Nick Hakim’s smoothly grooved guitar and soul-soaked voice have an insane ability to bubble your deepest feelings to the surface. On his latest single, “Cuffed,” the GEN F alum does just that while recounting a powerful night of love and learning. In between ebbing and flowing guitar strums, and gently pulsing drums, he recalls both the literal nature of his lover being cuffed (“You handcuffed yourself to your mother's bed that one night / You left the front door unlocked waiting for me to arrive home”) and his deep tie to the woman that has taught him so much (“Oh my lover / What will I do without you?”).
Premiering today on The FADER is the video for “Cuffed.” Directed by Bad Boy documentary director Daniel Kaufman and choreographed by Monica Mirabile of experimental performance-art collective FlucT, the video is inspired by photographer Cristina Garcia Rodero’s photos of followers of Venezuela’s María Lionza religion. Filmed in Catskill, New York, Nick and a handful of dancers appear in rivers and fields to perform a six-part ritual of renewal. It’s a powerful and intense watch.
Watch the video above, and read on for a short interview with the director, who tells the story behind the video.
Tell us a little about the imagery used for “Cuffed.” How and why did you decide on the practices of the María Lionza religion as the song’s visual representation?
Daniel Kaufman: In all my work, I always try to operate as instinctively as possible, and only afterwards do I reverse engineer my way back towards more explicit meaning. For this video, I was listening to the song and stumbled upon Cristina Garcia Rodero's photos of the María Lionza pilgrimage. I've been interested in Santeria rituals since filming with some voodoo practitioners in Haiti years ago, so the photos really resonated for me and seemed to both play with and be an interesting counterpoint to the song.
I also knew it wasn't enough — and wouldn't be appropriate — to simply ape or appropriate the imagery. I knew we had the focus on the aesthetic/emotional kernel within those photos but make it our own. This really came to life when I began speaking with Nick [Hakim] and our choreographer, Monica [Mirabile]. It became clear we wanted to make something simple — a space where we could create real rules for our own ritual about renewal, and then document it.
What was it like working with Nick?
At the beginning of the day I told Nick to get dirty — that he needed to look like he'd been walking in the woods for a week. So he disappeared into the brush by the riverside and came back a minute later wet up to his knees with some smudges of dirt on his head. I told him he needed more and the next thing I knew he was full-on baptizing himself and rolling around in the dirt. After the tenth take dunking Nick's head under freezing cold water, it was pretty clear he was a total chiller, for lack of a better word. By the end of the day he was still soaking wet, covered in dirt and white powder, and dripping with fake blood. But he was still walking around smoking, smiling, and laughing. Like his smile at the end of the video — that was real.
Monica Mirabile of FlucT is featured in the video. How did Monica become involved? What was it like working with her?
For Monica it's not so much a matter of attempting authenticity. It's a matter of being as opposed to acting — coming to a real emotional place as opposed to choreographing specific movement. Which is very similar to how I like to work: the creation of a creative space rather than a set of specific directions. I met her through a producer friend and she choreographed an Alicia Keys music video I did. We both really bonded and got each other and collectively mourned the fact that the video never came out. I vowed I'd find another excuse to work with her and when I saw the Maria Lionza photos, the thought of her style of dance instantly clicked. Ironically, I was in Los Angeles at that time, and hadn't seen her in close to a year; but the next day, before I'd even asked her to help, I ran into her out of the blue in a restaurant we were both only going to for the first time. It seemed like fate.
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Thumbnail image by Cait Oppermann for The FADER.