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The public call out for the inaugural CIRCA x Dazed Class of 2021 initiative asked audiences to submit a 2.5 minute film in response to the theme ‘Communion’ set by interdisciplinary artist and lecturer, Angel Rose. After receiving 2,000 applications, we are proud to present the 30 finalists who will each receive access to the Dazed Space and have their work exhibited as part of the CIRCA programme, appearing across public screens in London, Tokyo and Seoul this September.

Expanding on their commitment to help support the talent of tomorrow, CIRCA and Dazed appointed a community of jurors including Cauleen Smith, Frank Lebon, Hugo Comte, Simone Rocha, Dexter Navy, Hans Ulrich Obrist and Michele Lamy to select their top 5 submissions. From this, one lucky finalist will be selected by world renowned performance artist Marina Abramović to receive the #CIRCAECONOMY cash prize of £30,000.

With public art spaces diminishing, investment in arts education being cut and artist communities at risk, this joint initiative aims to empower the next generation of artists working in moving-image by platforming new voices and points of view from local communities on a global level, giving them unrivalled media exposure and the tools to help kick start their careers.

How did you become an artist and what was your route to your current practice?

ATHENA VLACHOS: I was born and raised loving art and chose to dedicate my career towards it despite its difficulties. I grew up around music, dance and theatre at home in Zambia, and my parents have always been incredibly supportive, telling me to write my own films and make my own art instead of waiting for someone to do it for me. I’d film every adventure I went on and edited the footage into exciting sequences. I also produced a documentary style film on the wildlife in Serengeti National park when I was 16. In the last two years of high school, I started a theatre program for local orphanages. Every week the children would join me at my school theatre and we performed short plays or write scripts together. The fire and talent in many of those children was inspiring. The last two years have been the most defining in my filmmaking. After spending so much time at home last year (as many of us did), I delved fully into producing and pursuing the films I want to make, focusing on Zambian stories.

What inspires you to make your work?

ATHENA VLACHOS: People inspire me and the stories I come across are the main inspiration. I’ve kept a diary of my own stories my entire life, and I make note of the intricacies of other people’s stories. I don’t let them go unnoticed. With this specific project, I was inspired by the fact that no matter how limited these young Zambians are in their resources, they still pursued their art.

Can you identify any elements of your community or collaborators that have had a strong influence?

ATHENA VLACHOS: The fact that Circus Zambia fought the stigma and challenges of growing up in Chibolya – a township notorious for drugs and violence- was inspiring to me. Through self-teaching and teaching each other, they provide opportunity for disadvantaged people to rise up and become change makers.

The company highlights the importance of keeping one’s mind and body strong, and to fulfil one’s aspirations despite their background. Also… everyone just radiates beauty and kindness and strength!!! How could that not influence me to make a film about them!!! 🙂

Would you consider your practice to have a positive social impact, and if so in what way?

ATHENA VLACHOS: Yes! For sure. Firstly, this project is all about pursuing what you love! Secondly, in Zambia we don’t have access to as many opportunities that more affluent countries may have. A lot of films nowadays feel like replicas of the same old western movie, and as much as I love those films, I want to see something more unique, and more Zambian.
Let me give an example. There is a movie called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind which is a true story about a boy in Kenya who manufactured a windmill to bring water to his village and save his family. He was only 13. The movie brought his talent to the forefront of film and now he’s sharing his work globally. These are the types of stories Zambia too has to offer.
Our stories of strength, community and hope can positively inspire the world. We have so much to share and not enough people are seeing it due to lack of support.

How is your project tied to the Circa x Dazed Class of 20:21 theme of ‘Communion’?

ATHENA VLACHOS: Circus Zambia wouldn’t exist without togetherness. Physically, they need each other the perform their stunts. But deeper than that, they’ve built a bond between each other that keeps them going strong in their art despite differences. Every shot in the film screams balance and affinity for each other and for performing.

Has your work been recognised by any public bodies or organisations in the past?

ATHENA VLACHOS: Not yet! This film was featured on the short film website Retrospective of Jupiter but otherwise, nowhere else.

How would the #CIRCAECONOMY prize of £30,000 impact your future practice?

ATHENA VLACHOS: It would allow me to fund my future project which is a film focusing on the AIDS epidemic in Zambia and how it affected music (specifically the unheard stories of the Zamrock scene) and relationships in the 80s. It celebrates black history, music, life and love.

How would the #CIRCAECONOMY prize of £30,000 impact your future practice?

ATHENA VLACHOS: It would allow me to fund my future project which is a film focusing on the AIDS epidemic in Zambia and how it affected music (specifically the unheard stories of the Zamrock scene) and relationships in the 80s. It celebrates black history, music, life and love.

What would you do with the money?

ATHENA VLACHOS: I would donate a portion of it to help fund a training program for the circus team to continue teaching young artists. This includes funding for new equipment and training, and in turn, opportunity. The remaining portion would go towards financing my next film project as stated above.

If you are awarded the #CIRCAECONOMY prize, how might this affect your community?

ATHENA VLACHOS: The Zambian artists scene would be enriched because they would get recognition for their art, and the cycle of creative expression will continue. If I won this prize, it would spread the word about these wonderful performers and their achievements, and it’ll inspire more people back home to create their art!!