Tell us about your latest film.
Frida Kahlos Corset is a short experimental drama that follows a journey of transformation by the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo who wore a series of orthopaedic corsets because of impairment. Frida is played beautifully by dancer-choreographer Isolte Avila from Common Ground Sign Dance Theatre Company. The film draws on Fridas own words, as well as the symbolism and surrealism of her paintings - and it refutes the picture of her life as one of tragedy and suffering.
You experienced a lot of difficulties finding funding for the project.
Just before I finally gave up on trying to find funding, Frida won the Picture This Short Film production award and subsequently gained additional grants from South West Arts, Jacksons Lane, HTV and Bridging the Gap. Picture This are based in Bristol and work with filmmakers and artists producing commissions for television, cinema, galleries and public spaces and run training in moving image work.
Did it get any festival attention?
Yeah, its being screened at Brief Encounters on Sunday the 19th of November at Bristols Watershed.
You'd worked as a documentary director before Frida.
Yes, I'd made The Real Helen Keller but it was co-produced and directed with Ann Pugh. Its a 50-minute documentary-biography made for Channel Four and due for transmission in Christmas week. Helen Keller was world-famous as the deaf-blind all-American dream child who triumphed against the odds. It was a role she battled against it all her life but the programme goes beyond the mythology to reveal a hidden woman a radical political activist and a complex character.
When did you first hear about Frida Kahlo?
I read a biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Harrera about twelve years ago. She was born in 1907 and died in 1954 and was a Mexican painter whose work and life are known for their intensity and passion. Shes become an icon for Latin Americans, feminists, lesbians and gay men and, more recently, disabled people. In the biography there was a particular episode that completely captivated me. From her late 30s until her death at 47, she wore a series of orthopaedic corsets, including a plaster cast version that surrounded her from chest to waist. For someone as colourful, sensual and all-woman as Kahlo, surely this harsh and clinical object must have been an assault. But she painted these casts with motifs from her paintings and her life and in doing so turned them into an extension of her self.
Was there a particular aspect of her life that inspired you to make the film?
This was something that rang so true to my own experiences of impairment and self-image that I knew I wanted to do something with the information. I was writing a lot at the time but never found a way forward until much more recently when my work extended into film.