Saturday evening, the 28th of January saw a well-attended Magdalen College Auditorium for the premiere of Ciana Russo’s first short film ‘Questions in a World of Blue’. As asked for on the invitation card, most in attendance wore a blue piece of clothing; in my row, I spotted a royal blue sweater, a cyan polo-shirt, a navy pair of chinos and two Oxford Blue scarves.
The film begins with a quote from Laura Mulvey, professor of film and media studies at Birbeck, University of London: ‘Woman’s desire is subjugated to her image […] as bearer, not maker, of meaning.’ Through this choice, the director wants to set a statement: ‘Growing up’, Russo tells me, ‘I watched spaghetti westerns, mafia movies and neo-realist Italian films, all of which were directed by men. As much as they gave me an appreciation for storytelling and a love for the medium of film, it was important to address what I had to give as a female filmmaker, and Mulvey’s idea of the difference between woman as bearer of meaning versus maker of meaning really resonated with me.’
The film begins with two girls sitting in a cafe, discussing their lives and remarking on the strangeness of contemplating the complexity of other people’s lives. Then, we see the exact complexities of one their lives; we follow the development of the relationship of Mr. Blue (Monty Jones), described as ‘Routine Romeo’, and Blue, whose actual name is Margot (Marianne Nossair). Just as the film itself, the relationship is fast paced: ‘A week of Blue and he (Mr. Blue) was hooked’. However, the quick and thrilling connection built between the pair is matched by an equally abrupt end: Blue moves on and ends the relationship. Mr. Blue writes a letter to her, and the film ends here; we remain with the open question of what is to come next for the two protagonists. It is left to us, with our own complex lives and our imaginations, to answer this question.
Further effects such as the switch between black and white shots and colour film, as well as Sebastian Thomas’ instrumental song ‘Mistral 2’, help in creating a special atmosphere.
Regarding her inspiration for the film and in how far her own experiences inspired her, Russo states: ‘I knew that I wanted to make a film centred on women, so it was easy when writing the script and the initial café scene in particular to draw upon conversations I’d had with my own friends.’ However, for Russo, the film only developed fully after a long process of revising the script, watching more films and crystallising in her mind exactly what story she wanted to tell.
‘Questions in a World of Blue’ will be shown at this year’s Oxford University Filmmaking Foundation (OUFF) short film festival. Russo is currently fundraising to show her creation at other film festivals throughout the UK.
Hopefully, this will not be the last time we hear from Russo. In fact, she is already working on shooting her next movie, inspired by Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film ‘Marie Antoinette’, depicting the state of an essay crisis occurring through the twilight hours.
Written and Directed by: Ciana Russo
Cast: Gracie Oddie-James (Fran), Rosie Owen (Lucy), Monty Jones (Mr. Blue), Marianne Nossair (Margot/Blue), Zac Freij (Boy in Cafe), Marianne Doherty (Girl in Cafe 1), Anna Stephen (Girl in Cafe 2)
Produced by: Marianne Doherty
Director of Photography: Téa Chatila