We speak to the director who created an AI doppelgänger for M.I.A’s single Popular

For Arnaud, the decision to orchestrate the collision of stripped back analogue aesthetics and digital details emerged from one core concept. “The choice on cinematography of a film always comes from the idea for me. Here, the idea features a robot during a casting call,” he tells It’s Nice That. To repeat a casting situation that feels rooted in reality, the director turned to “the traditional camera used during these type of interviews, the only thing we did was to multiply the angles, so we had three cameras shooting simultaneously”.
For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Popular takes us into a casting call where a stiff M.A.I auditions for the real M.I.A, the camera and ultimately society at large. Exploring the performance and transformation people in the public eye (which, increasingly, is all of us) have to undergo to be “popular”, the music video “provides a timely commentary” on social media culture, a press release explains. Despite this serious undercurrent, Popular has a lighthearted spirit, leaning into the awkward and jittery bodily distortions of the M.A.I robot in line with the video’s message.
2022 is the year of asking: who is that? What is that? What am I? Will a robot replace me? And one more again: What is that? In other words, we are in the year of AI merging with creativity. While August brought us many things this year, including an excruciating heatwave, the project it left implanted in our head has to be M.I.A’s Popular music video. Released to the world on 12 August, the British rapper’s latest release was directed by French director Arnaud Bresson, who recently worked with Kanye West and The Weeknd on the dystopian Hurricane music video. With Popular, Arnaud once more stares into the (perhaps not-too distant) future, introducing M.I.A’s animatronic-looking clone: M.A.I.

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