The conceptual short film Cycles, produced by Cycles Collective, a Berlin-based group of filmmakers and creatives, comes out today! Despite having a run time of just 3 minutes and 33 seconds, Cycles manages to induce a great sense of catharsis in its audience. We are presented with the opposing concepts of celestial collective circularity and menacing urban individualism. We are then left to observe as they duel, both visually and sonically in an enthralling display.
Co-creative director of the piece, Dhanesh Jayaselan, characterises circularity as “sustainability in its greatest form.” Rather than simply focusing on sustainable production, without considering the disposal of no longer functional goods, circularity is about bridging the loop between the beginning and end of the cycle. It is an idea that mimics natural ecosystems, hence one that enables us to exist within our planetary boundaries.
The short loosely adheres to a three-act structure. At first, we are met with a sense of serenity so soothing that it is almost unsettling. The meandering notes of the piano, a somewhat ethereal dance sequence and the soothing narration all combine to create a delicate serenade. The audience is then unwittingly dumped into a disorientating urban sprawl. Both the choreography and the score suddenly become manic. The bright lights of the big city seem to be interrogating us. Once this nauseating middle act ceases, and we are returned to the safety of nature, I genuinely let out an audible sigh of relief.
This close relationship between the different arts, referred to by Jayaselan as a “symbiosis throughout all mediums” provokes a very strong emotional response. Whilst it is obviously not the first film to ever create a tonal correspondence between the visual and the audio, it is apparent that the different artforms have been intertwined particularly meticulously throughout the process. The sequencing of the piece appears to paint the idea of ‘the city’ in a particularly bad light. Despite this, Jayaselan insists that cities themselves are not inherently opposed to circularity, but “how we live within them is.” He identifies this “lifestyle of hyper-competitiveness” (which we could say that it is created by Capitalism), that does not consider the well-being of the planet, as the inherent idea that Cycles Collective is essentially opposed to.
Naturally, filmmakers that place so much precedence on circularity need to practise what they preach. Whilst there were some unavoidable limitations, such as using governmental recommended non-reusable masks, the process was largely environmentally friendly. Characters in the film wear clothes from director Sydney Nwakanma’s own brand Emeka. This label takes the massive surplus of clothes donated to Kenya from Europe and the United States, something that “cripples the African textile industry”, in Jayaselan’s won words, and employs local tailors to repurpose them into brand new garments. As well as this, the team outsourced catering for the job to Yuna Berlin, a local sustainable café and put a variety of other measures in place to ensure the production wasted as little as possible.
One source of inspiration for the short, which I was not aware of when watching it, is Jayaselan’s own Hindu heritage. Samsara, the ancient concept of rebirth and cyclicality of life, is a teaching that is closely related with the notion of circularity. This initiative of embracing cultural heritage is at the heart of Cycles Collective’s plans for the future. Their overarching goal is to create a “Black, Indigenous people of colour strong community of creatives” that champions storytelling in “a nature that is true to expression.”