mayan toledano explores longing and gender-fluidity in a dreamy new video

Watch the video premiere of 'She’s So Untouchable,' from electro-pop trio Garden City Movement.

by Clementine de Pressigny
21 September 2016, 3:10pm

Mayan Toledano, artist and one-half of label Me and You has lent her hazy daydream aesthetics to the the latest video for Tel Aviv-based band Garden City Movement. Set to the softly seductive electro-pop rhythms of  the trio's track "She's So Untouchable," Toledano's intimate world of teenage friendship, love, and longing is a perfect pastel-hued fit. We spoke with the budding director about how the video's cast inspired her, the benefits of learning as you go, and why being untouchable is about defying expectations — including societal definitions of gender — and carving out your own identity.

You've worked with Garden City Movement before, how did your relationship with the band begin?
Yoni, from the band, is a close friend of mine from back home (Tel Aviv) since before his band days. It's amazing to be able to grow creatively with your friends and even better when we get to collaborate on things. We worked together on the Move On video, and since then we've been trying to collaborate again. I love GCM's approach to music and the openness of being able to visualize it without the limitations of a music video, being able to make it more like short film.

What did you discuss with the band in terms of the idea for the latest video — how much input did they have?
When I worked on writing the story for this I already knew who I wanted in the video and what kind of world I was going to create for these characters, so what I pitched to them was already pretty detailed. The band and everyone on the team were really supportive and allowed all the space I needed in order for this to come to life. I've been in conversation with them about the lyrics and how it was written and considered it when I started working on the script. I think their input was mostly there in the trust they gave, which provided me with the freedom to create. It feels like a true collaboration in which my visual world and their music meet without any boundaries.

What is the idea behind the video?
When I first started thinking about the song I tried to imagine this enigmatic "untouchable" character and thought that gender ambiguity is something that can really question that term. What makes someone untouchable is a combination of what we expect them to be and the lack of their obedience to those expectations. We are born into gender and all its qualifications, but it's not something we choose or fit into necessarily. Considering fluidity in gender is sort of an active protest — against what we were taught and how we are shaped to perform our gender at all times — I wanted to create a world in which all characters can engage without those traditional roles. Instead, I wanted to focus on nonconformity through uniformity. The characters look similar, dress similarly, behave similarly in their tight friendship bond and it keeps them together. The way in which we communicate sexual attraction is also based on social constructs and that's another thing I wanted to reverse with the group.

There's a real sense of sweetness and softness to your work, is it important to you to convey that?
I think the softness of things comes naturally from dealing with feelings and intimacy. There is something really comforting about finding other people that feel/think/experience similar things and I like to find that closeness with the people that I work with.

How do you find the transition from photography to filming, and is directing something you want to do more of?
Definitely! I find the transition really natural, it's another embodiment of the same world essentially, but bigger and more accurate. It definitely requires more work and I could never have done it without a crew of really talented people, but collaborative work is something I've always felt more comfortable with.

Have you had any film training, or are you self-taught?
No film or photography training. I am learning from mistakes most of the time but I find that diving into projects like this helps in reaching those honest imperfections. It also provides less barriers with the subjects I work with. Being vulnerable on set is totally okay (:

Tell me about who you cast for the video.
Maya, Amitay, Ben, and Daria are a group of friends that I met on one of my prior trips home. I saw them for the first time almost a year before we shot the video, but I knew I'd have to get them together for a project at some point. They inspired me to write the script and were in my mind months before I even reached out to them about their parts. It's so cool and refreshing to see young people being confident in their bodies in a very effortless way. Gender identity can be simple and obvious to some people but it can also be more complex. I haven't met a lot of people like them that are as free and casual about who they are at the age of 17.

Who would you most love to make a video for?
Rihanna the queen, 100%.


Text Clementine de Pressigny

Garden City Movement
Mayan Toledano
she's so untouchable