Kahlil Joseph is an award-winning, LA based filmmaker. Born and raised in Seattle (b.1981), Joseph migrated to Los Angeles in 1999 to attend Loyola Marymount University, where he studied television production. After university, Joseph embarked on a tutelage under accomplished directors, cinematographers and artists, including Malik Sayeed and Arthur Jafa.
In 2005, Joseph interned for Doug Aitken as he was making Sleepwalkers for the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). He then joined Roman Coppola’s The Directors Bureau, a production company and collective of filmmakers, assisting photographer/director Melodie McDaniel until 2010. During this time, Kahlil was selected to assist Sofia Coppola on the set of her 2010 film Somewhere. The Coppola family felt Kahlil’s perspective could best capture Sofia’s femininity and enlisted him to direct all behind-the-scenes footage of the film’s production. His experience at the Bureau, and the exposure he gained, was formative in Kahlil’s career and his development as a director and artist.
One of Joseph’s most transformative roles came after his time at the Bureau. During 2010 and 2012, Kahlil shot behind-the-scenes footage on the set of Academy Award winning director, Terrence Malick’s 2012 film, To The Wonder. Shortly thereafter, he joined the post-production as an editor for the film, working under the direction of Malick. He also played the role of creative consultant for other feature film projects Malick was working on.
After several years as an apprentice to these aforementioned artists, Joseph began his own career as a director. His beautifully shot, evocative short film “Until the Quiet Comes” (2012), received widespread critical acclaim and won the Grand Jury Prize for Short Films at Sundance Film Festival 2013 and Video of the Year at the UKMVA’s in 2013. The film was also included in Kara Walker’s celebrated exhibit, Ruffneck Constructivists, at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia in 2014.
Kahlil has worked with some of the most influential artists in music, including Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Seu Jorge, Shabazz Palaces & FKA twigs. His first short film with Seattle-based musician Shabazz Palaces, entitled Bellhaven Meridian, was a one shot homage to Charles Burnett’s 1977 film, Killer of Sheep. His next collaboration with Shabazz, a short film, Black Up, was included in the Ruffnecks exhibit at the ICA. The short was also selected by Kevin Jerome Everson for a screening, entitled Through the Lens of the Blues Aesthetic, at the Whitney Museum of Art in 2013.
In 2012, Kahlil traveled to Grayson, Oklahoma to document an all Black rodeo. The resulting short film, Wildcat, shot by award-winning Cinematographer, Malik Sayeed, is a beautiful account of a town, its people, and their energy, and was released in 2013. It hovers somewhere between a very tangible reality and a spiritual dream. The Institute of Contemporary Art in London, England, included the film in their 2014 Artists’ Film Biennial: Avant-Noir, selected by Greg de Cuir.
The following year, a collaboration with Kendrick Lamar evolved into a short film entitled m.A.A.d., which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Next Festival in Los Angeles. The next evolution of the film is a 2-screen video installation, which was part of The Underground Museum’s group show, The Oracle, curated by Noah Davis in 2014. The installation was then acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles during their 2015 season for Joseph’s first major museum solo show, “Double Conscience”. The work is a lush portrait of contemporary Compton, California. A camera glides through a predominantly Black neighborhood capturing quotidian scenes hovering between the real and dreamlike. The booming soundscape provides an unconventional soundtrack that rises and falls as the images flash across the screens.
Joseph’s first feature-length film, The Reflektor Tapes, is an unorthodox music documentary that follows Grammy-winning band, Arcade Fire, to six different countries as they record and perform their latest album, Reflektor. Shot in Haiti, Jamaica, Montreal, Los Angeles, London, and Paris, predominantly from 2013 to 2014, Joseph constructed a vivid soundscape to accompany striking imagery of the band’s journey. A parallel storyline is that of Haitian sounds, rhythms, cultures and energy, the country from which the band drew their inspiration. Joseph creates a vibrant stage for a country whose narrative is otherwise absent from American consciousness. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 as part of the Official Selection.
Joseph is currently in development on his first feature-length narrative film project.