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Dumas Haddad is a director and photographer raised in London who has developed his craft from the world's of fashion, music & bleeding edge culture. His work elicits powerful uses of analogies and on-the-pulse narrative and character underpinnings. Focused on storytelling and dramatic action, his desire to reframe contemporary culture represents a rising generation of filmmaker that are trying to transform both today and tomorrow's voices. His accolades includes Vimeo Staff Pick, Film 4 and Kinsale Shark Awards.

Dumas told me he liked to cycle, so we met up in Stratford, I grabbed a rental bike and he took me on a trip down memory Lane. We started in Stratford’s East Village and cycled down through the Olympic park towards Hackney and ended our journey at the home where he grew up. Along the way Dumas pointed out areas from back in the day and told me snippets of happy memories from growing up in East London, the sun came out, we drank coffee, had good chats and cycled. Alot.

Why Stratford and Hackney?

East London has been part of my life, all my life but Hackney initially and Stratford in the second half. My happiest and purest memories are surrounded by here, my view on culture and London is very much guided with an ‘East’ lens and I think I’ve just been so ingrained in the culture of Stratford and Hackney, it’s almost like I’ve become a flag bearer for both.

Has growing up in these areas influenced your work today?

Yeah, totally. I remember reading something a few years ago, if they’d cloned Tupac and had him from a different area like the west coast, would his music still be the same? There’s this whole debate whether it would or wouldn’t and I definitely think upbringing gives you your own personal influence. Coming from a multicultural heritage and being able to interact with different groups of people from different backgrounds has given me a different viewpoint.

When you look at mass media and entertainment, cultures of people can be very stereotypical and misrepresented and I think to have that direct relation and that viewpoint of people from different backdrops has made me hyper aware of representing truths. It also became such a backdrop for me, my eye was always seeking further away from the palette that I’m used to seeing. Having a good basis and knowing where you’re from and what you’re about is the spine but I think the second stage is having a wider viewpoint and experiencing stuff you aren’t privy to.

Tell us about your journey into directing.

My dad was a photographer, so I sort of grew up in and around his studios. He had two locations, one used to be at my grandparent’s place which is like a downstairs basement where he had his own dark room, he used to print and develop his own film. My dad was always someone that pretty much documented our whole life as a family, there’s pretty much not a moment that went by that hasn’t got on film in some sort of way; my dad was always behind the camera. He was actually the reason I got into film, he taught me from a young age and showed me different directors. Then he moved to a large studio just off Hackney Road.

Growing up I was actually very good at drawing so one of the things I used to do with my dad is go to the West End and buy comics and I would replicated them in such fine detail and that was a skillset that my dad encouraged me to do. I knew from young that I didn’t want to be a photographer, which is not to knock what my dad was doing but you’d sometimes see people in the shadows of their parents. I can appreciate photography but hadn’t really found a love and passion for it like my dad, so it wasn’t something I wanted to actively explore. When I got to college, I decided to do music because music was such a big thing for me and more immediate, especially living in East.

I had this love for film and wanted to do film but hadn’t really seen an access point for me with the types of stories I wanted to tell. I didn’t feel that my voice would be a thing at that time. Eventually I came back to film at a time where I started to see the gates open for storytellers and visuals that felt aligned to the stories and worlds that fascinated me. Seeing more of an industry open up for the stories I wanted to explore on screen domestically really unlocked the gates to filmmaking.

Would you say that you have a particular directing style?

It’s a weird one because I can’t necessarily pinpoint my own style, I just know my own taste. Maybe my short film, ‘The Gift’ has a lot of me in there. I like posing questions and getting an audience to work and think. I’m drawn to more intimate stories on a psychological level and try to inject new life into the system; that’s kind of what I’m always seeking and trying to get across in my work. I don’t think I’ve made a single piece of work that has me fully in there, I think you’re always trying to keep it 100% you as much as you can but there’s always different variables involved, so I’m still seeking that piece that has a higher dilution of me – I think ‘The Gift’ is probably there.

What piece of work are you most proud of?

Again, it’s a weird one, maybe ‘The Gift?’ I don’t even like playing my work back, I’m not really indulged with my work like that. I’m so attached to my work when I’m creating but watching it back as a viewer is a completely different experience for me. I’m a film buff, I love it so much I’m immersed in it, but I just don’t ever have that same kinda thing with my work. I know my intent so I’m always like ‘did I get that point across?’ so I’m looking at it from more of a forensic level which means I can’t necessarily connect as much as I would like and from the viewpoint I would normally have.

Have you been able to take anything positive away from lockdown?

On a personal level being able to spend more time with my little one and having that unfiltered time, that was great. If I look at it on a professional level, it had me slightly regretful; I remember thinking at one point, if we can’t shoot for a year or create what have I done? What have I communicated? What have I delved into? There was a whole bunch of things I regretted not doing, not shooting, telling certain stories, not on an indulgent level but more from a communicating level which is being able to put out certain thoughts into the world.

What are you working on at the moment?

Most things are at the ideas stage and figuring out which to run with. The thing for me is that I’m never short for ideas, it’s choosing the ones that make the most sense.

Where is Dumas in 10 years?

 Ideally, I’d like to have a few feature films under my belt. For me I feel like I’m a creator and a storyteller and I have so many stories to tell but then I also wanna be able to provide a platform at some stage where people can do that also. Essentially to put out strong storytelling and to do that more frequently with different collaborators in a beautiful way would be awesome.