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Kate Ashfield
Actress Kate Ashfield stars in THIS LITTLE LIFE. It's a strong, emotional performance about a mother whose child is born seventeen weeks premature.

Last updated: August 20, 2005
Copyright 2006 Michael R. Colford.
All rights reserved

 

Spotlight On... Sarah Gavron & This Little LifeSarah Gavron in the spotlight

 
This Little LifeAs nominations were being selected for the 10th Annual Chlotrudis Awards, it became clear that we had a problem. THIS LITTLE LIFE, a remarkable British film that played as part of a special program at the Harvard Film Archive, and that received several nominations for the awards, particularly the Buried Treasure, was ineligible due to the rules governing eligible Chlotrudis films. Basically, films without theatrical distribution can not be nominated for Chlotrudis Awards. Films need to be in theatres for members to screen, at the very least in Boston, where the highest concentration of members are, and for more than one or two screenings. That said, those that were lucky enough to see THIS LITTLE LIFE, either at the Harvard Film Archive, or at the Toronto International Film Festival, were so impressed by the quality of filmmaking that they wanted it to receive some recognition. Hence, this spotlight, on THIS LITTLE LIFE, and its filmmaker, Sarah Gavron.
 
ENTERING BLUE ZONE, as it was originally titled in the U.K., was jointly commissioned from BBC Films and the UK FILM COUNCIL's New Cinema Fund for BBC TWO. It was written by Rosemary Kay whose screenplay was awarded the BBC's Dennis Potter Screenwriting Award - a scheme set up in 1995 to nurture and encourage the work of new writers with talent and personal vision. ENTERING BLUE ZONE was adapted from her novel Between Two Eternities, a fictional memoir based on the author's own experiences with her son's premature birth. Finding and fostering new talent in the UK is a fundamental goal of the New Cinema Fund. With this goal in mind, firt-time feature director Sarah Gavron was recruited to direct the film.
 
The Girl in the Lay-bySarah Gavron worked for several years on documentaries at the BBC and studied directing for fiction film at the National Film and Television School in England. Her short student films, including the award-winning graduation film LOSING TOUCH (2000), won critical acclaim and screened at numerous international festivals. After her studies, she directed the BAFTA-nominated short THE GIRL IN THE LAY-BY (2000) for the BBC’s “10x10” series. This lovely 9 minute film tells the story of Coll who daydreams of New York from a roadside stall in the Scottish highlands. Mocked by her boss and frustrated with frankfurters, the lass begins to lose hope until a customer rekindles her imagination. You can watch THE GIRL IN THE LAY-BY online at Atom Films. The expressive close-ups and gentle transitions are precursors to the work Gavron presents in THIS LITTLE LIFE.
 
Gavron's riveting debut feature, THIS LITTLE LIFE, has made her one of Variety’s “Ten Directors to Watch!” Her documentary stylee arned her one of five spots at the coveted National Film & Television School, where she worked with the likes of Stephen Frears. Sarah’s graduate short, "Losing Touch," went to the Telluride Film Festival and got her an agent. That’s when the BBC commissioned her for THIS LITTLE LIFE.
 
Sarah GavronThe film follows the often-heartbreaking plight of a premature baby and his mother’s efforts to cope with their situation. The director shared, “The truth is we film three animatronic babies, and every time you see an actor with a baby it’s a model. I went to a neo-natal intensive care unit afterwards; mothers felt the film was of an important subject, so they allowed us to film there.” To avoidmaking another run-of-the-mill highlit emergency room peril piece, Sarah said, “I made very deliberate choices to get away from the hospital drama genre. We used a hand held camera so there’s almost a documentary feel to it. Yet we used a relationship between the mother and a seven-year-old boy to elevate the film above the gritty hospital drama and make it more cinematic.” She admitted too she’s lucky and was kind of given full reign though it’s her first feature, “They said, “Here you go; do what you want!” She laughed at the truth. Why were they so eager to let her be? Gavron said, “One, it was low budget. Two, they hired me because they wanted a vision stamped on it. They’d seen all my prior work. They wanted it to feel it had a filmmaker with a vision behind it.”
 
Sarah GavronThe artistic strength of THIS LITTLE LIFE is that it is an exploration, a plunge into the unknown, rather than a pat, pre-packaged formula. Said Gavron: “The actors and myself were engaged in a completely terrifying process throughout the whole film. I did not know in advance that this would make a film, that it would sustain itself.

“I like dealing with situations that are on the extreme of life, which really deal with emotions at their rawest level. I had to modulate the emotional level of each scene and was very concerned that we were pitching it to the right emotional level.” As a result, Gavron stated, “it was a tough film to make and a tough film to sell commercially. The minute you do something that goes deeper, people get scared of it.”

Her feature film debut as the director of THIS LITTLE LIFE merited Sarah Gavron the new talent award at this year's Women in Film and Television Awards, presented in Decmeber 2003. Actor David Morrissey, who appeared in Gavron's film, handed her the award at a reception and luncheon at one of London's top West End hotels. Gavron is currently developing "The Chosen Ones" for BBC Films and thanked the broadcaster for its continuing support.

 

Chlotrudis Members Comment on THIS LITTLE LIFE:

Kate Ashfield stars in THIS LITTLE LIFEChris says, "Honest and sad little British film about a couple that give birth to a prematurely born baby. Like LILJA 4-EVER (only gentler), it’s not an easy one to watch, but you will get so caught up in the tiny details and struggles the characters endure that you’ll have no difficulty making it to the challenging but graceful conclusion."

Michael says, "It makes me a little sad that very few Americans will get to see this film.

"This terrific little British film was praised by Ned and Ivy (who saw it in Toronto). After a brief run at the Harvard Film Archive, I did get a chance to see it, and I'm so glad that I did. Director Sarah Gavron was inspired to make this film after reading a book written by the woman upon whom the principal character is based. Sadie and Richie MacGregor are happy newlyweds expecting a child. When their son is born dangerously premature (just under 6 months) their doctor (Peter Mullan - THE CLAIM) warns them that the chances of his survival are slim indeed. While Richie balks at the idea of extending the painfully difficult life of their son needlessly, Sadie's quiet insistence that he be given a chance wins out.

"What follows is a fascinating story of a mother and child bonding even as the latter struggle to survive. Gavron is a masterful storyteller, slowly nurturing the arc of the plot while making unexpected twists that startle the viewer. Characters react realistically, and events play out like life. Quite a feat for a first-time feature director."