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Dirty Innocence

by Brandon Edmonds / 17.03.2010

Claire Angelique is the winner of the 2009 Standard Bank Young Artist Award. Her film My Black Little Heart was partly produced by Lars Von Trier. It was shot by the guy who shot Slumdog Millionaire. A fitfully original and disarming film-maker who deserves your attention, her new film Palace of Bone will be out later this year. Her journals The Last Initiation are out now in all good bookstores.

Hey Claire, okay so here are my questions. The first one is the hardest.

Mahala: There’s a terrible turning away from popular concerns in film. The era of ‘social drama’ or social protest cinema (reaching a peak in the 70s with the political thrillers of Costa-Gavras and the pointed moral tales of Fassbinder and Chabrol, and something like Sidney Lumet’s incredible Dog Day Afternoon) seems to be a trail long gone cold. The concerns and fads of adolescence hold sway today. From Harry Potter to the Twilight series. Or else its all about mass-affect techno-fetish blockbusters (Transformers, Avatar) that are driven by little more than profit. Are you concerned, as a young film-maker, with engaging social reality? Particularly the South African present, with its chronic inequality and elite indifference to suffering? Or does your own biography, riven as it is with addiction and ‘bad choices’ – tend to loom large? Are you in danger of a narcissistic dead-end?

Claire Angelique: I’m no narcissist. And I still can’t always tell my ‘bad choices’ from my good ones. But yeah we all have a dead end fortunately and before mine, whilst I’m still young enough to make films about young people living in south africa, all suffering in their own way I guess, I will. I’m not afraid of engaging social reality – I’m scared of not embracing it. I think the most powerful stories are personal ones, they’re also by default the most political. We all judge each other and in a sense when you’re writing and making a film you are passing a series of judgements, without them the fictional film becomes a documentary. I don’t think south African film makers will be so gloriously documented as the 70s sub culture (the so-called American New wave) you refer to, the industry is far too mediocre, the powers that hold the money are a bunch of capitalist wankers who have no understanding of the relevance of film as an art form, and shoot you down before you’ve even had a chance to stand up.

Quite frankly the only way forward for film makers is to make films
with no budgets, saturate the industry, break into the castle and cut the heads off the morons that laud their despicably hypocritical agenda over anyone who treads off the footpath…

Actually I’ve also forgotten what the question is, and I can’t be bothered to read it all again as I have to go help my mom make dinner, oh yeah, my question to myself is: do you care enough to carry on, that’s a question I’m still answering, its all new romantic and stuff.

Mahala: I also forgot what the question was. A Christian woman I know walked out of your film ‘My Black Little Heart‘. The foetus burial scene was too much for her. I think its sad she walked out. Pathetic, really. Do have anything to say to her?

CA: I don’t know why people bother to come see films if they walk out of them. Kind of defeats the point really!

Claire Angelique

Mahala: I’ll let her know. You certainly light up a room. Where does
this blazing self-regard come from? It seems at odds with your self-destructive tendencies, or do they require each other?

CA: When I was in rehab, the last, I mean the third no the fourth time, the councillor told me I had a lot of demons to deal with. It was then I knew I was up to being a film maker because you sure need to be a soldier to fight those dirty scoundrels who want to bring you down and choke the life out of your stories. I’d sooner do business with a drug dealer than with some of those financing devils, at least the man on the corner brings some temporary relief – the suits just steal your dreams…

Mahala: I’m not sure what the fuck I mean by this but where, for you, is the line between self-promotion and self-enjoyment?

CA: It’s normally in my sock or the little front pocket of my jeans
wrapped in plastic…

Mahala: Ouch! Do artists have to ‘sell themselves’ or can you conceive of a social or political system that respects artists?

CA: Of course artists have to sell themselves, we’re all a bunch of whores and I don’t know any or if there ever will be a system where artists have been respected. From Wilde being imprisoned, to ear cutting and copious opium use, art and the system are at complete odds. You have to be willing to put on your balaclava, throw a petrol bomb and take to the streets.

Mahala: Settle down now. What compromises have you had to make (personally, in terms of your own principles) to get your work made and distributed?

CA: None, I don’t compromise, much to my detriment

Mahala: Has the Standard Bank Young Artist Award helped? What
role do banks have in the arts?

CA: The standard bank award has been lovely, thanks to some phenomenal supporters out there who have taken me under their wing and make sure I have something to feel proud about even when I crash all my cars. ‘The best lack all conviction’ don’t they? Banks have a huge role to play in the arts, but their service fees are ridiculous!

Mahala: Tell us about Palace of Bone.

CA: Its about found cell phone footage of a group of mismatched down and out characters around Albert Park in Durban – Fender Bender, Katapilla, Po, Shazi, Jackie the Chan and Tito’s lives get mixed into a series of vignettes that sometimes don’t always make sense, kind of like morning afters.

