João Paulo Simões
An Independent film-maker focused predominantly on producing challenging, thought-provoking cinema, creating visual narratives away from convention and commercial dictates.
João Paulo Simões was born in Luanda in 1976, as Angola attained its independence from Portugal. As the Civil War ensued in the subsequent year, his parents were to seek refuge in the former colonising state. Portugal's moral duty towards individuals of former colonies enabled João to thrive creatively and consider the country his home. He was to come to England in 1998 - to pursue his education in Film - at a time when doing so was not to emigrate, but simply to move from one area of the European Union to another.
Graduating in Film from Sheffield Hallam University, his venture into filmmaking begins with the short Imogen Meets the Merchant (2001) and is then followed by a plethora of projects providing an insight into the director’s broad thematic scope, ranging significantly from short films exploring the complexities of human relations and sexuality in Antlers of Reason (2006), human identity in Mercy (2012), to hybrid music-short film project Ithaca’s Lust (2012).
As a documentary maker, João's work considers the fragility of human life, as in A Vida é Simples (2013) and the recent project Frontier Stories: Banyamulenge (2017), covers the impact of the Gatumba genocide on its survivors, now living in the U.K. as refugees.
Frontier Stories, the brainchild of Simões’ production company Frontier Media founded in 2007, is part of a much bigger collection of works which in their uncompromising nature provide a digital gaze respectful of the subjects covered, as is the case in Secret Women’s Business (2016) and the captivating world music sessions of Rafiki Jazz, among many others. The insistently unyielding content is what allows each project of Simões’ to be unique in its own right.
As a compelling speaker, he has delivered lectures on Digital Narratives and Art & Citizenship, and he has most recently had a selection of his films become available on Amazon Prime US and UK.
Based in Sheffield, João is actively involved with Arts on the Run, producing music videos for Rafiki Jazz and assisting with events organised by our network; notably, he has collaborated with dancer-choreographer Angelina Abel – also a proactive member of AotR – on the powerful performance dance project COR/PO which is inspired by the poetry of João’s grandfather Maurício de Almeida Gomes, which he had translated into English upon the poet’s passing. COR/PO is an exploration of African identity through an immersive experience built around Angelina and João’s Angolan roots.
The film-maker has also collaborated on the multimedia project A Journey of UnBelonging (2013,2014) alongside AotR associate artists Ayşe Balköse and Mina Salama, together exploring the obstacles faced daily by refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, who are having to habitually find their feet in new, unfamiliar environments. The project, commissioned by Arts on the Run, proved a success.
João's latest project, the erotic atmospheric horror series Morning Interim, is a spin off from his 2006 film Antlers of Reason.
With more exposure, João’s work has the potential to broaden our understanding of what it is to be human, allow us to appreciate music as a medium of expression, and have significant impact on the lives of the diverse minorities living in the UK.
Words by Ivana Krenická and João Paulo Simões.