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Entertainment as a means to an end

The director Ebeneza Blanche is behind imaginative shorts and music videos for Little Simz and Skepta. But he wants his audiences to come away informed, not just entertained

Whoever said style and substance are mutually exclusive should spend some time with Ebeneza Blanche’s lean yet potent showreel. The director has demonstrated a flair for stylish visuals, a light surreal touch and, most importantly, an instinct for a good story – all of which he manages to package up in mere minutes.

Born in Amsterdam, where he now lives after growing up in both Ghana and the UK, Blanche has directed music videos for rising and established stars. There’s his ode to the Grenfell Tower community in a piece for Joy Crookes, or the striking promo for Jae5 and Skepta – his first as a signed director at Smuggler.

Yet it’s his video for Little Simz and Obongjayar’s earworm Point and Kill that cemented Blanche’s place on the creative map. Set in Nigeria, the uber-stylish, ­drama-laced film follows Simz and Obongjayar on the run, in a compelling watch that’s seen Blanche earn praise from all angles. Nominations and wins have come from awards bodies across the worlds of music, advertising, and film. (His nomination at Tribeca is the first time a music video has been chosen for the festival’s new shorts programme.)

It’s a long way from where he started out: making ­videos in his spare time for friends, which he would edit at college on his days off. “It was like an SBTV kind of vibe,” he says, referring to the media channel that launched the careers of many young British rappers and singers. “I ­remember I was charging £10 for videos, and I would have people spit their bars at the camera and stuff, and I’d do all these funny effects in between,” he laughs.