Reece Daniels’ experimental dance thriller ‘BONGO’ tells a tale of false connection in the Modern Age
There’s a strange tension and an air of unease that populates the frame of Reece Daniels’ experimental dance thriller BONGO, about a homeless bongo player and a mysterious masked individual who takes an interest in his pulsating rhythms.
It’s a tension that occurs as a result of Daniels’ clever use of his filmic components; the application of an abstract and unsettling narrative populated with unknown masked characters and a frenetic sonic palette. These elements combine to create BONGO’s unique atmosphere, and even though you can draw a clear conclusion of the social/political dynamics at play, it still remains broadly interpretive as a piece.
Our fashion film editor + contributor, Niccolò Montanari, had an exclusive interview with Daniels x 33 Magazine
How would you define your style?
I’m still figuring it out. But at this point, I’d consider myself a very visual director. I like physicality, cinematography, and atmosphere as the north star of any story. I do love well-written dialogue, but I’m more intrigued by the moments when we aren’t talking. As humans, we spend a lot of time being quiet; we often communicate without our words. So I’d love to continue improving on capturing that and channeling it into an engaging story while maintaining tension and conflict.
What tips do you have to those starting off in the industry?
I’m just starting off, too. I’m currently a senior at NYU. The best advice I can offer to people in a similar place as me––where you’re starting to breach and getting your work out there and meeting people––is to utilize the generosity of people who are in a place where you want to be. It’s an opportunity that has a window, best not to let it escape you. This includes watching and consuming short films & music videos and reaching out to the people who made them. Pick their brain, sit down for coffee, chat over Zoom; it’s a great way to learn and build connections that can lead to places you can’t foresee.
What are you working on next?
I’m currently in pre-production on my thesis film, Damien’s Gym. It’s about my experiences with bodybuilding, which was an obsession of mine during high school. The film follows an aspiring bodybuilder as he’s taken under the wing of his idol. It’s about the thin line between passion and obsession, especially how ego can manipulate that line. I want to use the film to speak on the current (and dangerous) climate of the online fitness world.
What is one thing you would like to direct in the future?
More music videos. We have a couple in the process right now, but the biggest thing holding us back is scheduling; a lot of the artists we’re working with are (fortunately) very busy. Still, music videos are some of the most fun sets, and editing them is very rewarding. I’m also eager to make another dance film, one that is more of a “traditional” dance film. I love how simple dance is as a communicative medium; very evocative and ambiguous. There’ve been many shorts from “films.dance” that have snuck up on me and affected me in a way I would’ve never imagined. That’s what I want to tap into.
How do you ensure your work gets seen?
We submit to festivals, submit our work to online platforms, and promote as much as we can. My co-filmmaker and I have a sheet with all our goals, including target festivals, websites, awards, etc., which we hope to reach by the end of next year. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that when you submit your work to these sorts of places, the outcome is in the hands of someone else. Rejection is not a reflection of you, and maybe not even your work, but the curator’s tastes. When advocating for your work, doing the research first is essential–– figure out what these festivals and websites favor. Don’t shoot blindly, you’ll waste your own time and money.