Peinador, we get dozens of stories for the price of one. By turns hypnotic, sensual, and heartbreaking, “Technicolor Beat” is a seamless, moving objet d’art that requires neither context nor wardrobe.

Producer: Miguel Angel
Artist: Brockhampton
Song: “Sister/Nation”
Category: Narrative

Thanks to the magic of algorithms, TikiKiti attracts a whopping number of international student videos, most of which are meditations on the mundane aspects of adolescent existence.

I personally have watched several dozen short films that include scenes of students waking up, brushing their teeth, and gathering their backpacks for school.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with verisimilitude. After all, we tell what we know, right? But you have to ask yourself at some point in the process: is this a story worth telling? Does my ambivalence about reality transcend the form and actually resonate on some level?

Director Miguel Angel pulls off a rare feat by ingeniously parodying the typical student video of kids goofing their way through some badass hip-hop tune to mostly comic effect. This is just the setup before the rug gets yanked out from under us.

Angel, whose man-crush on director Quentin Tarantino is apparent from the opening credits, ramps up the danger level significantly and soon we’re not sure what we’re watching. Our silly teen protagonists have gone for a joyride and seemingly gotten themselves into a world of grownup trouble, where actions have consequences.

Angel and his actors have provided us with an apt metaphor for onset adulthood, one filtered through a cinematic filter. It’s a time when life transitions from a teen comedy into a gritty action flick.


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