GUAP Interviews: South London-Based Filmmaker Kieran Etoria-King On His Short Film “Homesick” [@KieranEK]

Kieran Etoria-King

Kieran Etoria-King’s “Homesick” is a short documentary about migration, parenthood and where we choose to call home.

Tell us a little about yourself?
I’m Kieran, and I’m twenty-six from South London. I work as a researcher for TV documentaries, but in my own work I’m really interested in exploring identity, nationality and how people establish a feeling of ‘home’ – especially in the black diaspora, where so many of our families are displaced from each other and spread across continents.

What inspired you to do what you do?

I’ve always been passionate about storytelling, ever since writing short stories and making videos of family holidays as a kid. I did a degree in journalism as I loved the idea that ‘journalists write the first draft of history’. However, I slowly realised that I was more fascinated by the ways a documentary can explore an issue, a world or an individual person in detail, and evoke a more emotional, empathetic response than straightforward reporting. This film was inspired by a family member’s decision to move home to Jamaica after 25 years here – when I spoke to him and others about it, I wanted to explore the complex emotions that affect a person who leaves everything they know to build a life in this strange, cold country, as so many of our families have.

What was the biggest challenge when creating this film? 

The biggest challenge with this film was figuring out what aspect of Farhiya’s experience to focus on, as her story was so unique but also so relatable and endearing. She told me about how amazing she found London when she first arrived here – I was desperate to include her anecdotes about struggling to open her first Rubicon carton in the taxi from the airport, or eating her first McDonald’s, but I couldn’t make it fit. We also spent a lot of time on camera talking about how important the Somali and Muslim communities around Southall and West London were for her. I spent ages editing different versions of the film to try and include these stories, but I wanted the film to be as impactful as possible in a short time, so I focused on her preparations for leaving, rather than the details of her arrival.

What was the funniest thing that happened on set?

After I’d finished recording Farhiya’s interview, a friend of hers popped around to fix their washing machine, and when he found out she was leaving the next day he said “Take me with you!” and they started reminiscing about the country together. That moment just proved to me that this feeling of homesickness was a subject worthwhile exploring – although I wish I’d had the camera handy to capture it!

What are some of the highlights/successes you’ve had most recently?

Making Homesick by myself without any money was a big highlight of 2019, but the Coronavirus lockdown put a pause on things for me while I took the time to figure out what direction I should go in next. I’ve recently started a job at the BBC that already ticks one of the first goals I set in lockdown, so I’m hopeful that there’s still time for 2020 to be a good year!

What’s next for you on your journey?

See Also

 My job at the BBC gives me the opportunity to pitch and develop lots of documentary ideas, so my next big goal is to see one of those turn into a reality. But in the meantime, I just want to keep developing myself and learning about the craft and business of filmmaking.

What would be your advice to other young film makers? 

Figure out what sorts of stories move you and motivate you – and watch as many films as you can. I’ve started keeping a diary of every documentary I watch, with the director’s name, my thoughts on what I liked and disliked, and what moments stuck with me. Then you can use them as a bank for inspiration. Also, this project would have ultimately been stronger had I had the opportunity to work with, for example, a DOP, editor and colourist in a more professional manner, but I’m super proud of what I achieved putting this together on my own, so don’t be afraid to go out and tell a story that matters to you. 

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