I was recently invited to a screening of the short film My Time, by Giulia Gandini, a young independent London based film director, known for her love of coming-of-age narratives.I guess that this is what My Time is, condensed into just a five minute film, but extremely impactful. It presents an “awkward situation” in a bold and effortless way, building up to an inevitability that can only make you smile and applaud the protagonist.
Set in a mixed secondary school, we are introduced to a classroom getting ready to give individual presentations on who each of their chosen heroes are and why. A young gentleman by the name of Mike is up first, and as he walks towards the blackboard up front, the teacher prompts Eva that she is to be up next, so she begins composing herself, gathering her notes and thoughts. Eva is played by Clara Read, a very confident and in my opinion, elegant actress.
As the young man starts off declaring Sherlock Holmes as his selected hero, we start to notice that Eva is becoming increasingly uncomfortable and distressed. A shot of where she is sat reveals bloodstains on her chair, seeping through her skirt. What a time to start a period!
I never managed to get confirmation of the class age, but Eva’s lack of preparation for such an occurrence suggest to me this could have been her very first menstruation, so immediately we can understand her horror.
In the meantime, Mike is heavily into his lecture on hero Sherlock, whilst Eva (foremost trying to conceal her mess) turns her head around to another part of the classroom in an attempt to catch the attention of her buddy… to no avail; BFF Emma is fast asleep. Mike’s ode to Sherlock Holmes must have lulled her into a dreamy snooze. Efforts by Eva to awake her by sending texts are no help. Like a good girl, Emma put her mobile on silent mode before class started.
Eva appears more distressed, as her looks pivot around the room, desperately and hopelessly looking for a wall to just open up and swallow her into safety from this torture. To add insult to injury, her frantic demeanour only catches the attention of the students that have managed to stay awake. One mean spirited girl notices the bloodied seat, and does her best to inform other classmates so they can laugh at her in turn. A second girl doesn’t find Eva’s misfortunes quite as funny, and even goes as far as to offer her school jumper to perhaps wrap around her waist, just as the teacher is reminding Eva that she is next to be up front and centre. Astonishingly, the nice young lady’s offer isn’t taken up. Eva has found a source of inspiration that can get her through such a sticky situation, and it’s in the form of her completed homework.
Emma finally wakes up from her slumber to witness what a brave BFF she has. You see, Eva’s chosen hero is Wonder Woman, and clearly a “What Would Wonder Woman Do” thesis had overcome Eva pertaining to the unlucky predicament she was currently facing, and transformed her fear into an assertive empowerment.
With not a care in the world, Eva rises from her seat, and nonchalantly strides to the front of the class, ready to introduce her piece. However, “Sir” interrupts her; he has noticed what has befallen the young girl and hurriedly tries to excuse her. Again, Eva rejects the offer and begins to tell the class about her “Heroine”.
In conclusion, My Time, felt like a fluctuating rollercoaster, even offering a touch of nostalgia; reminding me how horrible and unsympathetic classmates can be, but equally, that you always find others who are helpful and encouraging.
At my ripe age of 33, I must confess that such an organic picture and pure acting allowed me to see and feel from a young girl’s eyes, how terrifying the first stages of menstruation can be, and if my daughter ever needs help in the future, show her a potential way to empower herself to deal with the situation should something similar occur to her.
I definitely look forward to studying more of Giulia’s work in the future.
After watching the film, I had the pleasure to interview her to find out more about this brave young talent.
I-M: What inspired you to make a piece on the untimely menstruation of a young schoolgirl in class?
G.G: An experience a friend of mine had in middle school! She had her period in class and stained her jeans. I myself had my first period during PE at school. A lot of girls have “horror stories” about having their first period at school, but the reason why it’s a negative experience in the first place is because they’re made to believe that there’s something to be ashamed of. I wanted to create a short film that empowered young girls!
I-M: Was it awkward or uncomfortable at any point working with a predominantly young cast on such a taboo subject?
G.G: I wouldn’t say it was awkward or uncomfortable. I spoke about periods and menstrual blood very openly with all of them from the very first day of the shoot. We had posters promoting period positivity all over the set, and we offered free tampons as well as merchandise from charities supporting menstrual rights to cast and crew. It was great to create a safe place on set for the young actors to chat about menstruation.
I-M: In retrospect, is there anything about the picture that you would alter or edit now that it has been broadcasted for public consumption?
G.G: Not really. I’m not saying it’s perfect, there are definitely a couple things I’d do differently now; but I’m proud of what I’ve achieved with my team, and audiences have liked the film so far, so I wouldn’t want to change the essence of it.
I-M: Has My Time been well received at film festivals?
G.G: It was, and I’m very grateful for it. We’ve screened at film festivals all over the world, from California all the way to China, and the responses have been wonderful. The film was long-listed for the Oscars, I couldn’t have asked for anything better!
I-M: What have you got in store for us in this new year; any up and coming projects?
G.G: I’m in post-production on a documentary mini-series on homelessness called Home Stream, the first episode is currently out on Real Stories (we’ve just reached 3 million views online, so it’s very exciting). I’m also in pre-production on a new short film called Runner.
I-M: Finally, what advice would you give to young directors that may want to follow your path?
G.G: What really made the difference for me (in terms of developing my directing skills and having a successful festival run) was writing a story I genuinely cared about, and keeping it short and simple to give myself the opportunity to really convey emotion and style through directing. Might not work for everyone, but it definitely did for me.