The incredible true story of 31-year-old Majid Adin, an Iranian refugee animator behind a viral music video for one of Elton John's most classic jams.
Vice:: The world in three dimensions only recently became a kinder place to animator Majid Adin. When he first arrived in London, a little more than a year ago, he had come by way of locking himself into a refrigerator, before spending the next four hours lurching around in the back of a cargo truck. A refugee from Iran who faced persecution for his writings and cartoons criticizing religious conservatism, Adin had smuggled himself to England from a refugee camp in northern France. The first few times, he tried clinging to the truck's underbelly. But the risk of falling onto the asphalt below, zipping by at 60 miles an hour, was too terrifying. The refrigerator, despite its ability to suffocate him, seemed safer. It's an experience that the 31-year-old carries with him in his art. "Even suffering can be beautiful," he tells me with a wry smile.
It's an unusually tropical June day in the north London borough of Islington, and Adin is in the kitchen of the home of Sue McAlpine, curator of the Migration Museum Project, a program dedicated to expanding awareness and appreciation for how migration has shaped the UK. McAlpine has recently commissioned Adin to design a stencil that captures the idea of mother. Adin smirks as he compares his creation to a younger-looking version of his own mother. When I point out that she doesn't look so young, he just laughs. "It's fine," he says, in Persian. (All our conversations were in Persian.) His mother would laugh, too.
Adin is working, stretched out with his entire body across the wooden dining room table in a way that makes me nervous, given the room's charming, quintessentially English décor. Though he is softened by playful facial expressions, shaggy hair, and geeky glasses, Adin is a tall and somewhat burly guy. Everything in the house seems so small and delicate around him.
But Adin is used to dealing with the delicate. Most of his time these days is spent working on building, organizing, and stitching images in a studio in Camden. He got the job, and an unexpected slew of attention, as the result of a contest he entered over the winter. The musical legend Sir Elton John, together with YouTube, had run a global, open competition to create the first-ever music videos for the singer's early 70s hits "Rocket Man," "Tiny Dancer," and "Bennie and the Jets." Adin had entered at the suggestion of a friend, without even knowing who Elton John was >>> Watch