Filmmaker Shabier Kirchner receives meritorious award

(photo by Robert A. Emmanuel)
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By Robert A. Emmanuel

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Cinematographer Shabier Kirchner received the Governor General’s Faithful and Meritorious Service—Cross—for his work in the film industry.

During a ceremony at Government House on Monday, the young filmmaker and son of Antigua and Barbuda’s film ambassador, Bert Kirchner, received the award from Governor General Sir Rodney Williams.

“Your journey from our shores to the world stage served as an inspiration to aspiring film makers, artists, and dreamers within our nation. Your achievements underscore the boundless possibilities that emerge when talent meets determination,” Sir Rodney remarked.

Born in Antigua and Barbuda, Kirchner moved to New York City in 2011 to pursue a career in filmmaking where he has published numerous films.

His most recent work, PAST LIVES, is Celine Song’s debut feature for A24, starring John Magaro, Greta Lee and Teo Yoo as he was named one of Variety’s 10 Artisans to watch in 2023 due to his work on the film.

Upon receiving award yesterday, he spoke of the support that he received from friends and family.

“It feels like I’m still at the beginning of my career; I had a pretty unconventional path to get here, and I was never an academic student, I never had the grades or the aptitude to make it in academia.

“But I was lucky enough to have the support of my parents that recognised my passion for the arts and really supported me,” he said.

Kirchner added that he felt obligated to Antigua and Barbuda as it was more than his home but his “biggest asset” in moulding his personality as he waded his way through the film industry in America.

In 2020, he collaborated with Academy-Award Winner Steve McQueen, lensing his anthology series, ‘Small Axe’, for which he was nominated for an Emmy award for Cinematography and won the British Academy of Film and Television Award (BAFTA) for outstanding photography in a limited Series.

“[It is] about the West Indian community in London, between the 60s and 80s. It was a super informative project, not just because Steve McQueen is one of my idols as a filmmaker, and I got this amazing opportunity, but it was a bit of a pilgrimage for me to understand the West Indian diaspora and the impact that we’ve had globally,” he stated.

Prior to his work on ‘Small Axe’, he also worked with Annie Silverstein on a feature called ‘Bull’ for which he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography and in 2018, he worked on Benh Zeitlins feature film ‘Wendy’ which he served as the 2nd unit and B Camera cinematographer.

However, the film that he told Observer he keeps coming back to, was a short film called “Dadli.”

“It’s about a young boy and his experiences on the island and talking with his community and I think that one is probably the piece of work that I revisit the most.

“When I am away from home, I get homesick and that seems to be the only thing that can make feel not homesick anymore; it is an archive of the place I grew up and how I look at Antigua,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kirchner encouraged the public to continue to pursue their ambition, particularly in filmmaking as he said that “we all have our own stories and the world needs to hear”.

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