In one video he’s leaping from his grandmother’s sofa dressed as Spider-Man. Another shows him cheekily mimicking his car-mechanic dad during a tour of the latter’s workplace. Hetain Patel’s video work explores his family’s roots and the issues of identity and acceptance that they throw up – and it’s been rewarded with the 2019 Film London Jarman award, which recognises work in the field of the moving image.
The 38-year-old from Bolton overcame competition from, among others, Rehana Zaman, whose videos have included archive footage of the Toxteth race riots, and Imran Perretta, whose work has commented on rendition and power structures.
Patel’s work is engaging and often accessible, marked out by nods to big-budget Hollywood movies such as The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. But beneath the surface it explores themes such as marginalisation, communication and cultural overlap.
In a forthcoming interview with the Guardian, Patel describes the motivations for his work: “I’m interested in bridge-building. It comes from a personal place of wanting to fit in and be accepted.”
He says winning the Jarman prize will be of immeasurable help for an artist in his position, especially as it comes with a £10,000 prize. “That’s a significant amount of money for someone like me. It will contribute to sustaining my practice, and helping me be less chaotic in the way I work.”
The members of the Jarman jury said: “The virtuosity, beauty and humour of [Patel’s] works speak clearly of our current condition, trying to make sense of a polarised world that is far messier than we like to acknowledge. His films are technically sophisticated, and his use of sound and super-slow-motion video capture is masterful.”
The award was announced at the Barbican, London, during an event that marked 25 years since the death of pioneering film-maker Derek Jarman. Actor and director Rupert Everett, who knew Jarman, presented the award. Previous winners include Luke Fowler, Heather Phillipson and Daria Martin.
Work by all six nominees will be on display at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, from 26 November to 8 December.