New short film, Another Christmas, offers an alternative take on the festive experience

The new film combines music and spoken word, with artists such as ESKA, Douglas Dare, Duke Garwood and Camille O’Sullivan on board.

Music Beyond Mainstream has unveiled its latest project. Entitled Another Christmas, the new film looks upon the festive season and some of the common depictions of Christmas in the UK, and offers an alternative take that aligns with the real-life experiences some face at this time of year.

The project itself is a stage show adapted for screen. Accordingly, Another Christmas is music-led, with a cast of UK and Irish musicians including ESKA, Douglas Dare, Duke Garwood and Camille O’Sullivan tapped for the project. There’s also additional musical input from Oliver Coates and Feargal Murray. The artists involved present stirring reimaginations of Christmas classics – Silent Night, say, or Fairytale of New York, alongside new, original material – striking a balance between the familiar and the novel.

Another Christmas was directed by Coventry-born writer and filmmaker Samona Olanipekun – who’s previously worked with the likes of Jorja Smith, Gucci and Nike, and released personal film projects such as 2018’s Kindred. Laura Ducceschi was creative director on the project, with Patrick Eakin Young on board as Dramaturg and co-creator. The film was commissioned by Music Beyond Mainstream – a collective consortium of some of the UK’s leading venues – and co-commissioned by Barbican Centre and Coventry City of Culture. It will be presented in Coventry by Coventry City of Culture Trust.

To coincide with its release, we caught up with Another Christmas director Samona Olanipekun to discuss his involvement in the project. Check out our Q&A below, and stream the new film in the player above.

Talk us through the film’s concept and inspiration?
The concept for the film came from the artistic director Laura Ducceschi. She approached me at the height of the pandemic in 2020. She works in the live music space, and was looking into a production themed around an alternative Christmas. The theme was something that was really attractive and resonant, and so I jumped right into it.

What else drew you to the project?
Laura was keen to see how we could translate the live music experience to film – which was a challenge I was keen on. We exchanged a lot of references and examples of powerful music and began to explore how we wanted to capture and communicate our story together.

How did you adapt the stage production for film and make its structure work?
Due to the restraints of the pandemic, we had to be super fluid and adaptable throughout planning. We had no idea what the world – or the UK – would look like from month to month, so it meant we had to create a plan that could mould and change to the uncertainty around us. Not only that, but I also wanted to give the musicians as much room for their own expression as possible. This meant going into the filming with a real open mind. A lot of it was planned, but a lot was also found along the way. Duke, Camille, ESKA and Douglas are all such incredible talents and they were all super receptive to the broad story and the broader vision. I tried to go out of my way to empower them to bring ideas to the table; I wanted it to feel like a collaboration, and I hope they’re proud of what we’ve created.

Let’s discuss the the music featured in the film. In what ways are Christmas songs reinterpreted – and why? Likewise, what did the inclusion of new, original music add to the project?
Christmas in itself is such a visceral topic and time of year. We all have our own thoughts and feelings around what Christmas means – the good side, the bad side and everything in between. We’re also bombarded with so much imagery around the festive period. Whether it be via advertising and social media, or current affairs and news. Reworking such iconic classics gave us a great opportunity to question the conventions around Christmas. For me, it was all about giving an unusual or rarely seen perspective around the familiar and the chosen tracks did that perfectly. Silent Night conjures such a wide range of contrasting thoughts, feelings and memories for most of us, and it was the perfect way to bookend the project.

What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?
I want people to see or feel something outside of the expected. Whether that is something that resonates with an unspoken feeling, or something that inspires them to think about Christmas outside of the popular narrative that surrounds the festive period. But, to be honest, I just hope people can watch it and feel something – I try not to hold any specific expectations around what people take from my work.

Another Christmas is currently premiering over on Music Beyond Mainstream’s YouTube and Facebook channels. For those who missed tonight’s premiere, you can stream the film via Music Beyond Mainstream’s YouTube from tomorrow (17 December) until New Year’s Eve.