Kusini Productions’ latest short film release ‘Bridge’ makes its world premiere this November at Norwich Film Festival. ‘Bridge’ has been selected by NFF as 1 of 124 short films from 26 countries in this year’s programme. The subtly moving short was written by actor and poet Gemma Barnett, directed by Tara Aghdashloo (The Ride, Empty Your Pockets) and produced by Nina Georgieff (Small Selkie, A Splash of Blue) and Catherine White (of Kusini Productions, Fifty Four Days, Ceres).
Bridget, a healthcare receptionist, grapples with heartbreak, motherhood and the demands of a crumbling healthcare system. Locked into a disconnected routine, her life changes when she picks up the phone to Kirsty. The two discover a shared past and find an unlikely alliance. ‘Bridge’ explores the necessity of connection between women against the backdrop of a crumbling healthcare system that lacks the means to support the public.
During the global Covid-19 pandemic, out-of-work actor Gemma Barnett took up work as a receptionist at a GP surgery in Tottenham, North London. Her experiences during this challenging time led her to find an outlet for her creativity. She won the Poetry for Good prize with her poem The Front Desk that paid tribute to her “empathetic and gutsy colleagues” working alongside her at the surgery. Gemma was interviewed live on-air by Emma Barnett and performed The Front Desk on BBC Woman’s Hour. It was published in the iPaper. Barnett developed her poem into a longer piece which she subsequently used to pitch for the BBC’s Talent Development Commission as a short film with Producer Nina Georgieff.
Off the back of its BBC commissioning, ‘Bridge’ attracted Catherine White as co-producer with Kusini Productions. Filmmaker Tara Aghdashloo then joined as director, working with Gemma to develop the script, and to adapt the poetic nature of the original piece into a cinematic journey for the character. The development process was enriched by conversations that the mostly women-led team had on the themes; from questions around motherhood to mental health, to what it means to be a young woman in contemporary society.
Gemma Barnett (A Hundred Words for Snow, Trafalgar Studios Winner Off West End Best Actress, Casualty BBC) delivers a powerful, honest performance in the role of Bridge as she goes through a rollercoaster of emotions, opposite Bianca Beckles-Rose (Slotherhouse Gravitas Ventures, Loose Strands BFI/Far Lane Media) who delivers the subtly devastating state of Kirsty’s mental state. Sam Landon (Mayflies BBC, Three Little Lies ITV, Black Cake HULU) brings to screen a surprising vulnerability to Ollie and the chemistry between the two actors as long time lovers is palpable.
Kia Fern Little (Mood BBC) as DOP worked closely with Tara in creating the film’s poignant visual language, finding ways to bring dynamism and drama to the limits of the locations, especially from behind the phone lines. The original score was made by Hollie Buhagiar (Doctor Who, BBC), with sound design by Alex Hübner (Curiosa, My Extinction). The film was edited with Joan Gill Amorim (Uprooted, Susan Feniger Forked), who brought her background in documentary as well as narrative in creating a viewing experience that felt raw and honest. The set design was carried out by Millie Wilkie and Liberty Scarlett of Set Sisters (Herd Immunity) creating distinct styles for the dream sequences as well as the more realistic reception setting.
Director Tara says on her attraction to the project: “The story has such deep dualities in it: life and death, love and loss, and the difference between feeling lonely or invisible and the intrinsic joy of feeling seen. I’ve been writing and publishing my poetry since a young age, and so I understood the emotional landscape of the character and worked on bringing Bridget into a space where her rich inner life, her anxieties as a woman, the pain of having an abortion and the common preoccupations of women her age, came to life cinematically. From my childhood in Iran, I was deeply inspired by cinema and literature. While I found a great sense of purpose studying and working as a journalist, I eventually found my voice and passion in filmmaking. My background continues to inform the projects I work on and the cinematic language I build.”
The ‘Bridge’ team are thrilled to be having their world premiere at Norwich Film Festival. It is a key annual event for both emerging and established filmmakers, home to a bold, original and rich curated programme. With its BAFTA and BIFA qualifying status, the filmmakers have high hopes for the film’s future.
On its programming at NFF actor/writer Gemma Barnett says: “I am so excited. As a previous creative student at the University of East Anglia it feels almost fated to have found its first home in Norwich. ‘Bridge’ is a deeply personal story that was inspired by the community and connections I made at the GP in Tottenham. I have never witnessed such heightened solidarity, despair and love as I did during my time there. The NHS has been the best thing to have come out of this country and this film is my love letter to it.”
Short Film Trailer
Explore more information on Bridge’s world premiere at the Norwich Film Festival.
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