Majid Adin – 31 years old, filmmaker, animator, refugee, and the creator of the first ever official music video for Elton John’s classic song, Rocket Man.
From his home country of Iran, to “the jungle” – a refugee camp in Calais – before the French authorities ran their clearing operation, to a small studio in Camden stitching images together, Majid Adin has come incredibly far in the course of a few short years.
Back in Iran, Majid faced persecution for his writings and cartoons that criticised the conservatism of religion. Now he’s spearheaded a beautiful, moving music video which has been viewed by over seven million people.
You may remember that toward the end of 2016, Elton John launched a global campaign to find filmmakers and artists who would be able to bring new feeling and a unique expression to his songs that came out before the rise of the music video – and that’s exactly what Majid did. His version of Rocket Man presents the story of a refugee separated from his home and family, journeying across the Middle East and Europe toward the UK in the hope of starting a better life.
Elton John told Rolling Stone that he was “moved and amazed” by the films and the process overall.
This animation shines with originality; a moving watercolour, alternating between scenes of the character’s home, the struggle and squalor of the refugee camps, and almost hallucinatory visions of blasting off into the depths of the cosmos.
Majid smuggled his way into the country a little over a year ago in late 2016. He was crammed inside a refrigerator, fearful of suffocating but ultimately safer than he would be clinging to the underside of a truck, the wheels of its carriage grinding over asphalt at 60 miles per hour, which he had tried a few times before. He said that the experience is something that he will always carry with him in his art, and it shows.
Although he entered less than two weeks before the end of the competition, with only a hand-drawn treatment to showcase his idea, he found himself flying back to France to meet with Elton John in his villa in Nice on the day before the Cannes Films Festival, where the organisers planned to announce and showcase the winners.
There is so much to say about the incredible amount of pain and struggle that goes into fleeing a country under threat of persecution, struggling in the camp in Calais, and arriving in a new country with few friends and fewer plans – an outsider, for all intents and purposes. And there’s so much more to say on what must go into being able to convey so effectively how that feels to someone else, let alone to millions of others.
The video is a masterpiece of thought, feeling, and technique; pulling the viewer into the music, the hope and the fear, and bringing light to a whole new perspective on the song, through the eyes of someone who has been through the struggles it portrays.
Find out why Suli Breaks‘s poem for YouTube’s #MoreThanARefugee campaign is so important. Alternatively, read about the #YouTubers4Grenfell livestream to support the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.