Athena Mandis, whose work includes Backroads (2008), a short film about sex trafficking in the UK, and Fly Away (2009), a drama surrounding a Bangladeshi girl whose father has recently passed away, has been working on her new short film titled Roxanne.
It is being produced by Michael Peers, an ex-student of Queen Mary University, who like most of the crew, has been taken into Mandis’ brainchild company Mile End Films. It is based within the University and largely funded through year long commercial work. It is quintessentially independent; allowing the production of lesser mainstream content and more artistic endeavours.
[Roxanne] is somewhat topical, sharp in pace and eye opening…
Roxanne was submitted as a script into a competition, by a graduating student – Paul Frankl and it was successfully selected for production. The narrative tightly revolves around a transsexual who welcomes Lily, a young girl, into her home after being abandoned by her mother. It is somewhat topical, sharp in pace and eye opening to anyone who views the world from a restricted bigoted ideology.
After waiting in the humid weather of Monday 27 June, I had the opportunity to interview the director, a day before shooting began:
BR: What attracted you to Roxanne?
AM: I liked the idea of a transgender/transsexual character being saved by a little girl. I liked the combination of these characters being forced together in the same world, it doesn’t usually happen.
…it is quite hard to get work in productions that don’t involve getting tea for people.
BR: Why did you establish Mile End Films?
AM: I established it first and foremost to give the graduates of Queen Mary a real film experience. I know from my own experiences that it is quite hard to get work in productions that don’t involve getting tea for people. It was to give the opportunity to students to “get their foot in the door”.
Once you have this experience, it is easier to get the jobs on professional film work simply because you have had the chance to get a skills base which you require. It also allows us to put a system in place where the oncoming recruits can move up in the world of film production through passed graduates who have being through this process. One job will lead to another. That is why I started it.
And to make films of course – we are a film department! I just think that making films is part of what we do. Exploring it, and pushing it in a non modular way.
…I was inspired by people like Woody Allen…
BR: Who are your cinematic inspirations?
AM: Inspirations? That is a funny one. I suppose I was inspired by people like Woody Allen, but not that I draw on Woody Allen as an inspiration but I think as early on I liked his films. You know, people like Carlos Saura, I think when I saw Carmen I found it inspiring.
BR: What would you like to think the audience would take away from Roxanne?
AM: I think not to be quick to make judgments. I would like to think that we are making a film that questions stereotypes and assumptions which are made because of what people look like. As a society we like to think that we are open minded, but there are certain boundaries still in place. But hopefully, they would have enjoyed a good film.
The company seems to be flourishing and steadily developing…
Roxanne is not the only project being made by Mile End Films this summer. The company seems to be flourishing and steadily developing with a headstrong committed staff.
It is a rare thing to occur in the United Kingdom and somewhat refreshing, as the tales of “auteurs” being found in the classrooms of the New York Film School are still a recurring theme. Whilst here in the UK, we are yet to establish a means with which we can develop our own canon of future filmmakers. Perhaps it is something that should be considered further and brought to attention with the increase of University fees and closure of the UK Film Council.
Image courtesy of Athena Mandis
Check out Athena’s short film Fly Away: