Nowness Premiere by Alex Simpson

Wonderful to see Dambe find a home on art + culture video platform Nowness this week. It hit the homepage yesterday and is being premiered exclusively on the site and their social channels all this week.

To check out the full film head here. Full write up below.

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DAMBE

Blood, sweat and bandages...Step into the boxing ring and uncover Nigeria’s very own fight club

“Nigerian Dambe is a brutal and exhilarating sport. A fight to the knockout with prize money at stake,” say Alex Simpson and Sebastian Barros, the London-based co-directors behind this new project. “This style of Nigerian boxing is fiercely competitive and largely undocumented.”

“Beyond the strikes and intimidating stares there’s a depth to Dambe that you may not have known existed”

The story of Dambe is told through the eyes of 35-year-old Taiwo, a street boxer from Ogun State, Nigeria. Simpson and Barros conducted parts of Taiwo’s interview on top of one of Lagos’s many unfinished tower blocks that provide cinematic sunburnt views across the former capital. Shots reveal the Ogun fighter training in empty stairwells, underneath bypasses and with a make-shift punch bag made from rice. “We wanted to capture the essence of Dambe in a cinematic way,” say the directors. “Witnessing the practice through the eyes and experience of Taiwo felt like the most personal and effective way to do it.” 

Dambe is fought in rounds of three, or less if an opponent is knocked out. The fighters are self-taught and surreptitiously learn the rules and techniques of the game by watching other fights. The most fascinating feature of Dambe is the competitor’s primary weapon, a single arm bandaged in cotton and rope—not for their own protection but to deliver devastating blows. What started as a rural sport in Northern Nigeria has become a national phenomenon that is now somewhat funded by the government and has a dedicated channel on YouTube (Dambe Warriors) boasting millions of online views.

“Beyond the strikes and intimidating stares there’s a depth to Dambe that you otherwise may not have known existed,” the London filmmakers comment. “The sport is steeped in tradition and surrounded by theories of supernatural protection and magical amulets.” Dambe fighters may receive money, cattle or jewelry as winnings but Taiwo explains that the real prize is the glory and adoration the competitor receives from the crowd. Simpson and Barros conclude, “When Taiwo spoke of his fights we felt the enthusiasm pour out of him—reliving each fight with intensity and affection in equal measure.”

 

Personal Work by Alex Simpson

It’s been great to finally get a couple of new personal film projects underway and shot this June.

The first, a short piece centred around GB paralympian Gaz Choudhry. Gaz, who is a member of the British wheelchair basketball team features both on and off the court, narrating over the inspirational visuals throughout.

The same week a (very!) small crew and I travelled up to a remote area of the Lake District and spent 2 days shooting another inspirational person, this time fell runner Calum Tinnion. Our luck was in as 2 weeks of rain eased off and some soft rays of sunshine poked their way through the clouds helping us to capture some beautiful shots.

Looking forward to sharing them both soon.

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Prints in Progress by Alex Simpson

It was wonderful to work with the team at Phase Eight recently and create a film to celebrate their 40th birthday this year. We chose to focus on the raw elements of the design process whilst introducing three limited edition dresses throughout, designed especially to mark the anniversary.

 

All Boobs Welcome by Alex Simpson

It was great fun being part of the brand new #AllBoobsWelcome campaign for Tu Clothing, released this month.

We had the opportunity to chat with 26 wonderful women over 2 days, hearing their opinions on all things boobs, body confidence, self acceptance and bra fit.

It was also the biggest (and only) all female crew I’ve ever worked with, totalling over 45 ladies!

All Boobs Welcome Campaign Images. Agency: Portas

All Boobs Welcome Campaign Images. Agency: Portas

 

Phase Eight SS19 Collection by Alex Simpson

For Phase Eight’s new SS19 collection we were keen to incorporate as much movement and upbeat energy into the campaign film as possible (made easy because of superstar model Astrid who’s always smiling!

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Invert Reverse by Alex Simpson

New personal project released featuring the wonderful contemporary dancer Marta Masiero.

A short journey into digital dystopia as Marta explores two opposing characters, sliding seamlessly out of the darkness and into the light, set within an abstract, minimalist environment.

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V&A by Alex Simpson

This year it has been a pleasure to work with creative agency Lovers and the V&A Museum on one of their forward thinking exhibits titled Fashioned from Nature.

The exhibition presents a mix of fashion through the eras alongside natural history specimens, innovative new fabrics and dyeing processes, inviting visitors to think about the materials of fashion and the sources of their clothes.

To accompany the clothing, the V&A commissioned a piece of moving image that would provoke emotion from the watcher, engaging and enlightening them on the environmental impact of fast fashion. The final piece consists of 3 seperate films, projected boldly onto a circular wall and playing in unity to present the visuals in a powerful way.

Inspiring V&A show determined to incite change
— Karen Dacre, Evening Standard
 

DAMBE by Alex Simpson

Last year a good friend of mine photographer Sebastian Barros asked me if I’d consider teaming up and self funding a project which he thought might have legs not only a strong stills concept, but a captivating and unique piece of moving image also.

Not one to shy away from an adventure we dove head first into the pre-production of what was to eventually become DAMBE, a film we’re both incredibly proud of and thrilled to finally be sharing with people.

The film follows Taye, the reigning Dambe boxing champion of his local community in Lagos, Nigeria. Often called ‘Fight Club - Nigerian style’, dambe fighters wrap their arms in rope with the aim of knocking down an opponent in one strike. It is fiercely competitive and largely undocumented.

With such great content in the can the footage has been shaped into two seperate films, a ‘short short’ 90 second explosion of action, and a slightly longer 8 minute short doc.

We’re trying our luck and have entered the films into a couple of festivals so things have to stay under wraps for now, but here are a few stills to whet the appetite.

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