Generation Y, gen next, millennials – they’re all popular terms right now, used by the media to describe those born between the 1980s and Noughties. But what do they think about the next generations already snapping at their heels? The 21-year- old Berlin-based filmmaker Reda Ait explains how he sees it
If you were to Google the term millennials to check the exact dates of their genesis, you might be surprised to discover two subsequent generations have also now been christened – generation Z (1996-2010) and gen alpha (2011-2025). So is there any difference in how these generations go through their daily lives? Some millennials will remember times when there were no smartphones, no MacBooks and certainly no WiFi, but someone who was born into generation alpha will never experience life that way. Here we talk to the talented, Berlin-based filmmaker Réda Ait, born in Paris on February 10, 1995, to find out more about his work and his millennial peers.
What do you think about generation Y?
“Um, it depends… I think I always had a problem finding people of my age who are passionate about what they are doing. But when you find the ones who are, they are really making things happen. And I’ve always been very surprised by our generation’s ability to do that with nothing more than the need to express themselves. This is especially true nowadays, when everyone can make videos and photos and publish them on social media. It’s very easy to express yourself.”
But do you see this as something positive or negative? Since everyone can be a creator nowadays, there’s more competition. Do you think that having access to the internet has made generation Y special in a way?
“We were born in the internet age and are very dependent on it. We all need so much equipment in our daily lives. As for photography and video, of course easy access to the internet and the kit needed makes the market more competitive, which is why what we create isn’t really art any more. When people were shooting analogue they had to think carefully about what they wanted to do before hitting the record button because film cost money. Today you can record hours of video footage and then choose what you want to use.”
“Many people think they are artists because they use the same codes as many artists do, which they can see everywhere on the internet and on social media. I also have to push myself sometimes to remember that filmmaking is not just about making beautiful things, it’s more about sending messages out there and having something to say. This is why I think people should be more mindful about what they want to say with their work. With social media it’s quite easy to create an image that has nothing to do with reality and can make other people believe that you mean it sincerely.”
Nowadays, it feels like it’s not possible to just create one brilliant movie and relax. People constantly want to see new content. Look at the success of YouTube and the amount of video that is uploaded every day. How do you deal with the pressure of creating something new?
“We all feel the time pressure because of the fast pace of our daily lives. Every day thereare new releases, innovations and creations. Something new is happening every hour, maybe even every second. Maybe that’s why I’m so impatient and feel the urge to create, which often means I have to juggle 10 projects at the same time. I am still learning how to be able to stop and say, ‘OK, you did something – you can stop now and just be happy with it.’ I think that if we want to be able to deal with the time pressure we need to be aware of the fact that we are still young and have a lot of time to accomplish what we want to. People shouldn’t be concerned about becoming super-famous and should learn to acknowledge what they’ve already done and not be so obsessed with the future. But you know I am saying it even though I think I will never be able to do it myself [Laughs.].”
Well, you certainly have time – you’re only 21! And you’ve done quite a lot already – some great projects and films.
“My impatience comes from a fear of not knowing if I will be able to keep doing what I am doing now. Our future is so uncertain. I think we all want to leave some sort of imprint and tell other people about what is happening in our lives and how we feel.”
How did you start making movies?
“Well, it started in my first years at high school in Paris. Before that, when I was living in suburbs, I was smoking too much weed and my mother said, ‘OK, you need to go somewhere else – I can see you’re bored here.” So I moved to high school in Paris and started attending a cinema class there. One day someone asked me to appear in a movie that was going to be shot in Turkey. It was an awful experience [Laughs.]. I realised I’m no good at acting and I was more interested in watching the director. When I got back to Paris it was clear that I wanted to become a film director. I started making videos of friends doing silly things, like citing poetry at a cemetery while wearing animal masks. It was very bad, but I was 15 and just trying to express myself.”
What happened in between your first video-making attempts and your ongoing project Portray Them, a series of short documentaries featuring queer people.
How did your work evolve?
“After school I entered Luc Besson’s L’Ecole de la Cité film school, where I learnt everything I can do now. We had a documentary class for which we had to think about making a portrait using film language. Some days before that, I had been with friends in a club in Paris where they had introduced me to some drag queens. I was fascinated by them and the way they expressed themselves and by the sense of freedom they emanated. They were saying what they thought and felt like. When I got set the assignment at school I immediately thought about the drag queens and called one of them right away. This is how Portray Them was born. I got very good feedback from my teacher for my first documentary, which gave me the motivation to continue the project. I also wanted to explore how some people feel about being in between the two genders. I like the idea that your identity doesn’t have to be something fixed and that your sense of self can change according to your feelings. Drag queens are what they want to be, whenever they want.
“Portray Them is an ongoing project that I see as an inspirational archive of different characters I can go back to whenever I feel the need for inspiration. It also shows how much I am interested in people and their individuality. All the people who appear in my documentaries are potential fictional characters for a possible big movie to come. My movie Salambo was shot in the Parisian club Concorde Atlantique two years after I started Portray Them.”
Why did you move to Berlin?
“I was just following a gut feeling. I also needed to go to a place where I could strengthen my confidence. In Paris people judge a lot. After just one week in Berlin I felt accepted and as though I was part of a big family. I also felt really happy to be among so many expressive people who are just being themselves. There’s also quite a mix here. You have refugees and people from all over the world and they all have a different story. In Paris you have Parisians and tourists whom the Parisians consider ‘those creatures’ who they watch from their cafes… People in Berlin are more authentic.”
Reda is currently working on The Real Housewives of Neukölln, a documentary featuring queer people from Berlin.
Words: Veronika Dorosheva
Portraits: Marie Chatard
Last image: A still from Salambo by Julie Lalaaj