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Alia Raza's Le Viol de la Méduse

The video artist re-imagines Medusa for Six Scents in a clip produced by Derek Blasberg and featuring Julia Restoin-Roitfeld and Tavi

American filmmaker Alia Raza’s narrative-driven shorts are constructed in such a way as “to make vague the boundaries between the worlds of contemporary art, cinema and fashion.” Her latest project creates a beautiful, yet bizarre parallel universe, where Julia Restoin-Roitfeld reigns as the Greek goddess Medusa in a film produced by Derek Blasberg, featuring Tavi as story editor. Entitled 'Le Viol de la Méduse', the piece was made for the Giavudan perfume series, ‘Six Scents’ - a collection of fragrances from fashion hopefuls including Alexis Mabille, Mary Katrantzou and Ohne Titel. Dazed sat down for a quick chat...

Dazed Digital: What was the brief for the six scents project?
Alia Raza:
They asked me to submit a proposal for a film and I said I wanted to do something on Medusa who I’ve always been obsessed with. Only after I finished the film did I hear about the childhood theme that they were working with this year, where all the scents and films are inspired by childhood memories. Medusa fits into that somehow – we all learn about the ancient Greek myths when we’re children, right?
DD: This is your second collaboration with Julia Restoin-Roitfeld. What is the relationship between you two?
Alia Raza: We worked together once before, two years ago. Last year I had this idea of a contemporary Medusa character in my head, and then I saw Julia during fashion week in Paris and realized she was perfect for it - she’s very dark and decadent looking, though that’s not her personality at all. Then Six Scents came about, and the whole idea came back to me: Medusa as played by Julia.

DD: How did Tavi become involved?

Alia Raza: I had just finished working with her on another project and I had such a good time talking to her on set. She knew so much about popular culture - even stuff from when I was a teenager. Then I saw that she had written her own version of a music video, shot by shot, and I thought ‘she needs to help me with my new film.’ I need to collaborate with people I find intriguing – it keeps me interested in what I’m doing.

DD: Your past and present work seems largely fixated on the beauty rituals of women. What fascinates you about the process?

Alia Raza: I find it amazing the way society tells us in words that the surface doesn’t matter and it’s what’s inside that counts but all around us we can see how important looks are. I don’t think that’s a bad thing - it is what it is. But maybe it makes people uncomfortable and so they try to cover it up. I like to expose it.
DD: While most fashion films focus on the clothes, yours prioritise narrative, making them difficult to categorise. How would you describe them?
Alia Raza: It’s true my work doesn’t fit into categories very well. It’s more complex than a lot of fashion stuff but more focused on the aesthetics of fashion than most video-art work. I think people don’t get it mostly. It would probably be easier for me to pick either the fashion world or the art world and try to make a go of it but then I’d feel too limited.
DD: You rarely work with actors in your films, preferring instead to utilise figures from the fashion, music and art worlds. Do you find them easier to work with or is it all part of the collaborative process?
Alia Raza: I think personalities are often more interesting than actors. Actors are blank slates, and they can be a little generic. The people I like to work with, whether they’re actors or musicians or fashion people, have to be inspiring because of who they are, not because they’re good at pretending to be other people.

DD: What challenges do you face as a niche filmmaker? Are there more or less opportunities open to you?

Alia Raza: I’ve never felt like any opportunities weren’t open. If I want to make a short film with dialogue and a plot, I do it, and if I want to make a fashion film with a designer, I do that. Everything is a different sort of challenge. I started out wanting to make feature films so in a way I consider all this just practice.

Text Frankie Mathieson