The day Grace Jones told me she 'loved the smell' of my film

It’s 2002, London, the first showing of a film about Grace Jones’s brother, and someone exciting walks in and sits down at the front

I made Hoover Street Revival about Grace’s brother, Noel, a Pentecostal bishop, back in 2002. I met her at the first showing of the film. She happened to be in London and she just sort of turned up at the screening room. It was a really intimate setting and her arrival was a delightful surprise.

Everyone has their preconceived idea of what Grace is going to be like: larger than life and unpredictable was what I thought beforehand. We didn’t actually meet until the end of the film. I could tell she was enjoying it throughout as she was whooping and clapping. At the end she turned around to look at me and said: “I just love the smell of your film!” I remember thinking that was a wonderful way of describing something.

A group of us went for dinner afterwards, and that’s really when we got talking. She’s a brilliant conversationalist. We talked about religion and her upbringing. I remember her saying: “You understand where I come from.” I think she appreciated that I was looking at the impact the church had had on her upbringing.

Grace contacted me 18 months later and said the BBC had been in touch with her, wanting to make a documentary, and that she didn’t want to do it. She suggested we do something together instead. We began spending time on the phone and seeing each other when we could. She had a transcendental agenda. I remember her saying that she wanted to do this project with me because she felt it was necessary to “drop the construction and performative aspect of being Grace Jones”. She wanted to “be seen by the world in a private way” and had always kept that out of the limelight.

Sometimes Grace likes to go, what she calls, “Totally coco-loco” – partying and clubbing etc, but there is also a quieter, more contemplative side to her. It was my job as her friend and the filmmaker to capture those moments – to be her mirror.

It’s been a long friendship between the two of us now. She has taught me a lot about life and myself, and I hope I have done the same for her in some way. She describes us as “soul sisters” and I like that very much. We’re two women who connected. She’s generous and she’s intense, and she’s not ashamed of who she is in any way, and I like that.

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami is currently in cinemas nationwide

Sophie Fiennes

The GuardianTramp

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