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Student Showcase Archive

Vice-Chancellor Talks with Oscar-winning film director Asif Kapadia

RCA’s global community joined alumnus Asif Kapadia for Vice-Chancellor Talks – part of a new series of online events featuring some of the most influential names in the arts and design.

On 22 June RCA’s global community, located across 30 countries, joined an exclusive webinar with RCA alumnus and award winning film director, Asif Kapadia (MA Film & TV Direction, 1997), hosted by Vice-Chancellor Dr Paul Thompson. Asif is described by the  Financial Times as ‘the director who reinvented the documentary.’ He is best known for his acclaimed trilogy of films Senna, Amy and Diego Maradona, which take as their subject child geniuses and the price of fame. Asif won BAFTA awards for The Warrior (2001), Senna (2010) and an Oscar and Grammy for Amy (2015), which holds the record for the highest-grossing UK documentary of all-time.
The Vice-Chancellor spoke with Asif about a range of topics including how the RCA has influenced his career, how he was coping creatively with covid and what themes he is considering exploring for future work.
Asif explained that prior to joining the RCA he had worked in television, and he felt that he wasn’t doing anything that he considered creative or satisfying:
‘I didn’t have a style, I didn’t know who I was as an artist, or as a filmmaker, so I ended up quitting my job and applying to the RCA in order to spend two years doing an MA to find myself and to test myself. And to specifically work on a certain style.’
It was at the RCA that Asif developed his visual directing style. It was also when Asif had his breakthrough as a filmmaker, with his graduation film The Sheep Thief. Shot in India, with a cast of non-professional actors and street-kids, the film won numerous international awards including one at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival. 

During the Q&A students asked Asif for advice on managing their own large creative projects.
‘You should be pushing yourself when you are a student. You should always be aiming for something you’ve never done before. If you don’t experiment when you are a student when are you going to do it? The Sheep Thief was so challenging, so difficult, but it was also the film that started my career.’
Asif also encouraged students to use their time at the RCA to learn from others. Film directing, like other creative disciplines encompasses many different art forms. During his time at the RCA, Asif worked with others from different disciplines:
‘If you are surrounded by artists, the key thing is to do your own work, but also to use the opportunity to collaborate with other artists. You should also learn about the subjects that you don’t understand or know about. You never know in the future when you might need someone that specialises in another subject.’
Today Asif continues to work with fellow artists he met during his time at the RCA. 
We thank Asif for providing students the opportunity to learn from and engage with one of the world’s leading documentary filmmakers.