How I Work: Jenn Nkiru

The filmmaker has come a long way from the summer scheme in Peckham that kickstarted her career. She tells CR about her role as a creative anthropologist, and why she makes cinema, not film

Growing up in a traditional Nigerian household in Peckham, being a filmmaker wasn’t an option for Jenn Nkiru. She began experimenting with the family camcorder in her early teens, but it was a summer scheme for local kids funded by Southwark Council and organised by the Tate and BBC that first opened her eyes to the possibility of filmmaking. During the scheme, she wrote, produced, directed and edited her first short film about an alien who had come down from outer space to visit South London for the first time, which ended up getting shown on BBC Two.

But when it came to university, to appease her family, she opted to study law at City, University of London. After a stint working at Channel 4, she was accepted to do a law master’s at Howard University in Washington.

A change of heart saw Nkiru switch to the film course, and she hasn’t looked back since. One of her first breaks was creating a film for Channel 4’s Random Acts series about New York’s voguing and ballroom culture. This was swiftly followed by REBIRTH IS NECESSARY, her vision of the future of the black experience for Nowness. She has since worked on music videos for Neneh Cherry, Kamasi Washington and Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s The Carters duo, and recently collaborated with Gucci and Frieze on BLACK TO TECHNO, a short film exploring the origins of Detroit’s techno culture.