Giulia Gandini is a London-based director whose work opens up honest discussion about important and stigmatised topics.
Her latest short film, My Time, tells the story of a 12-year-old young girl who experiences her first period in the classroom.
Q: There are some shocking statistics that speak to the stigma surrounding periods and the lack of support we give to young girls. What conversations did you want to open up in ‘My Time’?
A: ‘My Time’ actually started off as a personal project based on an experience I had in school when I was 11. A friend of mine got her period during class and wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet until break time. By then the blood had seeped through her jeans and onto the chair she was sitting on.
I still remember how bad she felt, other kids laughing at her and pointing at the blood. I was TERRIFIED at the idea of getting my first period because I immediately realised it would have been something to be ashamed of and to hide from others.
I encountered so many women and young girls telling me they had experienced similar “horror stories” with their periods. Hopefully My Time makes audiences realise how much of a taboo menstrual blood still is, and how little support is offered to young girls to feel comfortable with the topic.
Ultimately what I want to express with the film is a message of empowerment: I hope young girls will watch it, and think menstruation is something absolutely normal that they can celebrate as part of their femininity. Nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of.
Q: As with your previous short film, ‘Alright’, this is the story of a young girl finding strength and empowerment without direction from adults. How important do you feel it is for younger audiences to witness and feel that empowerment while also forcing adults to reflect on their failures in helping young people?
A: Generation gaps cause a lot of harm at times, especially to young people. Parents and teachers have far more life experiences than their children, but often that experience belongs to times with far less opportunities (especially for young girls).
Systems of beliefs and a set of social rules that well applied to my grandparents and even parents would be considered quite sexist nowadays for example. The advice and guidance adults give to children in good faith can actually have negative repercussions at times.
Therefore, young female leads finding their own way without the guidance of adults are incredibly important to me. It’s crucial for women to recognise gender inequality from an early age and finding the strength to stand against it.
Q: It is fantastic for young girls to see these stories on screen, but I wonder whether you were afforded the same help when you were that age. Was that the case? Or, is your work now fuelled by an absence of guidance or representation for you and others growing up?
A: I attended a Catholic school in Italy run by nuns for thirteen years. I have fond memories of my childhood, but I definitely lacked guidance and support when it came to topics such as sexuality and the female body. I wish I could have watched My Time myself when I was 11, seeing menstrual blood on screen depicted in a positive light would have helped me so much!
Films don’t only reflect culture, they shape it. This is why it’s incredibly important to me to give voice to narratives and characters that I haven’t encountered as much on screen while growing up.
Q: Just like her character, Clara Read had to show some courage to be a part of this short film. What was Clara like to work with? How did you help her engage with the themes of ‘My Time’?
A: Clara was only 13 years old when we shot My Time, yet she was a true professional with tons of acting experience (she played Matilda on Matilda the Musical on the West End and starred in a feature film on Netflix called What Happened to Monday? with Willem Defoe). She was a pleasure to work with: incredibly mature for her age, and a good listener with creative sensitivity and input.
What really helped me making sure she connected with the themes of My Time was having a proper conversation with her about the script and its topic rather than jumping straight into acting/rehearsal. We took an afternoon just to read through the script together and chat about menstruation. I discovered that Clara had not had her first period yet, so there was a bit of discussion about how having your period feels like.
We were both very honest and straightforward with each other, not only when speaking about the script but also about menstrual blood. That definitely made her feel confident enough to walk around a set of 30 people wearing a blood stained skirt!
Q: What has the response been like so far on the festival circuit?
A: It’s been quite positive so far! The American premiere was at Oscar-qualifying Cleveland International Film Festival and we’ve also screened at Newport Beach Film Festival. We won the Best Short Film award at BUFF in Malmo (Sweden), which was incredible! We also got selected for Leeds Young Film Festival and Fastnet Film Festival.
Keeping our fingers crossed for more selections in the future!
Q: I hear that you are in pre-production for an interactive documentary short film, titled ‘Home Stream’. What can you reveal about that project?
A: It’s an experimental short documentary supported by BFIFutureFilm, the United Nations and We The Peoples Film Festival. It’s about homelessness and the digital world: I’m providing people who are homeless with an iPhone for them to independently film their daily lives through the device and social media.
The premiere screening will be in November 2019 at the BFI Southbank for an event dedicated to young filmmakers!
Q: What are your hopes for the future? And, what kind of stories would you like to tell in the coming years?
A: I want to keep on directing content with a social message at its heart and an inspirational tone. I’m writing a new script for a fiction short film called Runner about young girls and sports.
I’m also developing my first feature film script! I don’t have an agent for commercial work nor film and television yet… so that’s the next step!