An interview with Dina Yanni, director of “The Dark, Debra”

Dina Yanni


«The remix of an existing work contradicts the idea that the meaning of this work is fixed forever and can only exist in one context. Instead, remix films circulate alternative narratives of popular works, all the while being suspicious of conventions and authorities.»



Dina Yanni is a video artist and researcher whose work is heavily influenced by popular culture and its politics, digital image manipulation, and critical theory.

Through compilation and analysis of existing footage, experimental editing and/or data corruption, Yanni strives to reveal, reevaluate and reframe power structures discovered in the original materials. She is also a political scientist and publishes theory-based writing around the very same themes that inform her video work: the study of power structures behind visual representations and possibilities for counter-narratives. Dina Yanni holds a PhD in Political Science and an MA in Film Production. Her work has been exhibited at experimental film and video art festivals internationally.


 First of all, congratulations. Your «The Dark, Debra», is an example of how it is possible to create a film using archival material by subverting its language. How did your experimental research begin?


It’s always a mix of the material that compels me and a critical response to systems of oppression and marginalization. I believe there is a lot of power in the creation and reception of alternative narratives, because they subvert the original context. „The Dark, Debra“ is an attempt to follow an impulse for satire and to trouble that specific context.


What particularly fascinated you about the figure of Debra Paget? Does she represent for you the archetype of something?


I am intrigued with the images of Old Hollywood Actors like Debra Paget and the standards they were forced to represent. Debra Paget was exposed to the Hollywood system at a very young age and later became trapped in the representation of what was considered the ideal woman. This image also included a lot of destress, desperation, yet faithfulness to the men in her life.
To me, watching Debra Paget crying and worrying is not just a submissive act; I think there are also moments of radical truth and resilience in these images. I wanted to demonstrate how close intention and subversion are and how identity is shaped by these struggles. Also, I wanted to frame the story in a satirical way.



The way you used editing disrupts the power structures proper to traditional cinema. Please tell us about the possible political theoretical implication sought through this operation.


Many academic disciplines – first and foremost Cultural studies – view pop culture texts such as films as encrypted power structures. They are shaped by systems of oppression and spaces of resistance. Remixing films in the tradition of détournement means transforming pop culture texts and experimenting directly with mainstream images of race, class or gender. The proposition of more diverse and affirming images can radically change the way we think about these texts.





Just as every film genre has its milestones, experimental editing counts the names of great masters and innovators. Which directors have influenced you the most?


My work is very much informed by the academic work of Stuart Hall, bell hooks and Michel Foucault. In so far as contemporary visual art, I follow the works of filmmaker Trinh T. Minh-ha and the art collective Soda_Jerk, for example.



What are you currently working on?

I just published an excerpt of my current work in development, called „Boys! Boys! Boys!“. It elaborates on the queer subtexts in the Elvis movies and explores the original narrative minus the women. It’s a piece of fan art that simultaneously pays homage and is critical of the source material.