Despite being a singer, songwriter, and saxophonist...Mark Clennon wants to give us more. Making his cinematic debut at the Toronto Film Festival, Clennon co-wrote (and starred in) I Don't Know Who You Are alongside director M.H. Murray, and that's not all. He also wrote the title track for the movie, incorporating his classic saxophone and mixing in a piano melody, his own lyrics, and the ultimate Mark Clennon touch.
I Don't Know Who You Are is gut-wrenching, following Benjamin, who is battling HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and experiencing the costliness of the disease. It's not meant to be an easy watch, as both Murray and Clennon wanted to highlight the realities of HIV carriers, and how inaccessible necessary treatment and testing is.
With over 39 million people who are HIV-positive in the United States, there is not nearly enough public knowledge on testing sites and life-saving medication. It's more common than you'd think, and yet the topic remains taboo. I Don't Know Who You Are is a valiant effort at both raising awareness for HIV and it's carriers, as well as de-stigmatizing the virus in general.
Alongside the film, in which his performance received critical acclaim, Mark Clennon is the voice behind the title track: "I Don't Know Who You Are." No stranger to the music business, Clennon can create a captivating track, and this is no exception. This single, just like the movie itself, is equal parts emotional and heartbreaking. You can listen to it here:
Clennon went home after filming one day and says the song just "poured out of him." With such a passionate project, the thought and effort is evident within. This won't be the last you see of Mark Clennon in the cinema, and it most definitely isn't the last time you'll hear his music.
We spoke exclusively to Mark Clennon about I Don't Know Who You Are and the new single below!
PD: “I Don’t Know Who You Are” was your cinematic debut, which you co-wrote with M.H. Murray. Can you tell us about your experience creating the film?
Life changing! This film pushed me as an artist to places I never knew were possible and has left a lasting impact in how I view my work moving forward. The shoot itself was rewarding but very challenging but in a way that makes me a stronger, more resilient artist and human. Being on set felt familiar and safe just like making art with friends
PD: What inspired you to get into the film industry?
My whole life I've always been a very theatrical person and every time I'd watch television or a movie I would always imagine myself in the movie and it was a no brainer as I got older that i gravitated towards film and television
PD: You’re bringing a lot of awareness towards ending the stigma against HIV carriers. What makes this cause important to you?
I remember growing up in Jamaica and not knowing anything about HIV but having so much anxiety because of the stigma and misinformation around HIV. I would love to know that people of all walks of life have access to information and resources that could help to keep them safe and life fulfilling lives. I get tested every 3 months and something as simple as getting tested and knowing your status has made a tremendous impact on my life and I hope this movie brings us closer to a world where everyone is able to access the information and resources they need regarding sexual health
PD: You also released the film’s title song, which addresses bringing awareness to HIV and other societal issues. After coming from a notoriously anti-LGBTQ+ country like Jamaica, did you find it difficult to speak out about these topics?
Yes! It took me a long time to get to where i am today and it's still a journey that I'm on but I'm so proud of who I am and the work that I do and to know that bringing representation to LGBTQ+ people in places like Jamaica is making a real impact in people lives is so fulfilling that it makes some of the challenges worth it
PD: If you want viewers to take away one message from your film, what would it be?
Be kind to everyone that you meet...Even when it’s hard.
PD: What’s next for you in 2023?
I’m in the final stages of my debut album and I have a few acting projects that I can't speak about as of yet but when I can you'll be the first to know.