Mahala: Tell us why My Black Little Heart hasn’t found a global audience, despite its quality?

CA: Lies, deceipt and treachery amongst squablling producers and sales agents.

Mahala: Now that sounds like a movie! The Last Initiation is a great title. Very Georges Bataille. Why publish your journals? Shouldn’t artists edit themselves in private? Shouldn’t certain doors be closed to the public?

CA: Oshen, this wonderful guy I met in Jhb, told me I looked like Bob Dylan. We both shared a love of beat literature and he had read my blog and owned a publishing company. We grew fond of each other, drank a bit in airplane bars, and he offered me lots of money to publish. So I am. He’s also a very uncompromising individual and wanted to treat the journals as purely as they were written. They were written with a dirty innocence and I generally don’t segregate what is my ‘art’ and my life, they’re too closely intertwined, they feed off each other the little fuckers, leechy bastards. They’ll suck me dry one day, I tell you, mark my words, no actually don’t just buy the book and read them.

Mahala: Will do. You have a very generous approach to your own expressiveness – a kind of over-production? Your blog is a remarkable tissue of rants in chunks of stream of consciousness. Is there a feminist tilt to the flood of your expressiveness? A sense of talking out loud no matter what men think? Do you want to over-run all kinds of boundaries?

CA: My aunt and my parents read my blog and didn’t speak to me for like 2 months! I had to pretend it was all fiction, but I think they know better. Anyway, I make a killer risotto, so all’s forgiven. My dad just doesn’t understand why I’m a crack whore in all my films! He’s wrong (this time) because in my new film, ‘Palace of Bone‘, I play a dealer, selling celluloid dreams, analog or digital they’re both fashionable at the moment. Anyway, he’s lucky I’m not a fundamentalist, and declare jihad on all middle aged white men! Then shave my hair off and do the fandangle…

Mahala: Yikes! What ‘artistic rules’ do you live by when writing? What other screenwriters have you felt close to?

CA: Writing is just really easy for me. I’ve always been able to do two things, read and write…oh and dance, I’m good – well I was kind of a good dancer. I write by experience, and I feel closer to photographers, musicians and poets than I do screenwriters.

Mahala: We’re in the final stretch now (I know you’re neck-deep in pre-production). Has District 9 shown the way forward to a popular interesting South African cinema?

CA: Um, no!

Mahala: Fok! Do you have a future in this country?

CA: Do I have a future? Yes, yes I do whether it is in this country or not, I’ll always tell South African stories, its in my blood whether they like it or not.

Claire Angelique

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RESPONSES (41)
  1. Touched says:

    Has Brandon Edmonds just fallen in love?

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  2. Anonymous says:

    “break into the castle and cut the heads off the morons that laud their despicably hypocritical agenda over anyone who treads off the footpath…”

    Claire, I think I love you.

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  3. Pookie says:

    Where can i see her first film? Im in Cpt

    Dvd, cinema?

    Please advise

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  4. sabrine says:

    this is a talented lass to be sure, but it gets boring sensationalising the use of heroin and cinematically showing kids exactly how you do it.

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  5. Gigi says:

    It’s best not to fawn over the fallen.

    It only encourages their proclivities.

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  6. anons says:

    Oh please. The only good thing(s) about the first film were due people other than miss angelique herself. Heroin is so passe…

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  7. so now what? says:

    Pookie, just ask Brandon “Musica Is a Museum” Edmonds where you can find a free download on the internet.

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  8. word! says:

    Yeah, if she hates the suits and the financiers who want to control her art, the best form of revenge would be to post it for free on the ‘net.

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  9. andrew worsdale says:

    jeee whizzz claire didn’t know you had such great legs – they’ve always been wrapped up when we’ve seen each other —

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  10. the bear's woods says:

    kristin hersh died and was reincarnated as a quasi-defiant junkie angstbucket? NOOOOO!

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  11. aging hipster doofus says:

    Alex Sudheim, stop extinguishing old flames!

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  12. bobbyjocongo says:

    Yeah, Alex…you’re just jealous that an ex junkie prozzie went from junkie…to junkets. And where are you?

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  13. King Mob says:

    diggin the suicidegirls-esque-ish pics.

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  14. blue eyes says:

    up the shambles

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  15. Drugs suck choice says:

    E nuff with the drugs !! make real art!!!!!

