BBC Films

Film Network Member

Gabrielle Russell

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Biography

I studied Fine Art at Leeds University where I made my first film HARRIET, THE AUNTS AND THE LIQUORICE TREE winning a Passey Prize for the most outstanding work in exhibition.

After graduating with a first class honours degree I lectured in Women’s Studies at Lancaster University and tutored at Leeds College of Art in film and video. I also worked as a projectionist at the Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds.

During this time I made animations and a music video before directing my first fiction film THE RED WARDROBE. Adapted from poems by Sarah Corbett, and telling the story of a young girl’s ambivalent relationship with her abusive mother, the film screened at international festivals and was broadcast on UK network television in 2000.

I followed this with HIGHRISE in 2002. Commissioned by Yorkshire Arts and Short Circuits this ultra bleak moment when a mother wishes that her child might die, screened at more than twenty major international festivals, winning a Certificate of Merit at Chicago in 2003, and making world wide sales to television.

My first year film at the NFTS WIDE SKY about a young girl compromised by discovery of her mother’s affair, won a NAHEMI award in the British Short Film Festival 2002.

My second year film ANGELA tells the story of a married woman who afraid her husband might be having an affair, investigates, only to discover that it is she herself who desires someone to love.

My graduation film THE WRONG SEA is about a young man’s initiation to the complexities of love. Tom (15) meets Hannah (40) at his mother’s wedding party. Hannah says she wants to see the sea. Attracted to her, Tom says he knows the way. Lost together, an intimacy is exchanged that shatters their fantasy and forces a painful recognition of their true selves exposing his naivety and her longing for a different life.

Project Development

I have recently been commissioned to direct LIKE FATHER, the winning script from the British Best Short Screenplay Competition and produced in association with Kaos films and the NFTS. Set in present day Bosnia, a man returns to a remote war torn village to find his lost father. But his father is a war criminal living in fear of retribution and kills him, only later discovering that he has killed his own son.

Influences

I like films that have moving / interesting stories and create a unique feeling about our world. 'Come and See' by Elem Klimov is a strong current influence as is Micheal Haneke's 'Code Unknown'. Also Aleksandr Sukurov's 'Moloch'.

I also like delicate films such as Somersault (Cate Shortland), All about Lilly Chou Chou (Shunji Awai), La Cienega / The Swamp and La Nina Santa / Holy Girl (Lucrecia Martell).

My ultimate favourites though are the sublime Eureka! (Shinji Aoyama), Exotica (Atom Egoyan), In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar Wai) and Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul). There is in these films a mode of address that is rare in it’s subtlety, the stories are delicate and events are not explicit but are imagined or intuited, yet non the less deeply felt by the audience.

Cinematically, I am aiming for a new kind of form, that has it’s roots in realism, yet operates within a dream-logic and acknowledges all our senses, including the intuitive realm of the sixth, telepathic, symbolic, visionary, where existence does not rely on physical fact, but in feeling. I call this Etherealism.

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