Spotlight

Spotlight Film Director Meena Ayittey

Championed by Tim A Shaw
The Wick - Portrait of Film Director Meena Ayittey at work
Above  Portrait of Film Director Meena Ayittey at work
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The Wick - Portrait of film director, Meena Ayittey
Above  Portrait of film director, Meena Ayittey
Interview
Meena Ayittey
10 May 2023
Interview
Meena Ayittey
10 May 2023
Before Tim A Shaw co-founded the arts and mental health charity Hospital Rooms, he studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins alongside award-winning film director Meena Ayittey. Their friendship has lasted for more than 20 years.

Shaw says: “She’s been one of the most important people in my life, and remembers me from when I had long hair, wore torn red trousers and purple nail varnish on four fingers. It’s good to have people around you who have known you that long and remind you of who you are.
“We studied together and she was exceptionally talented and I looked up to her. She’s gone on to become an incredible filmmaker, and her films tackling social injustice, racism and examining perceptions of mental health are daring and important and told with a unique voice. Her short films Home and Validity, among others, have really affected me and our work at Hospital Rooms, and her work should be seen by everyone. Watching her films changes people.”

He added: “Meena is still one of the most talented people I know, and I know she’ll keep making vital work.”

Through writing stories and making films, Meena Ayittey is able to champion voices who often go unheard. It is this passion that has been a driving force in her work, which covers a broad range of subject matters including music, art, and her own experiences as a Black woman.

Ayittey says: “Art and music have always been huge inspirations for me. I have quite eclectic tastes that range from electronica, heavy metal to rock, to classical. I particularly admire classically trained musicians who have migrated into other musical styles such as Trent Reznor and Björk. As a visual person, I try and surround myself with as much art and photography as I can, too. I usually feel my most creative after discovering new music or after exploring my favourite galleries around London such as the Chisenhale and the Victoria Miro.”

With a number of award-winning documentaries and short films already under her belt, including All The Little Things, which was named the most watched film of 2021 on industry website Shots.net, we can’t wait to see Ayittey’s next project, her first feature film, come to life.

She adds: “The first draft of my debut feature film was a huge personal achievement. It is a culmination of several years of work and the feeling that I got once I had finished it was emotional. There will be many, many more drafts to come but being able to relay a specific chapter of my life into a screenplay was cathartic and has enabled me to utilise the skills that I have been developing as a screenwriter.”

About the champion

The Wick - Portrait of Tim A Shaw

Artist Tim A Shaw co-founded the charity Hospital Rooms with his partner Niamh White, in response to visiting their friend who was admitted to a mental health hospital. Their visit revealed facilities that were in desperate need of change, and art. Teaming up with artists including Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Sonia Boyce, Hospital Rooms has helped to transform these spaces. The duo also collaborates with Dentons to host a biannual prize for emerging contemporary artists.

“[Meena’s] work should be seen by everyone. Watching her films changes people.”

Place of Birth

East London, UK.

Education

BA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins.

Awards, Accolades

All The Little Things (short film 2021) Shots.net most viewed film of 2021
Mama (short film 2020) Ciclope Festival finalist
Black Creative (feature length documentary 2021) Black Film Festival Zurich 2023, British Urban Film Festival Best Documentary 2022, The Soho London Independent Film Festival Best Documentary 2021
Validity (short film 2019) TweetFest Short Film Festival 2020, UK Seasonal Short Film Festival Best Short Film 2020, Black Web Fest Best Short Film 2020.

Spiritual guides, Mentors

I have spent a lifetime studying the work of great directors that I love and admire, such as Andrei Tarkovsky, Michael Haneke, Stanley Kubrick and David Fincher. The ability to capture life with all of its varying hues and nuances in a way that is tangible and real is an artform that I deeply respect and aim to bring into my own work as a filmmaker.

Advice

Rejection and failure are part of the road to success. I am realising this more and more. I often look back at early rejections and realise that I used these setbacks as fuel to pursuing my passion. Success rarely comes without failure but you often don’t hear that. I know how hard knock-backs can be but the important thing is to keep going.

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