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  16. supporter says:

    this girl is an inspiration she has fought her addictions and come out on top. she has taken the negative situations in her life and turned them into positives, she came to speak at my school and was truly inspiring about her journey

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  17. Andy says:

    I don’t think anyone can deny that CA makes “real art”

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  18. tHE mACHINE says:

    “I don’t think anyone can deny that CA makes “real art”

    Andy, I think you meant “sells” real art

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  19. the empress has plenty of tattoos but no clothes says:

    Um, has anyone actually seen My Little Black Heart? it is without a doubt one of the most unwatchable films i have ever seen – pretentious and incredibly stupid, angsty like a spoilt 15 year old girl’s diary. but no-one seems to notice because lars von trier threw money at it and the slumdog guy held the camera.
    One man’s “real art” is another’s monumental waste of money, time and resources, and to me CA’s films are definitely the latter.

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  20. gillian harris says:

    Yes in fact I’ve seen it missempress, and unlike you I have the guts to leave my real name. I have seen MBLH at the Durban International film festival a year ago, then at the Winston and at a showing at Claire’s house. She is one of the most approachable and real artists I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. She sees a different take on the world, or the world of Durban than is normally shown. EVerytime Ive ever tried to contact her she has emailed me back. My frinedes and her love her work. She also in case you don’t know made an AMAZING music video for oen of the best south african bands monkey sluts. The movie is not pretentious, its heart breaking. You’re obviously a man or a very jealous woman who has never made a film before because if you’ve eve4r bothered to talk to Claire you would understand how much she has gone through and how amazing she has changed her life and generously shared it with others. It takes a lot of guts to do what she has done and no matter all the jealous haters out there she is already making her next film and I believe she will continue to make relevant and sincere films. So what if it is like a 15 year old diary, the girls in the film are only 16 so touche in stating the obvious. I don’t know who lars von trier is but the point is she foudn all the money herself, no one i n South AFrica helpoed get the money, she is resilient and a beautiful person with a lot of sadness but at the end of th eday its the work that speaks to girls like me. When I watched the film it connected wiht me, i was so relieved to realise that bad times in your life can be turned into art, they can turn around. I think she is an inspiration to manyyoung women and there ae not many people like her around who areso brave anc can see the beauty in tragedy. You sound so fickle in your comments, why has she won this award and why do peopl e love her work, because she is real, she is honest and no matterwhat people like you say she will always be like that. MORE CLAIRE ANGELIQUE ARTICLES PLEASE MAHALA!!

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  21. jack rabbit says:

    Did you watch the same film as I did empress I thought it was fucking brilliant go read kaganofs review it sums up a truly unique voice in s.a art but especially cinema. Give her the respect she rightfully deserves its a boundary pushing filM compared with the crap that’s out there that says
    Nothing about creating a new s.a aesthetic. I look forward to all miss angeliques work just as I do her writing blog or newspaper column

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  22. the empress has plenty of tattoos but no clothes says:

    @gillian it’s hard to respond to someone whose writing, paraphrased, is basically blah blah blah blah blah.
    Um, the Monkey Sluts are one of the best Durban bands?
    With fine taste like that it’s no wonder you liked My Little Black Heart.
    You seem to like her mainly because she emails you back. I can understand, as I’m sure this doesn’t happen to you often. It’s still a thoroughly crap film.
    And no, she hasn’t ‘changed her life’. She is still on heroin apparently.
    And FYI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lars_von_Trier

    @jackrabbit I would read Kaganoff’s review except I’m too scared I will vomit

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  23. Anonymous says:

    Ditto on the conclusion drawn above regarding the Monkey Sluts…and aren’t they no longer? They have an awesome name and that’s where the awesomeness ends. I think CA may be suffering from some delusion where she thinks of herself as a reincarnation of Bill Lee (or one of his beat up buddies)
    Is she 27 yet…? I think most will guess the relevance of that question and my implication.

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  24. mud lark says:

    Viva ‘shambles

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  25. gin in teacups says:

    well, miss angelique does get a lot of press and deservedly so. i have come across many written, internet, radio, tv and other video interviewing her and I mmust say she always comes across articulate and with a rather mischievous sense of humour. i think MY BLACK LITTLE HEART was one courageous, different, heavy, disturbing but really touching piece of work, i have never seen a south african film quite like it and i think only her next film will be able to live up to a very unique style. and that is what the best artists in the world are recognised for, thier very own stamp on whatever form they are working with. her blog also seems charged with much energy and introspection. with regards to her demons with regards to heroin, well i can’t comment on that. however any addiction is a sickness and i hope and i’m sure she will see the light through the fog and thunder that this type of abuse perpetuates. however i do not think it is right to criticise someone for this. its a hard battle and as it has been proven over the years sometimes the best art comes from a very dark, intense and disruptive space. so claire if you’re out there there are a lot of people who love the open soul which you tackle your work with. applause, a pat on the back and a big hug my girl

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  26. Anon says:

    Self – Indulgent art is SO boring. And drugs are NOT cool anymore. It’s a shame that most women artists are only successful because they have ‘demons’.

