Born Out of Boredom: A Filmmaker’s Dreamy Study of Lockdown Ennui

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Courtesy Kyle Weeks

Directed by Kyle Weeks, Born Out Of Boredom is a “kaleidoscopic visual poem” tracking a young South African man’s experience of lockdown

It was 2016, and Namibian photographer Kyle Weeks was musing over the concept of boredom with his designer friend, Shakes. The pair were debating the aesthetics of the feeling, and figuring out ways it could be visually represented. “We were discussing how the state of being bored allows the mind to escape from reality,” Weeks remembers. “[We talked about] how it might give rise to ideas or trigger memories, as well as dissolve your sense of time. Almost like a dream.” At that point, boredom felt like a novelty for the pair; a fleeting sensation reserved solely for lazy Sundays, waiting rooms and peak-time traffic jams. But then 2020 hit. “Fast forward four years, and those same ideas felt so much more relevant. We were all in isolation.”

Weeks’ describes his experience of lockdown as “confronting”. The photographer, who is used to travelling all over the world for work, was forced to stop and reflect – both on his own life, and on the widespread trauma of the pandemic. “I recall those months in the fragmented way one remembers a dream after waking from it,“ he tells AnOther. “It was defined by no real sense of place or time, but characterised by vivid imagery.” After experiencing a brief creative drought in lockdown’s early days, Weeks decided to reach out to Shakes and resume their 2016 conversation. Only this time, he would attempt to bring it to life through film.

The result is Born Out Of Boredom, a “kaleidoscopic visual poem” tracking a young Xhosan man’s experience of lockdown. The four-minute short, directed by Weeks, was shot in rural South Africa earlier this year, with Shakes taking the leading role. In the film, he attempts to process his boredom while staying in an isolated, womb-like room, in the middle of an arid desert. We watch as he throws rocks, paints his room, shadowboxes, and takes increasingly frenzied drags on his cigarette. “It alludes to the various states of minds that one might have experienced during isolation,” says Weeks. “My aim was to create something that was personal and universal at the same time.”

The film features a hypnotic voiceover from Shakes, who is speaking in his native Xhosan. It’s underscored by an ominous, sweeping soundscape by Dutch musician Cinnaman. For Weeks, it was important to bring together a variety of people, to add layers to his creative vision. “Everyone played such an integral part to the end result,” he says. “It’s a different level of collaboration to what I’m used to [with my photography], but I intend to keep moving more in that direction.” The collaborative nature of the project also helped inspire a new sense of purpose in the way he approaches his work. “I’m actively trying to be more considered and purposeful in my artistic practice and day to day life,” the photographer adds. “[The lockdown] reaffirmed my perception of our shared humanity. I think one of the few hopeful aspects of the past 18 months was the fact that we were all this together and that through that common experience we might become a little more empathetic toward one another.”

Watch Born Out Of Boredom in full below: