On my radar: Oona Chaplin’s cultural highlights

The actor on her early love of The Dark Crystal, the shifting styles of David Hockney, and a New York gathering of tribal elders

Granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, Oona Chaplin was born in 1986 in Madrid, Spain. She graduated from Rada in 2007 and, after making her TV debut in Spooks (2007), went on to star in Game of Thrones (2012-13), Black Mirror (2014) and Taboo (2017). She has also joined the cast of James Cameron’s forthcoming Avatar sequels. Her new film, Anchor and Hope, in which Chaplin and Natalia Tena star as a couple living on a houseboat in London, is in cinemas from Friday.

1. Video art

Vincent Moon

Vincent Moon speaking at TEDGlobal 2014.
Vincent Moon speaking at TEDGlobal 2014. Photograph: James Duncan Davidson/TED

Vincent Moon is an experimental ethnographer: he’s a delightful Frenchman who travels all over the world filming people making music in all sorts of different settings and scenarios. He’s fascinated with the ways people make sound, so he’ll go to an Ethiopian Orthodox ritual, an ayahuasca ceremony in Brazil, or go to film [the band] Bomba Estéreo in Bogotá, Colombia. He has more than 800 films online that you can watch free on Bandcamp and Vimeo, and you can also directly pay the people who are in the recordings. He is totally my hero.

2. Film

The Dark Crystal (Dir Jim Henson, Frank Oz, 1982)

The Dark Crystal
‘One of the best films ever made’: The Dark Crystal. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Universal

There’s been an exhibition of Jim Henson here [in Los Angeles], so we’ve been watching lots of his movies, and I have to say this is still one of the best films ever made. It’s so profound and funny and innocent, and I like the simplicity with which it tackles very deep philosophical issues. I first watched it in Switzerland, with my parents – I was very small, and I remember holding the box of the cassette, totally entranced by the weird music and characters. I was a little bit scared, but I couldn’t tear my eyes off the screen.

3. Dance

Okwui Okpokwasili

A scene from Poor People’s TV Room by Okwui Okpokwasili.
A scene from Poor People’s TV Room by Okwui Okpokwasili. Photograph: Nathan Keay/MCA Chicago

Okwui Okpokwasili is a dancer and a choreographer and an incredible woman. Considering the current US situation in race and gender relations, she brings a deep compassion for everybody into dance; but at the same time, the fight. She dances like nothing else – her routines are very weird and disturbing – and she makes very strong social commentary with a lot of heart. I’ve seen her twice and both times she’s blown me away. I feel like she understands a lot of things that I want to understand about how society works and how we can heal together.

4. Book

The Canopus in Argos series, Doris Lessing

Doris Lessing at her home in London.
‘Lessing has a gift’: Doris Lessing. Photograph: Martin Argles/The Guardian

This is amazing. It’s a series of five books that will take you on a cosmic journey across the inner workings of the human psyche. It follows the travels through five realms of a Canopian emissary, Johor, and his allies. I suppose it falls under science fiction, although it’s much more than that. Doris Lessing has a gift for encapsulating the near-understanding of everything: she really gets the fact that we all almost get it at times, and then it slips away. I’d totally recommend it.

5. Art

David Hockney at LACMA, Los Angeles

David Hockney paintings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
‘He fully respects his subjects’ weirdness’: David Hockney paintings at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photograph: Larry Brownstein/Alamy Stock Photo

Every time I go to a David Hockney exhibition my life is richer and fuller afterwards. He sends me into such a deep state of feeling, and I have clarity about where I stand before all of his paintings. I feel he looks at his subjects with a lot of compassion but also fully respects their weirdness. I’m interested in the way he has shifted his style throughout his life: he’s constantly reacted to the world around him as he perceives it, and painted that rather than being stuck in one style. Even the stuff he’s doing on the iPad is mind-blowing.

6. Event

Aniwa Gathering II, New York

An elder at the Aniwa Gathering in Ibiza.
‘The thing I’m most excited about right now’: An elder at the Aniwa Gathering in Ibiza. Photograph: picatic.com/aniwagathering

I’m on such a massive journey with music right now – I’m playing and singing more and more – and this is the thing I’m most excited about at the moment. It’s a cultural event happening in New York this month; the first one was in Ibiza last year. It’s 30 indigenous elders from all around the world that come to share their music and culture, and put forth projects for permaculture and language rescue and land buy-back. There will be traditional music, a prayer about taking care of Mother Earth, sacred ceremonies involving incense, and hapé, which is a different way of taking tobacco. I’ve been working with a lot of these elders for some years now, so it’s exciting to see all of them come together.


Kathryn Bromwich

The GuardianTramp

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