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  27. Anon says:

    I’d be interested to see if Sean O’Toole Agrees.

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  28. pees on kaganof, vomits on angelique says:

    the empress has plenty of tattoos but no clothes – i think i love you

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  29. jackie dee says:

    claire angelique should be given national treasure status who else, which, what kind of girl is as unique as she. talented, humble, beautiful with such originality, the comment above mine is just childish. i look forward to her new work and can’t wait to meet her inperson at grahamstown national arts festival. it takesballs to take on the system and to step off the pavement and spit on the face of adversity. she’s done it all. we need more females like her, more artists like her that refuse to bend over for some measly financing from some ignorant institutions such as the nfvf with even more archaic policies and ‘rules’for making a ‘successful’film. i’ve been through their kak and for claire to stand up, walk away and do it her way is the kind of attitude missing int he sea of mediocrity we call south african art. go claire, more stories about what she’s getting up to mahala., oh and if anyone can point me in the direction of any of her other work please respond. viva the revolution, viva more when it comes from someone so hauntingly captivating in looks and in philosophy

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  30. struwelboobie says:

    to :pees on kaganof
    I’ll arm-wrestle you for the Empress!!!

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  31. My Black Little Fart says:

    I have had the ‘pleasure’ of knowing this character for 20+ years and was one of the first to view ‘My Black Little Heart’.

    The hardships that she has encountered have been self-inflicted by a cocktail of arrogance, greed and jealousy, something that appears to run in her parents, of which she still lives with. Coming from what was a wealthy family before squandering their fortunes, she plays the victim card of a poor white South African who has had the world on her shoulders, drowning in proverbial poverty, quite frankly, she is a disgraceful hypocrite who’s dumbfounded accusations are a reflection of her own true character.

    ‘Claire Angelique’ as she likes to refer to herself is the epitome of pretentiousness, a true narcissist who, like the corporate world that ‘suppresses artists’, believes that making outlandish statements with no substance is a form of ‘art’, the ‘shock factor’ of creating art depicting herself as a fake tormented soul is nothing more than an example of soap-opera-level acting.
    In past career choices, her fellow dance performers and bands/artists that she has managed all testify to the same riddle of Claire Angelique being a media whore legend in her own mind.

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  32. black heart believer says:

    You know comments like the above just piss me off. whenever somebody puts energy into their lives and produces something meaningful you get jealous little twats that want to ‘cut them down to size’. Mblh is a fantastic and disturbing film, told diligently and beautifully by a young girl whose aesthetic sense and emotional intelligence is unsurpassed in s.a film. well done claire and i will see you at the Bioscope. Ignore the haters

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  33. Dee Botha says:

    I am truly stunned at the hateful comments that I have read! Yes Claire has battled addictions, yes she speaks her mind and yes she often uses strong language. Do you mean to tell me you are as pure as the driven snow? Have you never suffered an addiction…ever? Well I was Claires dance teacher for many many years and guess what I suffered an addiction for 36 yrs! Only a smoking addiction you say? Yes, I battled for years to give it up! It took me longer to give up smoking than it took Claire to give up a lot worse! So if you are addicted to smoking or food or your phone/computer, or sex, or anything else (which just about everyone else is) I suggest you dont judge others. Leave that for the Big Man Upstairs.
    And by the way Claire you said you were “kind of a good dancer”. No you were an exeptional and gifted dancer! Take it from someone who knows!

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  34. Jade Labuschagne says:

    Having looked up to Clair and idolizing her as a child – she is an exquisite ballet dancer – I can proudly say that no matter where her life has taken her, I am so proud of Clair! She has chased her dream and made films, actual films that people are watching! How many of you haters out there have done the same? Clair, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that gossip is the fuel of envy, and they are only saying derogatory things about you because they are either jealous of you or do not understand you. You go girl! Addictions and all, I still look up to you as an enlightened and intellectual person who can make me stretch and flex my brain and psyche. Lots of love Jade

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  35. Binx says:

    I have not had the opportunity to watch my Little Black Heart, but I would love to watch it. Does anyone know where I could buy the dvd? I will definitely go watch Palace of Bone, just wish they would screen My Little Black Heart again and the Jhb Independent Cinema.

    I have read some of the comments above and I think some are just ridiculous. Why spend so much time critisizing and bad mouthing someone? If you think her work is crap then just don’t watch it and move on. If you spend so much time reading about her and commenting on blogs about her, clearly you must find Claire intriguing in some way…

    Being a filmmaker/filmstar is about doing controversial things, drawing attention to yourself, getting people to think about things, sparking debates. Claire has clearly done all that. Whether you enjoy her movies, whether you agree with them or not, it doesn’t matter. She’s a topic of conversation. To those who have only had bad things to say about her: Jealousy makes you nasty!

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